By: Katie Weisenburger

When it comes down to it, selling any advertisement comes down to two things- how good is the idea AND whether or not you’re the next Oscar winning star (essentially). So here’s an equation to help you wrap your head around it.           

               10% idea

            + 90% presentation

            = Whether or not you sell the work (and possibly whether or not you become the next  D&AD winner #LIFEGOALS)

When Program 35 sat down with Lance Jensen last Thursday for some delicious pizza and insightful advice, I knew that I’d get to listen to one of the world’s best creatives, while gaining some important advice. But the biggest takeaway I took from the conversation might be a bit surprising-


“Take some acting classes if you haven’t already, it’ll help. Have you ever done some improv? Well you probably should if you haven’t.”


Lance wasn’t implying that advertising is acting. In fact, he was actually pointing at something bigger- that some people think advertising is all about lying just to sell something. It isn’t. It’s just about finding a human truth, creating a story around that idea, and selling it with passion and fire.

It got me thinking. To be perfectly honest, I’ve never been very theatrical or dramatic, but in simpler terms confident. I normally don’t enjoy talking in front of strangers and I can be pretty awkward at times (I think the rest of 35 can speak to that). The biggest acting gig I ever did was in High School plays from playing a fork in Beauty in the Beast to playing a townsperson in The Fiddler on the Roof. So when Lance told us this last Thursday, I thought I’d take his advice pretty seriously.

I always knew that in the back of my mind, verbally selling your ideas is pretty important in the advertising industry. But after the 2 mock-pitches for the internal intern project this past week, I saw that really come into play. Heading into both tissue sessions we had a few concepts to explain to our judges, of which I wrote up some “fancy and prettily-worded” stories. I was so excited to read them and honestly couldn’t wait to present them- but then it hit me. “I shouldn’t be reading them; In fact I shouldn’t even glance at a notecard let alone a piece of paper when I talk to someone.”

Is that what a people do? NO. It’s not normal for people to read off a script when talking to each other. I should be able to sell my work without looking on a piece of paper. I already know I can write a good story or speech, one that’s pretty powerful and all around entertaining and sure, I can read it out loud too. Anyone can write a story and make others feel something, but only a few can make a story come to life through a jaw dropping performance (cue to scene of Tom Hanks in Cast Away yelling for “WILSONNNN” as he floats away in the ocean).

There’s something about a powerful performance that gives people Goosebumps. I want to give people goose bumps; make my audience or client fall in love with an idea or story, a core human truth. Because at the end of the day, that’s our job isn’t it? And although both pitches went okay, I reflect on both of them and needless to say I need to become better at presenting- MUCH better. 

So, I did a little research and if you’re wondering, yes; I signed up for an acting class. I’ve never really done something like this before so it should be pretty interesting (And for particular reasons, I will not be giving away the whereabouts of this acting class considering I know that if I did, the rest of Program 35 would come, film it, and make sure it was on the Hyper Wall for all of Hill Holliday to see… BOBBY). I figure what better way to become better at presenting than to stand up and act in front of a crowd of randos. Plus, who knows, maybe an LA director will be hanging out at this acting class and BOOM next thing ya know I’ll be making some Academy Award winning movies and becoming the next Julia Roberts. But don’t let me get ahead of myself (haha). I think for now I’ll stick to copywriting. 

Moral of the story, at the end of the day you can be the next J.K. Rowling of writing, or the next Andy Warhol of art and design. But if you can’t sell your idea then how can you be a great advertiser or creative? If you can’t bring an idea to life when presenting, then what are you really besides a brain and a regular human being? There’s a difference between an ad person and a regular person.

Although this may seem obvious to you, Lance’s advice sure made an impression on me, and it was great to sit down with him and listen to some of his own experiences. In the words of Lance, “If you want to be a great creative, you have to sell the work”, which is one piece of advice I’ll carry with me for the rest of my career. And hopefully, this acting class will get me one step closer to being there.

AuthorHill Holliday