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Finding those brilliant ideas

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Todd TerryFinding those brilliant ideas
by on May 12, 2014 at 4:42:15 am

We're a little stumped about how to improve things in our little shop, maybe some fellow COW members can help...

At my company we do pretty much any kind of video or film production, but we specialize in broadcast television commercials and that's the vast majority of our business. We call our little place a "creative agency," because we are not actually an advertising agency... as we don't do any media placement ourselves (although we have thought of dipping into that pool in a few occasions). Although often we have to do much the same work that an ad agency does...

About half of our clients are ad agencies... some big, some small, and they typically bring us scripts to already-fleshed-out campaigns and our mandate is simply "do this." Those are easy.

But for the rest of our clients we work directly... and with the exception of media buys we do everything an ad agency would... concept campaigns, cook up ideas, help form their marketing messages, then go about bringing those ideas to the screen.

These non-agency clients are pretty varied... there are really big ones like a huge hospital system, a region-wide Honda dealers' association, a multi-billion dollar financial institution.... and there are really small ones like a single construction equipment dealer, some individual medical and law practices, mom-n-pop businesses, etc.

For these non-agency ones, here's our trouble... We have to be the "idea guys" for these as well as just do the mechanical/physical part of the production, and frankly we are just tapped out. We have to come up with what are probably easily 100+ ideas/concepts/campaigns every year, and there's only three of us on staff. We stay pretty much jammed to the gills... me directing and DP'ing (with some writing and editing), my partner our GM producing, writing, handling all the client stuff and all financials, and our editor handling all the main editing duties, uploading, archiving, etc. We're full. Our brains are full (or empty). Drained.

So, my question is, if you were in this situation (and maybe you even are), how would you go about augmenting the difficult "concept" and "idea" part?

I'm NOT looking for ways to stimulate brains or jog loose brilliant ideas here. We've done all that, ad nauseam (or is that advertising nauseam?), and we're tapped out... AND there are simply no more hours in the day to sit and ruminate and reflect to come up with these brainstorms... and we're not looking for brain-stimulators or creativity exercises.

Rather... I'm looking for source suggestions for additional ideas... what would you do? Hire a creative type or two whose job on staff is simply to have a brilliant noggin full of slick and new ideas? Solicit ideas and concepts from outsiders on a case-by-case basis (and if so, how/where to find these people)? Find freelancers? Track down Don Draper? (he's a real person, right?)

We have a few real dream clients... the kind who are fun to work with, easy to please, and don't whine at all about budgets and are happy to spend whatever it takes. A couple of them even fall into the "never heard a bad idea" category which should make them easy... but we'd still like to give them campaign concepts that we actually think are good.

On a couple of occasions when hitting a stumbling block I have hit up fellow COW friends for ideas on individual campaigns (you know who you are), and that was helpful... but our needs are now greater than asking for the occasional favor.

We're stumped. Wisdom or thoughts much MUCH appreciated.

T2

__________________________________
Todd Terry
Creative Director
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.
fantasticplastic.com



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Mike SmithRe: Finding those brilliant ideas
by on May 12, 2014 at 12:25:58 pm

Maybe it's time to think about how you might find or create a small pool (3? 4?) of freelance film writers / concept people to develop ideas for your pitches and projects - ideas to hand off to you at concept or polished script stage. Managing freelance writers through the pitching process will still take some of your time, particularly in early days - but if you can get two or three you know who produce good, fresh ideas running at the same time, it should increase your capacity. Though having written in a pool like that (long, long ago) I could add that after a while the writers might want to start some workshopping or other group activities for better development.


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Jeff BreuerRe: Finding those brilliant ideas
by on May 12, 2014 at 2:45:52 pm

Always a rough spot Todd, I get it. It sounds to me like you are on the right path though. You know what you don't like and what you do like. It sounds like you would prefer to just focus on being a production company and depending on the market you are in there are a lot of opportunities for that. If we start with that as the goal there are a couple things you could do. You could hire a part time media buyer who works on commission, there is good money in ad buys even if you are just picking a little bit off the top.

Secondly the one big piece of business advice that I am constantly being reminded of is, when you are an owner you must dedicate your focus to working ON the business, not simply IN your business. It sounds like this is what your partner is trying to do but keeps getting caught up in writing and some pre/production work. If you need to, maybe hire a part time writer just to save him time to focus on building relationships with the local ad companies to drive more work in.

Finally I know a lot of businesses that are going away from broadcast advertising. The market just isn't there like it used to. Over the years we have been shifting more of our work to online videos (both for advertising and marketing). At some point you will need a good motion graphics designer though. I like to look at a lot of stuff Epipheo puts out or popular Kinetic Type ads and especially the Ford Truck ads, those are great use of motion design.

I'm sure there are a lot of good ideas out there, this was just on my mind when I read your post. Best of luck to you Todd!


