How To Pitch Your Own Ad Campaign Idea

Got a Great Idea? Learn How To Sell It.

Pitching an idea
Pitching an idea. Getty Images

So, you've had a flash of brilliance. You've come up with an incredible idea for an advertising campaign. This is the one 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?

First, Avoid Agencies and Their Clients Like The Plague

It will be a fool's errand to try and sell this into the agency of record for the client you have in mind.

An agency is going to be dead set on creating their own ad campaigns, and are usually pretty closed-minded to any ideas coming from outside of the agency. However, even if they do listen to it, and love it, the chances of you getting any kind of 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. 

Plan B - you'll go straight to the client, right? Well, no. Companies with ad agencies on retainer are not going to give you a second look. They have paid a lot of money to have these experts on hand to develop killer ideas. The ad agency is responsible for developing ideas, and bringing you in will be a headache.

This may seem like your options are now out the window, but there are ways to pitch an idea. You just need to get creative about how you do it.  

Get Smart About Who You Pitch To

Big companies, and most of the smaller ones, are not closed minded.

You just have to find the ones that are open to accepting new ideas from external sources. There are even companies that have held contests for consumers to create and submit their ads.

Currently, 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 François Vogel's. He created a 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. They liked his homemade spec version so much, they 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.

Do It Yourself...And Put It Out There

With more people editing video on their computers, many people are creating their own commercials from the comfort of their home. The technology is readily available, and cheap. Most are created for fun, some are even spoofs of other commercials. But a lot of these are getting big amounts of publicity as they're picked up by advertising blogs and spread across the net.

California school teacher George Masters experienced that firsthand. He created a 60-second animated iPod commercial featuring the song "Tiny Machine" by the Darling Buds. He posted his ad on his Web site without any buzz and before he knew it, the commercial had spread across the Internet and had 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 and head off to pursue a career in advertising, though. But he did get noticed. 

Be Persistent. It Pays Off. 

To pursue your own idea and getting it out there, do your research. It would even 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.

This is just a preliminary introduction of your idea and what you can do for them.

Every company has a marketing department even if they have an outside ad agency. So contacting the company president isn't going to help but contacting the marketing department instead can be the best approach.

These are the guys and gals that can help get the ball rolling for you. Keep in mind, though, you may get a chilly reception because many people simply aren't going to be receptive to what they consider an outsider pitching an idea.

Just be ready to have the door slammed in your face many times and prepare to be persistent. You may get lucky.