Contributor Tips, Pro Tips

Spec Ads: A Vehicle for Attracting New Clients and Buyers


Creating a spec commercial is a great way for directors and editors to highlight their talents and add another element to their reels. Some filmmakers invest thousands of dollars and many valuable hours into creating spec spots — but if the work achieves an aesthetic or quality that matches the best primetime ads, then the effort and investment will be well worth it.

Fleshing out a story that has scenes that can work for a spec commercial can also work for Pond5’s marketplace. In that way, you’re investing in your career, parlaying your content into media assets, and, most importantly, getting somepay back on your investment.

What’s Your Big Idea?

The most impressive spec commercials that I’ve seen were created by students at Germany’s Film Academy Baden-Württemberg. The same group was responsible for the “Johnny Walker: Dear Brother Spec” commercial in 2015.

I’m a firm believer that your best stories will be your own. Drawing upon your own experiences will create the emotional connection that will translate to the viewer. In addition, marrying your story with a product that reflects one of Pond5’s primary subjects such as business, lifestyles, education, healthcare, or sports is key not only to landing a potential client but as a means to bolster the strength of your video collection in our marketplace.

Related Post Content Matters: A Fundamental Review of Primary Subjects

Putting Together the Pieces

A simple montage of shots edited together can achieve the same results. I worked with Francesco Bittichesu, an award-winning photographer who was keen to expand his audience to include film and video clients; instead of developing a tightly woven narrative, we decided to shoot the romantic moments in a “day in the life” of a real Italian couple in Francesco’s native Sardinia.

Francesco could have easily slapped a Vespa logo at the end of the video, but instead left the piece open to interpretation.

Related Post Italian Job: Shoot Brief Basics on Location in Sardinia

Playing With Tone

Peter Kagan is an award-winning director who I collaborated with a few years back on a few spec commercials. Although Peter was in high demand, he felt that he wanted to expand his palette with more comedic themes. We agreed on a concept that had two corporate business teams childishly competing against each other in a field.

I found inspiration for the spots by pulling images from Robert Longo‘s “Men in the Cities” series and Mark Tansey‘s surreal paintings that exemplified the vibe we were attempting to achieve.

Men in the Cities by Robert Longo
Men in the Cities artwork by Robert Longo

I created a basic shot list and simple boards to keep us focused on the scenes we needed to achieve, but left plenty room for the actors to improvise their actions.

By the end of the day, we were able to complete a few sequences that included a tug of war, a sack race, a 200-yard dash, and a briefcase toss. It wasn’t until the shoot was in the can that Peter knew exactly how he wanted to pitch the footage he shot. In addition, the footage from both Francesco’s and Peter’s shoots found a home in a media marketplace.

Targeting Advertising Agencies

Advertising agencies represent a big market that you should be thinking about when your creating your content. For the most part, Pond5’s creative briefs have been focused on this sector, being that advertising agencies have fewer budget restraints than most other market segments. (In other words, they have more money to spend.)

Whether your goal is to be a commercial director or editor or to produce media for Pond5 (or both), creating a spec commercial is a good way to exhibit your style and vision, as well as a tone that can resonate with a potentially lucrative audience.

If you have any questions about how to proceed or want to share your own work, let us know in the comments!

Top image: Young Producer With Film Reel by lolostock