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Jason JenkinsRe: Finding those brilliant ideas
by on May 12, 2014 at 3:02:40 pm

Figure out how to get Mark Suszko working for you. That guy is loaded with great ideas.

Jason Jenkins
Flowmotion Media
Video production... with style!

Check out my Mormon.org profile.


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Todd TerryRe: Finding those brilliant ideas
by on May 12, 2014 at 3:09:19 pm

Oh I've gone to the Suszko well a number of times before... he's a good source for sure, but it's hard to continually ask for long-distance favors.

I can't put him on the payroll because I can't compete with fatcat government dollars, nor give him a schedule with enough flexible free time to write 3,483,321-word posts on the COW every day (kidding, Mark... you're a treasure).

As to the others who responded, thanks for the thoughts.

Yes, we realize business is changing... and we do produce a fair number of web videos, pieces for social media, industrials, things like that. But our bread and butter is still broadcast commercials, and we manage to stay more or less fully booked doing those, fortunately in our market there is plenty of need for that.

As I've said we've thought about media buying, but it's not really our thing. Half our clients are already ad agencies who obviously do that themselves. And our biggest non-agency clients do their own buying directly, and they are large enough that they already get agency rates from media outlets, so there's no money to be made there. That only leaves the small fish, probably not enough to bother with. We are occasionally asked if we can place media and we say "Sure!," but we really just funnel that job to another one-man agency we work with often, we don't even ask for a cut.

We're not really looking to drive more work in (although we wouldn't turn it down), but to better take care of the clients we have... most have been with us for years and years and have come to expect great ideas... and sadly the idea sponge has dried up.

It's almost funny that clients think things the shooting, directing, editing, casting, producing and all the various accoutrements that come with production is the hard part. That part is child's play, I can do it in my sleep. They don't give a second thought to generating the IDEAS though, and that's the really tough part.

T2

__________________________________
Todd Terry
Creative Director
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.
fantasticplastic.com



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Mark SuszkoRe: Finding those brilliant ideas
by on May 12, 2014 at 3:36:32 pm

(*cough*)

I already do freelance writing on the weekends.

(some samples)

http://www.innovationnow.us/listen.aspx

I need the extra mental stimulation. And money. Money is very stimulating.





("fatcat government dollars". That's funny. Really. Funny) Seriously, reach me privately and maybe I can help. You'll only pay for pitches you use.


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Todd TerryRe: Finding those brilliant ideas
by on May 12, 2014 at 3:44:25 pm

Mark, you know I already have you on speed dial.

T2

__________________________________
Todd Terry
Creative Director
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.
fantasticplastic.com



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Mark SuszkoRe: Finding those brilliant ideas
by on May 12, 2014 at 3:57:39 pm

Before the local pizza delivery place, or after?


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Todd TerryRe: Finding those brilliant ideas
by on May 12, 2014 at 4:12:10 pm

I don't know, the numbers aren't labeled... to keep things interesting.

T2

__________________________________
Todd Terry
Creative Director
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.
fantasticplastic.com



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Mark SuszkoRe: Finding those brilliant ideas
by on May 14, 2014 at 6:28:12 pm

I think I see the problem: I've been getting a lot of out of town phone calls asking for delivery of jumbo thin crust with pepperoni and mushrooms. Conversely, some pizza joint is getting prank calls asking about script consulting.


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Todd TerryRe: Finding those brilliant ideas
by on May 14, 2014 at 7:02:53 pm

[Mark Suszko] "some pizza joint is getting prank calls asking about script consulting."

But the important question is, are they any good at it?

(and does that come with free breadsticks?)

T2

__________________________________
Todd Terry
Creative Director
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.
fantasticplastic.com



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Mark SuszkoRe: Finding those brilliant ideas
by on May 14, 2014 at 7:47:51 pm

Your first mistake was inviting a Chicago native to talk about pizza... Now you're in for the long haul.


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Steve KownackiRe: Finding those brilliant ideas
by on May 12, 2014 at 5:00:16 pm

Todd, I'm always hesitant to employ a "creative" or "writer" due to each of our clients having different requirements - a car spot writer may not be good for medical or electronics. Plus, in this ever-wavering volume of work, I try to watch the commitment to permanent overhead.

I think many of your best assets you already work with every day. As the rainmaker, take your crews out for dinner and tap them for ideas. If you get work, they get work. They may not be the one to completely flesh it out, but they can give lots of creative advice so you are not the one scratching your head all the time. There's lots of buy-in when someone else ideas are being produced!

I also have some partnerships/associations with smaller agencies that I Produce for. We get together as needed to generate creative ideas for one another. Sometimes it's worth paying them to actually write my treatments, storyboards & proposals.

