The steak has lost its sizzle.
Be honest. When business gets slow at your creative firm, someone usually suggests: “Let’s cut a new showreel!”
Ah, the showreel montage. That classic, rapid-fire, glitzy compilation of all your best work. The first demo reels I ever saw came from legendary studios like Pittard Sullivan, GRFX Novocom and Telezign. They gave me goosebumps!
But that was 1994.
Amazing how the demo reel montage has remained the stalwart calling card for studios, agencies, and production companies for over two decades. Or has it? After all, the goosebumps are long gone.
The venerable showreel montage is finally dying. I submit that if we took the traditional showreel montage out back and shot it, our clients would cheer.
Speed Dating Reality Check
Here is a real-world example which makes my point: PromaxBDA Client/Agency Speed Dating. Have you ever done a speed dating event? This event consists of 10+ prospective entertainment clients (buyers) sitting across tables from 10+ studios (sellers). As one of those sellers, you’ve got just 10 minutes to introduce your firm and make your pitch. When the bell rings, you slide over to the next client and repeat, ten times.
Those poor clients. After one such event I asked a client with a dazed look on her face, “So what stood out?” She said, “Uh, I kinda remember the last showreel. Maybe?”
Speed Dating is quite a reality check. Yes, playing your showreel montage for 10+ top buyers is thrilling. But going up against 10+ other sellers – also playing showreel montages – is not thrilling. In that context you suddenly realize all showreel montages pretty much look the same. You suddenly realize Speed Dating is the chance of a lifetime, yet you’re walking away wishing you could have shown something more.
Lori Pate, a well-known sales representation veteran, tells it like it is:
“Montages do nothing more than list the clients who have trusted you with their brand. So if you insist on a montage, just show logos! Instead, I prefer to show full case studies.” – Lori Pate, Principal at LORI PATE+
Showreel montages don’t work at Speed Dating. Or maybe showreel montages just don’t work, period.
What a Showreel Montage Says
If your creative firm features a showreel montage on your website, it says two things to visitors:
- You can edit a montage
- You look (and think) like everyone else
Showreel montages used to be a great way to make so-so work look stronger. But today’s savvy clients are not impressed. They want to get right to the work which best demonstrates your expertise and your personality. Michael Waldron, a network TV creative executive (who also spent years on the vendor side as a principal at NYC creative studio Nailgun), shares this perspective:
‘The only thing a montage reel shows is that the company is really good at editing. I would rather see their newest and best works. I want to know what the challenge was and how they solved it. A lot of that is stripped away in a montage.’ – SVP Creative Director Art and Design at Nickelodeon
Montages are even less acceptable in the commercial world. One Minneapolis ad agency principal had this to say:
‘I don’t think a ‘sexy montage’ is a very accurate representation of the work because you’re only seeing the flashy bits and not the entire concept. Like a movie trailer showing you the one great joke when the rest of the film sucks. Personally, I’d rather see the work in its entirety.’ – Ellie Anderson, CEO at Griffin Archer
No one is going to tell you this truth, so I will: prospective clients don’t watch your showreel montage.
And don’t ever make the mistake of broadcasting a message like, “Check out our new reel!” across all your social media channels. That instantly reveals your lack of imagination when it comes to marketing.
Sizzle Is Great, But Give Me The Steak
So the trend has shifted to presenting projects in their entirety. Why? Because showing entire projects answers questions about your creative studio’s ability to solve much bigger problems, such as, is the concept yours? Did you handle the copywriting? Did you shoot it? Direct it? Produce it? It’s tempting to hide behind a montage, but you’re not fooling anyone. Not anymore.
A former EP, Heidi Bayer, who reps studios in the broadcast space, has this to say:
“I have spoken with many network executives, they find it difficult to tell just what a company did on a particular project when viewed within a traditional sizzle / demo reel. Instead, I try to figure out the client’s need then curate spots which speak to that.” – Heidi Bayer, Creative Representation at Numodo
It’s really that simple: try to figure out what your client needs, then show them solutions.
Make Sure You Answer This One Question
At the end of the day, the biggest questions clients have sound something like this: “Can I trust you? What is your expertise? What would it be like to work with you?”
A showreel montage can’t answer those questions. However you choose to showcase your firm’s work, always remember expertise and personality get you noticed, not a montage.
A trend that I’ve been seeing in the industry – that is very encouraging – is what I call the Positioning Showreel. This is a 1-2 minute showreel which presents your creative firm’s positioning alongside your best work. The combination of the two is a powerful way to create curiosity in the mind of your prospective clients.