How To Pitch That Big Idea

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So, you've had a flash of brilliance. You've come up with an incredible idea for an advertising campaign that's never been done before, and you're the only one that can see it through. But, what do you do to make it a reality? Here are the five steps to pitch your idea:

1. Avoid Pitching Ad Agencies and Their Clients

While it seems like low-hanging fruit, it will be a fool's errand to try and sell your idea to the agency of record for the client you have in mind. Agencies are usually closed-minded to ideas from outside sources, and would most likely assign the idea to its own staff. However, even if they do listen to your pitch and love it, the chances of you getting credit for it are slim-to-none. You may be given a nominal fee, but more than likely you will simply be brushed to the side. 

You may think that you can skip the middleman and go straight to the client. Sadly, that won't work either. Companies with ad agencies on retainer aren't going to meet with you. They have paid a lot of money to have experts on hand to develop killer ideas.

You may feel you have no other options, but there are other ways to pitch an idea. You just need to get creative about how you do it.

2. Get Smart About Who You Pitch To

Big companies—and most of the smaller ones—are not all closed-minded. You just have to find the ones that are open to accepting new ideas from external sources. Some companies have contests for consumers to create and submit their ads.

Doritos is the big name in this field. Their "Crash The Superbowl" campaign has been running for years, and it completely skips agency involvement. Doritos puts out the challenge—make us a great Superbowl spot—and then lets consumers run wild with it. 

Another success story is François Vogel's homemade HP commercial holding white picture frames up to his face using the song "Picture Book" by The Kinks. He pitched his commercial to ad agency Goodby, Silverstein & Partners. It liked his homemade spec version so much, it signed him on as director and star in the "You + HP" ad campaign. Vogel became so recognizable to consumers that he even reappeared in the campaign with a similar commercial set to "Out of the Picture" by The Robins.

3. Do It Yourself...And Put It Out There

With easy and affordable video editing tools on computers, many people are creating their own commercials from the comfort of their homes. Most are created for fun. Some are even spoofs of other commercials. Even so, many are getting big amounts of publicity as they're picked up by advertising blogs and spread across the Internet.

California school teacher George Masters experienced this firsthand. He created a 60-second animated iPod commercial featuring the song "Tiny Machine" by the Darling Buds. He posted his ad on his website and before he knew it, the commercial had spread across the Internet having been watched about 50,000 times.

Quality and creativity made his commercial stand out, and marketers noticed. They even commented on how professional this school teacher's homemade ad was. Masters didn't quit his day job to pursue a career in advertising, but he did get noticed.

4. Be Persistent. It Pays Off. 

To pursue your own idea and get it out into the world, do your research. It might seem contradictory to step one, but it could help to create a concept ad for the company you plan on pitching to. Show them you're serious and can deliver.

It doesn't have to be anything fancy at this point. Vogel's HP ad featured test shots submitted to the ad agency to demonstrate his concept. The pitch to the company is just a preliminary introduction of your idea and what you can do for it.

Every company has a marketing department even if they have an outside ad agency. Contacting the marketing department is the best approach. These ad execs can get the ball rolling for you. Keep in mind, though, you may get a chilly reception because many of these companies aren't going to be receptive to an outsider pitching an idea. If you can accept rejection and be persistent, you may get lucky.

5. If All Else Fails...Find Another Way to Grab the Spotlight

At the How Design Conference 2017, there was an exceptional session hosted by Jeff Greenspan entitled "Make What's Important To You Important To Others." Jeff was BuzzFeed's first CCO, and his professional work has been recognized by The One Show, Cannes, CA, the Webbys, the Clios, among others. But, it is his side project work that really grabbed the spotlight for him. And in turn, these labor of loves were recognized and led to other work. 

One of the biggest was the Edward Snowden stunt, which involved creating a huge bust of Snowden and placing it on a statue in Brooklyn, New York. The stunt garnered attention from all around the world, and also the attention of the FBI and other authorities. After some plea bargaining, Jeff and his partner were let off very lightly. But the ripple effect created a great deal of interest in the work he does with Andrew Tider and now, they're in demand. They're also doing professional talks to inspire people. As Jeff has said often, doing what you love can lead to success in other ways. And those big ideas you had, the ones no-one wanted to touch, could suddenly become gold dust. 

In short, don't let rejection get the better of you. You are going to spend a lot of time running into resistance and rejection. But, with determination and enthusiasm, you'll eventually break through.