10 Steps to a Great Ad

Ten Steps to A Great Ad

What My Wife Wants You to Know


The secret to a great ad is not, despite some misconceptions, about getting the ad to go viral. The vast majority of the time, a viral ad isn’t even a goal. A successful ad happens when a team of people work together to communicate in a clear and effective way about a product or service to a specific part of the marketplace.  Write that down. Technically, it already is written down, so just print screen it.


1.       Have A Goal

As the saying goes, “Begin with the end in mind.” The worst thing that I see in my industry is the creation of video for the sake of creating something cool. It happens a lot. Do you know what a cool video does? Nothing. A video has to service a purpose or it’s a waste of money. That purpose maybe to inform, to provoke, to inspire, to educate, or any number of things; but it’s critical to know what that purpose is beforehand. Every effort put forward needs to serve that defined purpose. It’s just good business.


A great way to define purpose is by thinking in terms of problem solving. Incidentally, quality production companies are great at this. So, while hiring is number 3 on the list, don’t be afraid to ask for help in this area from a production company you trust. They make a living using film to problem solve. Get the information you need—they’ll be more than happy to help.


2.       Know Your Target Audience

You have to target a segment of the market—it’s just a function of the purchase cycle and demographics. Maybe you don’t know who your target audience is. That’s fine, but you should know who you expect it to be. Utilizing A/B testing you can start to figure out who is responding to your messaging. If you’re not getting enough response from the right segments, then you’ve learned that your messaging needs work. It may feel like failure at the time, but companies pay billions of dollars every year to figure this out. Once you know how to target a variety of market segments, then your investment really begins to pay off. This is why we always talk to clients about doing more than one ad.


3.       Determine Your Budget

So often clients are hesitant to talk about budget. Do you know why? They have no idea what it should be. There’s no shame in that. Most of the people I talk to have never done a promo video before, so there’s no frame of reference. Here’s the reality, a production pricing can range from $2500 all the way up to 10’s of thousands of dollars. You can get it for less, but I would have a few concerns about quality. The point is, that price range is ridiculous—it’s always very real. The production company has to know if your prepared to pay for the gear, the crew to operate it, the acting talent, the editor, the sound designer, the music licensing, etc. To say nothing of the pre-production work that goes into learning about the business itself, the model, the style of the ad, the storyboarding, the shot list, the scheduling (oh my scheduling is fun), etc. Any video, of any scale, is a custom project in its own right. It just doesn’t result in a physical structure that you can point to and say, “Yeah, Walter built that part custom.”  And the better the company, the easier it looks.


Some people are afraid that they’ll get raked over the coals in the price if they over-estimate. Here’s what you need to do. Ask yourself how much the problem your trying to solve costs you each year, that number is the amount you should spend to fix it. The video pays for itself within the year and you get the following years in your pocket—essentially the video made you money. If the potential savings isn’t at least $2500, then look at other ways to solve the problem. This is a simple cost-benefit analysis and, frankly, it’s not very scientific, but it’s better to start somewhere and have some sense of the value of what you’re getting—or not getting. Don’t pay for something if they value just isn’t there.


4.       Hire A Production Company

At the very least you should already be communicating with one at this point. If you know your goal, your target market, and your budget, then this next part should go very smoothly. See what they have to say about solving the problem or addressing the goal. Do they understand the issue thoroughly, does the solution (or solutions) they offer logically address it? If so, then by all means get the process started. You already know that it’s worth it to have the problem solved.


5.       Read All the Pre-Production Documentation

There is often some documentation along the way. It could be a contract/agreement, etc. Read it. Understand what they production company promises to do and what they expect from you in return. It keeps everyone, quite literally, on the same page.


6.       Ask Questions, Return Calls, Reply to Emails,

When it comes to film production, there is a time component to everything. So there may be a flurry of communications over the course of the project. Responding to communicate in a timely way helps keep everything on schedule and moving forward. This helps them keep costs down and ultimately deliver better quality to you. The big thing is to know that this is the time to ask for major changes. Once shooting begins it will be too late. Worse yet, once editing begins, it’s way too late for these kinds of changes. Voice your concerns, thoughts, and ideas, but allow the creative people to do what they do best as well. After all, you’re paying for it—get your money’s worth!


7.       Prepare for the Shoot

Through the communication process you should have been prepped on what to expect for the day of the shoot. There may be a few things you have to set up for the day of the shoot. Do what you can to ensure that these things are lined up and ready to go. If there’s a problem that comes up let the film crew know. This isn’t uncommon at all, but not knowing about a change or issue until the day of the shoot makes it nearly impossible to find alternatives. Rest assured a good crew will figure something out most of the time, but sometimes they can’t, and so often these things are preventable with good communication.


8.       Relax, Smile, Have Fun

We know your nervous if you’re not a professional appearing on camera. We know that it’s hard to remember what you wanted to say. Take a deep breath, remember that we are prepared for and expecting multiple takes. If for some reason a sentence just isn’t coming off, we’ll tweak it, make it to separate statements, change up the shot, mix in B roll. We have a lot of tools to polish off any rough edges. You will look and sound great. Enjoy yourself. To be honest, the process can seem slow (the crew would not agree). Set up takes time, set changes take time, all the things take time. So take those moments to relax.


9.       Respond to Changes

Specifically, once shooting wraps and editing begins, you will have the opportunity to request minor adjustments. This is not the time for major changes (see step 6). It IS the time to respond as quickly as possible. Don’t rush and get something you don’t want but DO stay on task and let the editor know what he or she needs to finish your project. They have carved out sections of time to commit to your project, so help them get it done right and on time for you.


10.   Refer Them to Others

Obviously, this is only true if they did a great job. Referrals play a huge part in ongoing work. Some might even be willing to offer you a small thank you for any referrals you pass along that result in a project.  Also, keep in mind that production companies tend to meet a lot of business people along they way (for obvious reasons) and they make referrals too. I’m sure they’d love to refer future clients to you!


Micah Durling