Since the industrial revolution, three things have dictated the king of the hill in any given industry. Those who delivered the product and/or service, better, cheaper and faster always had an advantage over his peers. Today, nothing’s changed. In fact, the prevailing wisdom is you only really need two of these facets…any two.
In the freelance video community we have all three. As far as the advertising world is concerned, freelance creatives are the
cotton gin for the 21st century.
Contests like Doritos have demonstrated that we can definitely do it better. For several years now, Doritos opens an annual can of whoop**s on Madison Avenue, regularly shaming brands like Budweiser, Coca-Cola, Gatorade, Sony, etc. etc.. Through their ‘Crash The superbowl’ contest, they regularly come out on top in the industry coveted USA Today Ad Meter poll conducted annually during the SuperBowl. As freelancers, there is no debating that we have ‘Better‘ locked down. I don’t think it is mere coincidence that GoDaddy.com decided to test the Freelance waters with their own contest, after coming in dead last in the USA Today poll in the 2010 Superbowl. From the looks of the entries, it appears GoDaddy has gotten it’s moneys worth.
In 2007, Five Point Productions boasted a production budget of only $12.79 for their Doritos Commercial “Live The Flavor“, that ranked #4 in the USA Today poll. Click here to read more. This first of it’s kind freelance foray into the big boys league challenged and beat ad agencies for Coca-Cola, Fed-Ex, Taco Bell, Snickers, Bud Light, and the list goes on. These larger ad agencies don’t typically disclose how much their spots cost to produce, but I would wager a bet that none of them came close to $12.79. Yeah, I know, most of the spots we freelancers create cost a bit more than $12.79, but even at a few hundred bucks ‘per’, there is no way that the heavy hitters of the ad world can compete with us. Yeah, we definitely have ‘Cheaper‘ sewn up.
There is no question that freelancers are free to produce at a faster pace than corporate firms. Free from the decision-by-committee process that can slow things down to a snails pace, the average freelance can produce content at relative lighting speed. I shot a trio of commercials for a local shopping district three years ago and was able to knock out all spots (conception to edit) in eight calendar days. In less than two weeks from the beginning of the project, the spots were airing on local cable. The client really appreciated this. Most freelancers I know can knock out a single video project in a week or two. I am going to make an educated guess that two weeks is a tad faster than Saatchi and Saatchi rolls out it’s :30 spots. Yeah, freelancers are ‘Faster‘.
An ever expanding field of Freelance Creatives:
Though there is no hard data to back this up, I am going to guess that currently, the community of freelance creatives is doubleing every year or so. If you look at the increase in submissions these branding contests are receiving, the soft data supports this. The new acquaintances I make through the years also suggests this increase. For Example: If there were 1,000 capable freelancers in year 2006, there then were 2,000 in 2007. At 4,000 in 2008 there were 8,000 by years end in 2009. At some point the math will slow down, but right now it is clear the field is increasing.
What it means to the industry:
(The Freelancers, the Agencies, the Brands)
I can remember a time when the VCK could enter a contest and pretty much be guaranteed a finalist slot, and very often win 1st place. As the years have gone on, and the competition increases, the contest wins for the VCK are less frequent. If you guessed that this bums me out a bit, you are right. But if you also guessed that there is an upside I am thrilled about, than you have a good grasp of why I started the VCK Blog last summer.
The volume of ‘would be commercial directors‘ is increasing. There is no debating it. Creative types of all demographic ranges who are willing to educate themselves with regard to the emerging camera/editing technology are discovering in droves, that they have something to offer the industry. Admittedly it is also encouraging many a director wannabe of lesser ability which produces a glut of content not always the highest of quality. After the chaff has been separated from the wheat though, the net effect is an increase in the volume of quality branding content. The brands are increasingly discovering this with every new contest executed on the web. This is a good thing. Right now, with the economy still in the doldrums, there are more creatives than there are contests to feed them, but in a year or two if/when the economy turns around and venture capital starts to flow more freely, there will be more opportunities than imaginable for all freelancers. Even given a continued sluggish economy over the next few years there will be brands/businesses who will be increasingly open to testing the offerings from our creative community.
