In the span of my career, I’ve seen client pitches go from mounted boards, to PowerPoint presentations, to videos. Between the three, it’s video that has made the most difference in winning new opportunities.
How important has video been for my new client pitches? Well, it’s landed me work in London, Paris, Venice and Rome, not to mention working with megastars Ludacris, Arnold Palmer and Bill Kurtis. It’s whisked me into the Big Apple more times than I can remember (Rosie O’Grady’s is my favorite steakhouse) and even landed me and my crew in the Bahamas for a week once, where we were surrounded by the most amazing blue waters I’ve ever seen. Safe to say the sunrises there can change the DNA of a man. So yeah, you could say that utilizing the awesome impact of video has opened many new doors for me over the years.
Instead of giving you a checklist on how to make a pitch video, I thought it would work better to describe several experiences I’ve had where a single video catapulted me a few more rungs up life’s ladder. It’s important to note that as my view expanded due to an improved vantage point, so too did my future opportunities.
Now stick with me over the next several paragraphs as I set things up. Get a cup of coffee if you have to because I think you’ll enjoy the insight.
The first pitch video I ever created was the most transformational. Imagine being at a company of 500+ employees and knowing, at best, a dozen or so people at the firm. As you learned the company’s structure and goals, you began to identify meaningful ways in which you could help make a difference. This happened to me at the McClier Corporation, an architecture and engineering firm, back in the late 1990’s. I was a graphic designer for this vibrant, fast-growing firm and spent a majority of my time preparing graphics for proposals that were pitched to a wide variety of clients. I was plugging along for a couple of years until one day, a fellow employee played a thumbnail-sized video for me on his computer. This was 1997 and I was absolutely floored. Was this really possible?
You bet your boots it was and my brain began to race at the possibilities. Ultimately, I decided to buy a Mac and teach myself how to edit a video at home. Once I did that, I spoke to several sales executives at the company to see if they saw any value in incorporating video into their client pitches. Many were on the fence about it but one gentleman thought it was a good idea to experiment with. I jumped at the opportunity and in a few weeks I had a 3 minute video put together that promoted the services of one of the company’s divisions. It took about a month for the video to make the rounds among the higher-ups but, eventually, it caught on. Finally, one day the same gentleman who green-lighted the effort in the first place said to me: “You should show this to the CEO.”
Opening Screen Of My First Pitch Video (Circa 1997)
Hesitant at first, I finally decided to do exactly that: Pitch the CEO on the concept of a pitch video…for his pitches! I can remember it like it was yesterday. The meeting took place in a giant conference room that was adjacent to his office. Along one wall were several windows through which the morning light framed an early summer Chicago skyline. At the south end of the room was a winding staircase which led to the rooftop of the building, where some of the most spectacular views of the city could be enjoyed. It was an impressive space.
Once everyone in the room had settled, the CEO walked in with his trademark smile and booming voice. He was wearing an impeccable Armani suit and crimson-colored tie that just screamed alpha male. Everyone in the room lit up as he conversed with them and, to this day, I’m pretty positive a few were floating above the ground as he spoke to them. He truly had THAT kind of magic. As the years have gone by, I’ve realized the best way to describe him would be to say he was a a genuine Don Draper of the 90’s, only more impressive in so many ways. Rumor had it (which was later confirmed) that he even once danced with Princess Diana. Alpha male, indeed!
Eventually, he sat down at the front of the room. I made a few opening remarks and then started the video, intently watching his reaction as it played. Surprisingly, before a minute had passed, he raised his hand and said “I’ve seen enough. Everyone leave the room.” The next five minutes proved to be the most important of my career. Was I about to be fired? To be honest, that was the the vibe I was feeling at that moment. Then he floored me by saying “I need you to make me another one of these videos for a big presentation I have in two weeks. Think you can do that?” I confirmed with a nod and a one word response: “Absolutely”. He smiled and reached over for a handshake: “Good then. We’ll book a ticket for you to fly out to Los Angles tomorrow. We’ve got work to do.”
Amazingly, we made over 50 videos since that first heart-pounding meeting. They were not only part of dozens of successful client pitches but also led to unique opportunities which hadn’t even been imagined up to that point. One of our clients even hired us for a major project involving video services to help promote their firm. I spent an entire summer flying all over the country filming videos for them and creating a state-of-art interactive CD-ROM to promote their services. As crazy as it seemed, now I was bringing in money to the firm!
