True Story of an Online Video Production Company Review Website

OK, so this will be a real left turn kind of post. It has not much at all to do with video production. It has to do with running your business. Especially for agencies, but really for everyone.

In the past few years, a number of review and rating websites have sprouted up claiming to make it easier for clients to find agency and creative partners. Many of these websites are “pay to play”, which has always bugged me. But the insidious one of this new group of agency review sites has really gained ground lately and it is not OK. This one demands that you as an agency owner ask your clients to submit to an almost hourlong phonecall review, during which they are solicited to use this company’s website to find future vendors. Do you want to send your clients to a company that tries to get your clients to hire other vendors? Most important: do you want to waste an hour of your clients’ precious time? I don’t. By the way, all the information they get from your clients becomes THEIR information. Let that sink in. They own it. Not you.

I’ve worked to build PatrickOrtman, Inc. up for a long time, and we are indeed a video production industry leader (see how I just linked to my own company website with keyword-specific text?), so for the past few years, we’ve been one of this website’s Los Angeles and New York “video production industry leaders”. OK. When I log in to their site, I see my company is indeed listed as one of their “leaders”, but we are surrounded by so many unqualified and crappy companies that being on their list kinda feels dirty. And really, how can you compare a company that does $1,000 videos with companies like us? You really can’t. Different audiences entirely.

In a nutshell, their lists are bullshit. And useless.

But wow do they flog those lists. They put out tons of press releases about those lists. They offer to write you blog posts trumpeting your company’s placement on their video production leaders list! With backlinks to them, naturally, to help them raise their company’s visibility in Google.

And Google has not yet caught on, so they get great traction online. They’re always in the top 2-5 places when you search for agencies of any type, despite their information being rather tainted and their listing methodology dicey at best.

What’s more, this company is now scraping the Internet for additional (dubious) information about your business and placing that online without your OK or even trying to verify that information. What kinds of information? I am seeing bankruptcy listings, credit score notes… it goes on. See how this could really screw your business, long-term?

Meanwhile, their true revenue source is getting agencies to pay thousands of dollars a month to maintain sponsorships on their website so your company stands out at the top of their lists instead of being #72 and surrounded by spam companies that taint your brand.

This company is creating information that is not meant to benefit you as a company. You are not the client, you are the product.

Speaking of that, they’ve now added a second revenue stream: getting agencies to bid on client job information. To be clear: not bidding on the job. You’d be bidding for the honor of paying this company to present you to the potential client as a “recommended agency”. No joke.

And agencies take it! They take it! They get down on their knees and beg for more of it! So they GET more of it.

Enough.

I see no reason to play their games and contribute to their business’ profits anymore. It’s a tough decision, because this company has gotten to where they are an 800 lb gorilla in the marketplace. Luckily, my video agency’s website has stellar search engine visibility in our markets. We’re lucky that I came from the oldschool of the web, where you actually build your business and its reputation through channels you own or at least who don’t have an overt reason to fuck with you.

Agency owners probably are wondering: “Great, be righteous dude. But the question is, does this company work if you pay them and willingly play their games?”. To that I say: we do get traffic from this company’s website. We have not gotten a single decent lead. And many of the “visits” we get from them? Not real people. Bots. Maybe if you paid them thousands a month, they’d work for you in a limited way. Maybe. As they continue to ratchet up the blood they’re sucking from your video agency until you just can’t justify the bleeding anymore.

It is always best to own and control your website and your social channels. And advertising needs to be clearly labeled as advertising. And don’t assume that some scammy company’s “best of” list has anything to do with reality. That’s the lesson, I think.

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Wipster Says We Rock

Five years ago I gave a short, squinty-eyed video interview to a startup called Wipster that not only makes cool tools for video agencies, they actually care about the industry.

Now, all these years later Wipster’s bigger than ever. And this week, Wipster says we’re one of six cool video agencies producing boundary-pushing content. Thanks, Wipster!

Here’s what I said about the future of video five years ago, in Austin, Texas at SXSW:

 

Welcome, 2019.

Every year I write a “year in review” before the new year comes. This year, I won’t. Don’t get me wrong- 2018 was exceptionally great for us in a lot of ways. And it’d look like bragging if I listed all the reasons. But it’s more that there’s much going on at the moment, so it feels best to not look back right now. It feels best to continue the forward momentum. Because there are big positive changes afoot. I’m excited to share them with the world, when its time.

So I will keep this year’s wrapup blog simple:

Thank you for being part of our story in 2018. We loved having you along as part of our big adventure. May 2019 bring you peace, happiness, love, and success. However you define those things.

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It was 7 Years Ago Today

7 years ago, we did our very first promo video. This is it, from the archives for your enjoyment.

Back then, PatrickOrtman, Inc. was a digital agency. Which really meant we made websites. But the seeds were planted: the fun stuff was moving on to film and video. So we did, too. Now we have 12 Fortune 500s on our client list, and we’re in both Los Angeles and New York City.

It’s good to look back, now and then. Thank you to everyone who’s been a part of our journey: crew, clients, talent, and friends. So far, so good. I wake up every day grateful that I get to work with such talented and fun people, on both sides of the lens and on both coasts of our country.

ps: here’s some stills from that day of filming, courtesy of Nic Adams.