Advertising is a necessary element of all business strategy regardless of a cyclical economy. The current economy only effects the volume of advertising purchased.
I tend to forecast towards the inevitable economic upswing as it represents a quantum leap in opportunities for our community.
Evolution of the agencies:
The VCK predicts that in about 10 years, the days of the $350,000.00 :30 commercial budget will be a thing of the past. Except for a few agencies with a niche, the average national quality :30 second television/internet spot will cost between $10,000.00 and $25,000.00. I think that those production companies/agencies run by smallish staffs of highly creative people with an adept grasp of technology tools, will be the norm. Sort of like the Industrial Revolution in reverse, where the small businesses devours the market share to the detriment of the monopoly. Pure and simple supply and demand.
In my own research, I have discovered there are droves of intermediate companies/brands who have wanted to purchase national quality branding content for their local/regional television media buys, websites, in-store kiosks, lobby loop-playing monitors, etc., but never have because of the prohibition of cost. This is due to change. The writing is on the wall. Sooner than later, they will enter the freelance creative market place in a volume never before experienced in advertising. The demand is there. The cost is no longer prohibitive…and the increasing supply of freelance creatives will make it all happen. EG: I produced a commercial for a Body Glove licensee (Water Filtration system that bears the Body Glove logo) that happily paid me my $15,000.00 directors fee in addition to an $8,000.00 shooting budget. It was just a matter of them discovering that Jared Cicon existed and was willing to create for them. Click HERE if you would like to see the finished infomercial.
Developing a Career:
A few weeks ago I pitched a promotional video project to the local chamber of commerce here in Claremont, Ca.. Having received decent local press for the contests I’ve won, a marketing group consisting of members of the chamber were familiar with me and ready to hear my pitch. And even though I had scored other paying advertising gigs which appeared on my resume, it was the contests that these C.O.C. members knew me from and identified me with. These contests are a very good way for creatives to build a resume and press release archives in a very short period of time, and to use that resume/archive to find work with local businesses. A promotional video for the C.O.C. may not be the most glamorous work but it keeps me doing what I enjoy and I receive a paycheck for it. You also would be surprised at the creative control local businesses will give you as opposed to a sensitive decision-by-committee high profile brand.
Recently I was contacted by winners of the Mountain Dew ‘Dew-Mocracy‘ contest. These guys (guy and girl actually), had some questions about my origins and the kind of work I am able to secure as a commercial producer. Good questions, that go to making solid plans towards a commercial film career. As a result of thier submission to the contest, Steven Wong and Jennifer Mihalyi were awarded a prize of being able to direct a genuine Mountain Dew commercial with all of the production assets available to a major brand like Mountain Dew. Wow!!! man that must have been fun. The resulting commercial is great. Steve and Jen are to be commended for their work. Check it out.
Mountain Dew is also holding a PUBLIC VOTE to determine which new flavor/commercial is best. Steve and Jen are one of three commercial directors competing for supremacy. If you have a moment, go HERE, and vote for the ‘WHITEOUT’ commercial! Please support your fellow hustling freelance peers. Steve and Jen are an example of a small production team that has had a success that can be immediately parlayed into more work. Promoting themselves to businesses in their area, utilizing the Mountain Dew resume bonanza and related press releases, could reap them real paychecks. Getting paid (paying bills) while pursuing loftier goals is an excellent career strategy. One that I also employ as the VCK.
The Advertising world in the Not-Too-Distant future…
Instead of 1,000 large ad agencies producing 5,000 :30 national quality commercial spots annually for 350K each for big budget brands…we will have 50,000 micro agencies and/or freelancers producing 300,000 :30 national quality commercial spots annually at a cost of 15K each, and for brands of all sizes throughout the world.
Sitting back and waiting for fortuitous things to happen as a result of contest victories is a shaky strategy to use as a standalone in planning a future professional career. I can tell you that from first hand experience. I don’t know about you guys, but currently I am sharpening my skills, making sure my production capability is up to snuff, and am actively promoting myself to the communities here where I live. I am already posturing myself to take my portion of the emerging market share of the evolving advertising industry. Come and join me in the kingdom.