I learned a great secret in that first meeting: Video can inspire like no other medium can. It can move people to action and it holds the awesome power to transform ideas and concepts into reality.
That first amazing experience led to many others over the last 15 years. In every instance, a presentation centered around a pitch video made the difference. Let’s run down some more fun stories with examples that started as a pitch video…
Several years ago, when Richter Studios was looking for ways to build up it’s commercial demo reel, we approached the not-for-profit organization National Runaway Safeline about donating our time to create a commercial for them. We had previously done some pro bono work for the organization and were big fans of their cause, so we asked to see if they would be interested. Our timing was perfect, as they were just about to launch a new “Street Team” campaign to build awareness for their organization. A few months later, we created the commercial below.
National Runaway Safeline “Street Team” Commercial
Technically, one could say that this really wasn’t a pitch video but that’s not how we saw it. In my estimation, because it represents our line of business, any video we put out there with our name on it is a pitch video. That being said, imagine our astonishment when the spot became ranked as one of the highest viewed PSA’s of the year according to Nielsen!
News of this feat spread fast and furious (pun intended) until one day I received a call from the same organization saying they wanted to create another spot. We were thrilled to hear this. And the best part? Megastar Ludacris was going to be featured in it. We created a :30 and :60 second version, which was also shown in Times Square for two straight months. Amazingly, we had this fall in our lap only three weeks before “Fast 5” hit theaters. Below is the :60 second version.
National Runaway Safeline “Live Chat” Commercial Featuring Ludacris
Another fun effort was finding a way to break into nationwide commercials (the Luda spot was technically a PSA). We were successful here too. How so? A pitch video! We were asked to share our ideas on how we would present a concept Le Cordon Bleu had for an upcoming commercial. Instead of walking in with a PowerPoint or Keynote presentation – or even storyboards – we walked in with a pitch video.
In industry terms, it’s actually called an “Animatic”, where you animate storyboard illustrations to better convey a given concept for a potential commercial. We took it up a few notches though and instead of animating some illustrations, we hired a few actors, rented a house for a day and shot some still photography that represented our vision. We then animated the photos and presented it to the client. Check out the video below to see how it all came together.
Le Cordon Bleu “Apprentice” Animatic
The meeting went exceptionally well. The client watched the spot a few times and then turned to me and said “That’s it! That’s the spot!”. Three weeks later we were filming the real commercial and the rest, as they say, was history. The finished commercial can be seen below.
Le Cordon Bleu “Apprentice” Commercial
This same kind of approach also landed me on a plane to Paris and several other European hot spots a few years back. It was a lucrative opportunity but the reality is it all began with a pitch video a year earlier. In that first meeting, I showed the client what we could with their brand in a brief video. We began to work on smaller projects together, then medium-sized ones and finally (drum roll please) a two week shoot in London, Paris, Rome and Venice. As Billy Madison observes at the end of the clip below: “Man I’m glad I called that guy.”
Think about that for a few seconds: A pitch video landed me and my crew in Europe for two weeks, where I captured the vibrant cultures of three different countries. I drank dozens of cappuccinos in the wonderful cafes of Paris, clanked bottles of ale with several fine gentlemen in London, gazed at the stars above the Colosseum in Rome and watched with wonder as the amazing rolling clouds in Venice turn into a fiery hue at sunset. All because of well-crafted pitch video. Done correctly, it can truly be THAT powerful, folks.
In closing, how about the Bahamas adventure that I mentioned earlier? How did I end up there? You guessed it: A pitch video! In trying to win the opportunity to work with the fine folks at Meridian Yachts, we tackled their biggest concern through a pitch video which demonstrated our camera stabilization capabilities. As the video below shows, we demonstrated the approach we would take to address wave interference during the shoot.
Gyro-Stabilization Test by Richter Studios
The video proved to be the turning point for our hopeful new client and, about two months later, we were in the Bahamas filming five separate promo films for Meridian Yachts. Here is one of those films from that spectacular experience.
Meridian Yachts Brand Film
In closing, making pitch videos holds the real potential of growing your business, selling your ideas effectively and ultimately may prove to be game-changers in your career. Embracing them has taken me on a journey which has included filming in over 40 states and 12 countries to date. And you know what? The view keeps getting better every day.