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More Behind-The-Scenes Shots, these from a Los Angeles Commercial shoot

Hi, Patrick here. The frequent flying back and forth between New York and Los Angeles has its perks and its pitfalls, but I know I’m super lucky to have two amazing crew families between these two fine cities. Jessica (bicoastal producer) and I really love so much about each coast, and I think being bicoastal helps our work continue to improve in interesting ways. So here’s our LA family doing what we do best- making moving pictures!

Help Wanted, Boutique Video Production Company Seeks Everything

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I love that talented, smart, hard-working people want to work with our production studio. Every day we get resumes and inquiries from at least half a dozen people who’d possibly make great co-conspirators in our company.

And that’s a problem. Meaning, we are a boutique video company. We don’t have an HR staff: the partners are our HR staff. And there’s not enough time in the day to watch every reel and to personally respond to everyone. Not even close.

This is a part of our  business that, frankly, we’re still figuring out. So it’s not rudeness if we don’t get back to you. And it has nothing to do with your worthiness or talent. Mostly, it’s that we’re not looking to fill a position that you’d be right for at this time.

And yet, I don’t want to discourage someone from sending us their stuff. Because once in a while, someone has perfect timing and their work comes across our desks just when we’re saying something like “wow, we could really use a great motion graphics designer”, or “I wish we had a junior director/dp in xxx city”. Or whatever.

We keep your stuff when you send it to us. We have files. We tag your emails and your reels so we can pull you up when needed. It’s just, we might not respond directly to you until we do have an immediate need.

We’ll keep working on our hiring process as our company grows. I just want those who share their creativity with us to know that I do appreciate it, and you. Thank you.

 

2017 In Review Part One: When a Project’s Not a Good Fit for Us

We do commercials, DRTV, and higher-quality corporate/promo/brand videos for clients and agencies. We get a lot of client inquiries, and as our business has evolved it’s become clear that a percentage of these leads are not a good fit for us. There was a time when we went after every lead that came our way, but that’s really inefficient for us and it’s not right for every potential client. So, in the past couple of years we’ve been working to refer leads that we don’t match with to video production companies that might be a better fit for their needs. We haven’t asked for anything back from these companies, we do this because it’s the right thing to do.

In the past year we’ve referred maybe $80,000 of video work to smaller companies in Los Angeles and New York who could use the business. I feel really good about that. See, I don’t believe life is a zero-sum game. I think life can be a win-win. I feel like being clear about the kinds of projects we do helps us focus on our strengths and attract the right kinds of clients for us. And I feel that referring business to other companies when the lead isn’t a good match for us helps the overall communities in which we operate.

One of our core values is giving back, and we’ll keep on helping others in the new year.

 

A Moment Can Make a Difference

A moment from one person can make all the difference.

Steve was working at the grocery store today. He’s a bagger and he’s always working to keep things tidy. Steve has the best attitude of anyone I’ve ever met. He’s also a special needs guy.

Today, I was feeling a little wistful because it’s Isla’s last day of preschool before Kindergarten, and as I was walking out of the store, Steve jumped in front of me and high-fived me, saying “today is a beautiful day!”. “Yes, Steve it is”, I replied. He liked that. And it put me in a good, maybe more mindful mood.

Then on my drive, I saw an older lady who was sitting on the ground. A friend was with her, but something didn’t seem right. So I turned around and asked if she was ok and if she needed any help, or even a ride home. They were actually ok, and lived a couple houses down, but, like Steve taking care of me, they were super-thrilled somebody stopped to show they care.

And maybe today they’ll be more mindful of others, too. And so on. To infinity and beyond. I like to imagine a human wave of kindness overtaking the frustration and bad feelings we’re all getting exposed to on a macro level.

Micro matters, too. Thanks, Steve.

How to Spend Money on Gear Wisely in 2017 (Skip the Camera!)

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This one’s for my fellow video production nerds.

Smart people realize that cameras have been solved. This might be why RED’s new product is a phone. Not a camera. Cameras are done. They’re great. Today. And semi-affordable. The huge gap between “great” and what the average DP can afford is pretty much gone, and if you’re still selling yourself based on your camera instead of your work, you are way behind the times.

Put simply, the most important thing is your talent in using the gear. The gear alone doesn’t differentiate you, anymore. Pros can Continue reading

On the Importance of Personal Projects for Creatives

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I keep relearning the lesson of how important it is for us creatives to always be working on personal projects. First, they’re fun to do! Second, they let you hone new skills. And third, sometimes they show clients a side of you that they didn’t know about. This can pay huge dividends.

For instance, about a year and a half ago I was in New York more than I wasn’t. I live and work in both LA and New York, and I’m not sure why LA wasn’t clicking for me at that time, but I was grateful that New York was. New York was keeping Continue reading

About PatrickOrtman, Inc.

PatrickOrtman, Inc. is one of the top-rated video production companies in Los Angeles and New York City. We make high-end corporate videos, and commercials for TV and digital for clients that include 11 Fortune 500s.