Steve





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Todd TerryRe: Finding those brilliant ideas
by on May 12, 2014 at 5:16:56 pm

Appreciated, Steve... but see... that's just it...

[Steve Kownacki] "I think many of your best assets you already work with every day."

...agreed, and we're all tapped out. The Genius Switch has finally found its off position.


[Steve Kownacki] " take your crews out for dinner and tap them for ideas."

Good idea, if there were any crews. The creative team is me and my biz partner. That's it. Aside from bringing my editor with us to crew on location, the three of us are it. There is no other "crew." We run very lean.

I'd gladly pay for ideas... but finding a genius pool of creative types is darn hard.

T2

__________________________________
Todd Terry
Creative Director
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.
fantasticplastic.com



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Jonathan ZieglerRe: Finding those brilliant ideas
by on May 13, 2014 at 9:01:46 pm

By now, you've heard from a lot of people on a lot of things. I'd be surprised if you haven't already met your "team." I'm a little biased, but hire an art director or production designer with a writing background (or who can effectively brainstorm). Make up a title if you have to. You say you don't need to stimulate ideas, but you wouldn't be asking if that were the case - sounds like you want to offload it on to someone else. In other words, it sounds like everyone wants to focus on their respective areas and leave the rest to the new guy - or create a job that the new guy can fit into. Sounds perfectly normal, too.

What have you already tried?

Save early. Save often.

Jonathan Ziegler

http://www.electrictiger.com
520-360-8293


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Richard HerdRe: Finding those brilliant ideas
by on May 14, 2014 at 5:54:16 pm

[Todd Terry] "we're tapped out"

Bullshit.


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Todd TerryRe: Finding those brilliant ideas
by on May 14, 2014 at 7:01:20 pm

Thank you for that helpful comment.

T2

__________________________________
Todd Terry
Creative Director
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.
fantasticplastic.com



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Nick GriffinRe: Finding those brilliant ideas
by on May 14, 2014 at 8:48:23 pm

Todd-

Surely there must be some way you can crowd source basic creative ideas that you can then polish into a workable script.

I was very fortunate several years back to consult for a few large ad agencies and that introduced me to dozens of writers and art directors hungry for moonlighting work.

Contact me offline if you need a name or two. (Besides Mark Suszko.)


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Rich RubaschRe: Finding those brilliant ideas
by on May 15, 2014 at 3:33:07 am

Hey Todd; The premise here is that there are only three of you to kick around ideas but there are actually five staff on your site. So is it just the three or five, because two more heads to toss ideas around with is a big deal.

And one more question...you say it is always a three person crew, so no grips or makeup artists or production design or PAs and things like that? Just the three staff and the client or agency staff?

Just curious...since the premise is only three staff to do the entire production, from the pre-pro thru production and post.

Clarity?

Rich Rubasch
Tilt Media Inc.
Video Production, Post, Studio Sound Stage
Founder/President/Editor/Designer/Animator
http://www.tiltmedia.com


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Todd TerryRe: Finding those brilliant ideas
by on May 15, 2014 at 3:57:51 am

Always glad to provide clarity...

[Rich Rubasch] "there are actually five staff on your site. So is it just the three or five"

Well one of those five on our site is our art director... who is also my better half. She only works for us as-needed, and the rest of the time works full time for her own graphic design company. She's already an over-tapped source for concepts as she is cranking them out for her own company 24/7 as well.

The other staff member listed on our site is Larry Tate. Ummm... Larry is not a real person. You must be a young'un.



[Rich Rubasch] "you say it is always a three person crew, so no grips or makeup artists or production design or PAs and things like that? Just the three staff and the client or agency staff?"

Right, usually it is just three of us. We run lean and mean. This is how we churn out stuff that looks (we hope) at least moderate-budget, for what are in actuality very very low budgets.

The occasional extra staff (PAs, grips, hair/makeup) are people hired for individual shoots... if they are needed. I'd never see them (or possibly even meet them) before call time of the shoot. In reality, the only extra crew is usually hair/makeup. I might need to hire a grip or two maybe once or twice a year. It's been years since I hired a PA. Sometimes agency staff is around, but in those instances when we work for agencies there is typically no concepting required of us... they bring the ideas. It's the non-agency work that does tax our brains, so there are no agency personnel on set for those, because there is no agency.

So yes, it's usually just the three of us, start to finish. Sometimes two. I always direct, DP, and camera op. Heck I even do props/wardrobe. During pre-prod I do production design, coordination, casting, scouting, whatever it takes. My partner produces, talent wrangles, location coordinates, and a zillion little things that PAs would usually also do. Unless we are double booked and he's back in an edit suite, my editor is usually on location as swing... anything from sound to grip to camera assistant... whatever is needed.

We stay tired.

T2

__________________________________
Todd Terry
Creative Director
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.
fantasticplastic.com



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