It can be intimidating to get onto a call that could define your future inevitably, or at least your likelihood for the next few months. On an agency call, I’ve been on both ends of the receiver. It’s natural to be a bit nervous, but turn those nerves into drive. Or for someone like George Bush, the phone right-side up.

If you’re lucky enough to get a script/board/concept that’s brilliant, your emotions will speak louder than words. The other scenario is what is more likely to happen: a script/board/concept that they are looking to you to make brilliant. Good news is…THEY CALLED YOU FIRST!

The most important thing is to manage the purpose of each call. In the US, most agencies and brands require you to triple bid. They have consultants, unions, and audits to manage, which results sometimes in a competitive bid process and pre-bid approval with the client—hence, two calls.

Note: for perspective from the production company side, see Margo Mars’ take on the topic. Although she comes at it from a UK-specific perspective, it contains valuable information to make you as prepared as possible for a call with, well, my side of things.

Let's break it down.

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The first call: Tell your story.

The first call is the “pitch.” The agency knows you are interested in what they have, and they are ready to hear why. That’s it. You will get the verbal overview of the concept from the Creative Director, taking you through what their assignment was and any pertinent information from the creative brief.

Let’s face it, we’re all thinking, “Who the fuck are these people?” One answer: it doesn’t matter. The real answer: you probably should know.

Typically on a first call, you have all the players. Sometimes you have the Chief Creative Officer, whose position is to gain confidence in their teams’ decisions and maintain creative integrity. However, you will always have the ECD (Executive Creative Directors) along with the creative team that wrote the spot. Then, there’s the producer. The producer is the linchpin between the production company, directors, agency, and the client. A good producer will help guide the call. Where a creative’s brain is focusing on your enthusiasm and added value to their script, the producer’s brain is focused on not only your added value but managing the realities of time and budget.

Remember: Your language around articulating your passion and collaboration is what grows the agency’s confidence in you. Be you.

What’s more, address any hesitations in this first call. This could mean there could be a language barrier or another cultural difference. Know your audience, including the brand. This is the call that will launch you into your treatment.

"I’ll say it again: BE YOU."

In Common Courtesy of We Are Unlimited 2
In Common Courtesy of We Are Unlimited 4 - Agency Call Sumer

The second call: your treatment.

This call is for the team; however, you wear the crown. It’s an opportunity for the team to digest your thought-out display of the vision you have for the content being approached. (A note: the agency’s job is to get everyone in a room at the same time, which can be challenging, so don’t take it personal if it seems rushed.) You have 30-60 minutes to get your approach across so be specific. This is also a time when you will need to be the most flexible. Be accommodating to questions and feedback on your treatment, as gaving a confident, collaborative partner is everything. I’ll say it again: BE YOU.

"So stay patient and confident knowing you’ve given it all you’ve got."

Allow a day to a few days to hear back from the agency/client. In these days the producers are calculating the logistics, the consultants are dissecting the competitive bids, and the creatives are giving final thought to the approach or which approach best fits their goal or the ask. So stay patient and confident knowing you’ve given it all you’ve got.

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BONUS TIP:

Use good visuals to help tell your story/approach. Share strong examples of previous work or a previz that supports you as a director. And something no one ever really tells you, sincere compliments go a looooooonnnnngggg way, so spread love. I love you, now knock em’ dead!!

Sumer Friedrichs - Headshot 3

Sumer Friedrichs


As Chief Production Officer at We Are Unlimited, Sumer Friedrichs oversees the agency’s integrated production team and leads external and internal production across all mediums. In her first 12 months at Unlimited, Sumer made huge strides in reorganizing the agency’s production department, building an in-house social studio team, and introducing a new workflow that leverages We Are Unlimited’s modern capabilities. She’s produced some of the agency’s most recent breakthrough campaigns including McDelivery + Uber Eats and McDonald’s “Summertime.”

With more than 20 years of experience, Sumer has worked across the different facets of production, from online user experience, to print, to shopper/retail, to short- and long- form video. Prior to joining We Are Unlimited, Sumer worked as a line producer, producer, and executive producer for various agencies, all culminating in her position as SVP Director of Integrated Production at GTB (formerly Team Detroit), where she spent nine years leading both national and global campaigns for Ford.

Prior to GTB, Sumer spent seven years at Campbell-Ewald producing award winning campaigns for Chevrolet, Farmers Insurance, and the U.S. Navy. Before working at an advertising agency, Sumer spent four years in production at ESPN, and later she crossed over into commercial production working for the L.A.-based production house Bandito Brothers.

Over the course of her career, Sumer has won numerous industry awards including the Shortys, the Webbys, and the Effies among others.

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