How To Pitch That Big Idea

Got a Great Idea? Here's How To Sell It in 5 Steps

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? Here are the five steps you need to take to find success. 
 

1: Avoid Agencies and Their Clients Like The Plague

While it seems like low-hanging fruit, it will be a fool's errand to try and sell your idea 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. 

You may think that you can strip out the middle man and go straight to the client. Sadly, that isn't going to work either. Companies with ad agencies on retainer are not going to give you a second look. They have paid a lot of money to have 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.  
 

2: 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.
 

3: 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. 
 

4: 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.

 

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, and more. 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 created 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. Now, they're in demand. And they're also doing professional talks to inspire people. As Jeff 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 with a cattle prod, 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 ramming your head against a brick wall, only to run into an iron wall later on. Eventually, with determination and enthusiasm, you'll break through. Once you quit, you waste all the sweat equity you put into your big idea, and that's a huge waste of talent and time. 

Good luck.