One of my favourite TV series is Mad Men. When Don Draper walks into a room with his ideas and visual pitches for a potential client, he does it impeccably, and with as few images and slogans as possible to sell the product.
His theory has proof in the pudding: “You are the product. You feeling something, that’s what sells.”
Which is precisely why we all are glued to our television screens during Super Bowl to watch the commercials that make us tear up or incite some other emotion within us. When it happens we talk about it on social media. Add whether or not we realize it or not, those digital conversations contribute to the brand’s reach.
So how does this approach apply to your creative work? You're not trying to sell an ad.
Maybe you're not, but I'm here to tell you that you are always selling something. It could be someone who reads your material and believes they can take it to the next level. Or it could be an actor who wants to star in your film, a financier with a big fat checkbook, a fan who will rave about your film (thus increasing its revenue), or a festival that will accept and showcase your work.
I am asking you, while you read this blog, to think like Don Draper.
I have seen hundreds of "leave-behind-materials" for finished films, films in development, films in production, scripts for sale, books for adaptation, reality series, and mini- series. Uou name it, I have seen it. I have also read short packages, long packages, perused websites, watched sizzles, and even more mood trailers.
For me, these materials got me to say YES or NO in my head before I read the script or watched the movie. This is because I had an emotional reaction and wanted to have an immersive experience within the world I was watching or reading about.
Below are some thoughts to help you trigger your introspection, followed by short tips for applying the "ad man mentality" to improve your presentations, visual or written, as well as your overall brand.
This is something your audience will ask themselves the moment they turn the page or click the play button. The scenes have to suck them into your world, written or shot, and make them feel.
If I am a horror fan, I need a good kill.
If I am an adrenaline junkie, I want to believe I am also in danger.
If I am a hopeless romantic, push my dream girl (or boy) button and woo me to fall in love with your protagonist.
The opening scene is everything, so make it a great one. Not because you want to convince me it is so, but because you truly want me to care. The first images of a trailer or sizzle have to give me a high. Anything slow to build, dialogue heavy, or has poor quality production ain’t gonna do it.
Do you watch local commercials? Most likely not, because many are amateur and don't evoke emotion. But you probably watch Super Bowl commercials. They are big and engaging, and include elements that make us want to spend big money, and all because they evoked genuine feeling within you.
You are not here to persuade me to like you by comparing me to other equally likeable things, projects, or movies that made it to the big screen. That's just as bad as taking someone out on a date and convincing them to keep dating you by talking about other men or women you dated. I would not feel flattered, would you? Nobody wants a copy cat. Don’t believe the Hollywood hype.
In a world of remakes and reboots where we think originality has failed, there has always been a fresh take on an original idea that made the unoriginal become original. As an executive, I do not need to see pie charts with box office numbers of similar movies. If I can't guess it on my own, then your project was not clear enough. If this is the case, you should reconsider all the points made in the paragraphs above.
Therefore, as you prepare your pitch deck, your business plan, your sizzle, your trailer, your marketing package, your Facebook page, and your web site, remember another Don Draper piece of advice: If you don’t like what is being said, change the conversation.
If your buyer or your audience doesn't get goose bumps from your creative genius, please remember the following ad man tricks and essentials for your project's identity:
Be Visual: Communicate through images.
Be Meaningful: Ask friends and associates if the essence of your brand cultivates an emotion (hopefully not disgust), and how strong that emotion is. Take a survey and re-calibrate accordingly.
Don't Blend in, Stand Out: You need to make yourself and your work memorable. Use simple names and buzz words that bring about a feeling of uniqueness and novelty. Don’t think like an author, think like an ad man. Your slogan tells the story.
Think Ahead: Make your work timeless. Make it something that can become a cult in the future or conversation worthy for the years to come. One of the biggest mistakes I see in packages is the mentioning of franchise, installments, or thinking years ahead for your series. If your work is timeless I will be the one who will want to franchise or merchandise it or spin it off. I won’t need your pitch for it.
Open Your World to the Audience: Accessibility is everything. Any movie, book, comic book, or series that stood the test of time was not obscure or hard to understand. It managed to draw attention, even from its not obvious audience. If people can easily interpret it, they will google it for years to come.
I wish you all to draw out of your work the best “wow factor” you can find!
Other Stage 32 Posts by Alexia: How Body Language and Buzz Words Can Drastically Improve Your Pitch
Alexia Melocchi is a partner in LITTLE STUDIO FILMS and has had a successful career in the international marketplace, as both a sales agent and buyer’s rep for eleven territories, giving her diverse exposure to all types of films and functions in the entertainment industry. As producer and development and distribution consultant, she works on packaging films, securing co productions, casting and arranging for the US and International Distribution of several projects of her clients using her expertise in international sales, international acquisitions, high-level relationships in Hollywood and a global film marketing approach.
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