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Breaking into Commercials


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#1 Craig Knowles

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Posted 05 May 2006 - 09:23 PM

My directing partner and I are considering trying to break into commercials in a major market city and thought I'd see if anyone on the forum had experience or advice about the current state of the industry and how it works.

Specifically, we would like to write commercials, pitch the ideas, and produce or direct if required. We have approached several colleagues in the industry and have gotten varying advice. One successful friend says breaking into the industry is as easy as coming up with "one great idea". That was his path. He came up with a great idea, pitched it, and his commercial immediately went national and that success took him on to work with Coke, MasterCard and he became highly successful.

Another colleague who worked in the industry for over 15 years said not to bother. That it would be extremely difficult and naive to think we'd stand a chance. This person said that the industry is dying right now, that most major companies contract their ads out to ad agencies, and that the chances of getting through any doors, even to pitch a "great idea" would be slim to none.

Judging by these two almost polar-opposite opinions, I would guess the answer lies somewhere between the two, but does anyone here have any wisdom to share?
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#2 Richard Boddington

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Posted 05 May 2006 - 11:32 PM

In my experience the creative for major spots is always handled by the ad agency. They pitch the idea to the business they work for, if the business likes it they (the agency) hire a production company to execute it.

I've never heard of producer/director types coming up with the actual creative for the spot. Maybe it happens, but I've never heard of it.

Commercials is even more in bred than the features business. The agencies work closely with maybe 2-3 production companies, the odds of a new production company breaking in and getting a slice of this business is very slim.

From what I've seen ad agencies and production companies often break apart with partners leaving to start their own firms, they can succeed because they already have a contact base to work from.

Then there's the parties, the ad agencies are endlessly throwing lavish parties to woo new and existing clients. They also use this time to introduce new creative talent to their clients. Often the production companies and ad agencies they work for team up to throw these parties for their executive clients. Major corporations get to know the work of various directors and DOPs and will request them by name.

Bottom line, if you're not at those parties, you don't exist.

R,
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#3 Brad Grimmett

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Posted 06 May 2006 - 12:04 AM

The only commercials I've ever worked on where the production company/director/producer pitched the idea and came up with the concept were smaller jobs. The biggest were smallish regionals. Any of the big national spots I've done (which is what I used to work on almost exclusively) were pitched by an ad agency. I'm sure there are exceptions, but I think this is pretty standard and I wouldn't expect to get a national spot off the ground the way you are proposing.
Of course it's been 3 or 4 years since I was doing many of those types of commercials, so things certainly could have shifted a bit.
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#4 timHealy

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Posted 06 May 2006 - 01:30 AM

Commercials can be tough. Have you thought about working for an advertising company and work it from the inside. You also could do your own spec commericals or test spots. There is no easy way.

One big exception to ad agencies doing the work for corporate clients is Victoria Secret. All their stuff is in house as understand it from working on their commercials.

Best

Tim
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#5 Stephen Williams

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Posted 06 May 2006 - 05:38 AM

The only commercials I've ever worked on where the production company/director/producer pitched the idea and came up with the concept were smaller jobs. The biggest were smallish regionals. Any of the big national spots I've done (which is what I used to work on almost exclusively) were pitched by an ad agency. I'm sure there are exceptions, but I think this is pretty standard and I wouldn't expect to get a national spot off the ground the way you are proposing.
Of course it's been 3 or 4 years since I was doing many of those types of commercials, so things certainly could have shifted a bit.


Hi,

That is my experiance too. I do know of one Director (my biggest client) who hated working with agencys. He does get the odd $300,000 plus jobs, but on average once every 2 years.

Stephen
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#6 Adam Frisch FSF

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Posted 06 May 2006 - 05:41 AM

Like mentioned, it is virtually impossible to write a spot and then shoot it yourself. Ad agencies come up with the idea and then they choose a director and production company (or sometimes a commissioner does) - it doesn't really work in any other way. I can't tell you how many directors I've met who've had brilliant ideas for a spot for some product, but can't even get close to getting it made. Simple really, why would a creative at an ad agency, who earns a lot of money being just allegedly creative, want to admit that someone else has a better idea? It's like a director being on set and having a creative start taking over directing from him - not very popular. Sure, you can do your idea into a test commercials and do it just for the fun, but they often tend to look/feel just like what they are - tests.

So, the best way to break into directing commercials is either to be signed to a production company based on other work and then let them try to sell you to ad agencies. Or, be a creative at an ad agency and convince the client that you can direct it, too. Many, many commercial directors come from an advertising background.

One thing I've seen is that it's often easier to get signed as a director for commercials based on good narrative stuff, like a brilliant short, or something, rather than on music videos. Many big music video guys struggle to crossover into commercials (many don't want to, either), simply because they haven't shown any narrative skills.

Also, the commercials industry is changing. With TiVO and many other products, new habits are emerging. Today the advertising world is trying to find new ways to reach an audience in as many ways as possible. Those little online ad's called virals, meant to be chocking or interesting enough so that people will send them to eachother, is, or at least was, a good way into the business. Many directors got a start doing these cheap little ads, often with very strong ideas. But now even that market feels a bit saturated - there's only so many "chocking" commercials one can see.

I thing the future of advertising in film is a combo of all things. Product placement, even product financed films will become very important. Like those BMW films, for instance - they were a huge success. The 30s ad is not going to completely go away, but it will not be as prominent as it has been traditionally.
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#7 Frank Barrera

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Posted 06 May 2006 - 07:01 PM

A couple of years ago Forbes magazine surveyed the top 400 companies concerning future advertising trends. Most of the companies stated that over the next five years they would be shifting 70% of their ad budgets to "non traditional" outlets. Away from TV, radio and print and into things like tv screens over urinals, electronic billboards at bus stops etc. Of course there is the internet. What does this mean? I don't know but if the way things have been done for the last fifty years is about to change... well, then the way things have been done for the last fifty years is about to change and perhaps you can find a little nitch for yourself in the "new" system.

just a thought

FB
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