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How to create a killer ad proposal

How to create a killer ad proposal Jon Steinberg

A large part of my day is spent thinking about how brands can spread their content online. In this regard, responding to RFPs or spec creative requests with the highest quality of client specific mock-ups is of ever increasing importance. With greater media fragmentation and creative choices, there is simply no substitute for a client or brand seeing executions and ideas around its brand and messages.

When talking to a brand about their social content, the conversation and ideas become impossible to illustrate in the abstract. At BuzzFeed, we work with brands as varied as GE, MTV, and Frito-Lay, and the key to showing them how we can make their content viral has always been customized strategies, ideas, and visuals for how their content would work on our platform.

Spec creative is costly and demands resources, as recently discussed in an Advertising Age feature titled "Why Spec Creative Should Go Away But Won't."  However, given a choice between responding to an RFP with customized mocks and ideas or a showcase of historic work, the answer is obviously both.

Getting good at spec work means customized templates and processes for doing the work in the most efficient manner. It means studying the brand and its content deeply even during off hours, and coming up with just a few key images and ideas to communicate how you'd work with the brand.

I like to put together visuals showing a brand's content on our home page in our native in-stream story units and mockups of a BuzzFeed channel and post pages for the brand -- just three to four big mocks.

We live in a visual society where people are increasingly time constrained and inundated with materials. My preference for spec work that I send and receive is that it should be highly visual with big images and nothing smaller than 36 point font, preferably 48. You need to be able to clearly communicate your ideas to clients who don’t have the time to do more than scan your materials.

In terms of the idea mix, I would suggest showing existing client content on your platform, perhaps ideas and messages from past campaigns, as well as new ideas. This ensures that even if the prospective client doesn’t like your news ideas, they’ll be able to see how previous approved creative would have functioned.

Finally, the client mockups should be at the front of the deck and ideally speak for themselves with a minimum of text. I think of this first deliverable as an introductory meeting, where you need to convey your ideas but not explain them all down to the last excruciating detail -- details are for subsequent exchanges. At this point, you simply want to convey clear ideas on your platform that are customized to the client’s content or creative.

Jon Steinberg is president of BuzzFeed.

On Twitter? Follow Jon Steinberg at @jonsteinberg.

Follow iMedia Connection at @iMediaTweet.

"Proposal and contract" image via Shutterstock.

Jon Steinberg is the President of BuzzFeed in NYC. He was previously Strategic Partner Development Manager on Google's SMB (Small Medium Business) Partnerships team. Prior to Google, Jon was the Director of Business Development at Majestic Research...

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