How to Work With Creative Firms: The Bid


Some of our clients come to us as seasoned veterans of dealing with creative firms. Some come to us as babes in the woods. Most fall somewhere in between. That’s OK. I’ve always felt that a big part of our job is to help educate our clients on how to best use our talents and skills, from the beginning to launch.

That’s right- this one’s about how to get the best project bidding process, so you end up choosing the right company for your project.

First, almost all RFPs suck. I don’t blame the RFP writer- more on that, later. But I’ve yet to find an RFP in its initial form that allowed a client to truly compare apples-to-apples, and make an informed and educated decision.

It’s often even worse when there’s not even an RFP to go on. For instance, a couple of weeks ago I was asked to prep a bid for a promotional video for a company. The sum total of information they gave me was “I’d like it to sort of look like this competitor video”. How lazy! How lame! No project description, creative brief, script, or storyboards. Just “tell me a price”. That’s like showing up at an auction and being told to yell out random numbers, bidding for items you can’t even see (kudos to Kathi for that analogy).

When we get an RFP or bid request that doesn’t show a lot of forethought from the client, my first inclination is to toss it in the garbage. And it’s not just me who thinks like this- most good agencies do.

There’s got to be a better way, right?

I’ve found one of the best ways to up the quality of the bids you get is to work with us, or someone like us, from the beginning- someone in your pool of agencies under consideration. You’re an expert at what you do. You’re the point person for your organization. But unless you’re very, very uniquely special you do not have the technical or creative chops to adequately explain and flesh out the nuts and bolts of what you’re looking for.

Think about it- a house built on a weak foundation cannot stand. But by working with an emissary from the pool of agencies you’re considering from the start, you’ll get a solid foundation and a much better experience all around. You’ll be able to speak our language from the start. And you’ll notice the quality of responses you’ll get will go through the roof.

What’s more, by doing a “test run” with an agency you’re considering, you’ll get a good feel for what the working relationship will be like, should you hire them to do “the big project”. Yeah, paying someone like us to work on your brief/RFP/script will cost money. But it’s an investment that will result in a much better end product for you.

In the end, you want bids that generally match in scope and quality, and which give you a solid estimate on pricing. You want your project to succeed wildly and impress the heck out of your peers and customers. We want the same thing. And we, like you, want a relationship- not a one night stand. By working together from the start in a cooperative way, we can make you look amazing.

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Levi’s 30 Second Spot

This 30 second spec TV commercial was written by Doug Tracy, animated by Tim Smyth, and directed by Patrick Ortman. We shot it on a Canon 7D, using Dragon stop motion software. It was edited in Final Cut Pro, using a lot of plug-ins to give a bit of a distressed film look. Enjoy!

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Interactive Media Award Press Release (MPAC)

Los Angeles Digital and Interactive Agency PatrickOrtman, Inc. Wins Outstanding Achievement In Website Design and Development from Interactive Media Awards

STUDIO CITY, CA — PatrickOrtman, Inc., an award-winning digital and interactive agency headquartered in Los Angeles, California., today announced that it has been awarded Outstanding Achievement in Website Development by the Interactive Media Awards™ for its work on the Muslim Public Affairs Council Website. The honor recognizes that the project met and surpassed the standards of excellence that comprise the web’s most professional work. The site was honored specifically for excellence in the Nonprofit category.

The judging consisted of various criteria, including design, usability, innovation in technical features, standards compliance and content. In order to win this award level, the site had to meet strict guidelines in each area — an achievement only a fraction of sites in the IMA competition earn each quarter.

Patrick Ortman, CEO of PatrickOrtman, Inc., said, “It’s an honor to have our work recognized by the Interactive Media Awards. Being granted entry to such an exclusive club by the Interactive Media Awards is testament to the true standard of excellence by which PatrickOrtman, Inc. operates. I’m thrilled with our design and development team, especially Ryan McMaster and Jeff Whitfield, who contributed greatly to the project’s success.”

About PatrickOrtman, Inc.
PatrickOrtman, Inc. offers full-service website design, social media marketing, and high-end video production company services to clients worldwide. They create digital marketing projects that range from website redesigns to TV and Internet commercials and promos, sometimes working in concert with a client’s advertising agency, and sometimes as the digital agency of record. Their clients range from the Fortune 500 to smaller companies and organizations. They are based in Los Angeles, California and are privately held.


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New Website Launch:


We’re happy to announce that we’ve completed a major overhaul and redesign of The new website is based on web standards, and uses a state-of-the-art MODx CMS, with WordPress blog integration. The website also includes a bunch of new video content, shot on RED and posted at our edit suite in Los Angeles.

The website was a huge team effort, and we’d like to thanks our awesome teammates Amy Gallaher-Hall (lead designer), Jen, Gradiva, Crystal, Corinne, Tyler, and of course Jeff.

You can view the new website at

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We Won an Interactive Media Award

We won an IMA Outstanding Achievement Award for our website we created for MPAC- the Muslim Public Affairs Council. Usually these awards go to much larger creative/design firms who have much larger budgets. So, we’re kind of stoked. It’s nice to be in the company of bigger agencies like Happy Cog and Huge, Inc.

We had a great team for this project, hats off to everyone! I’m especially happy that this award goes to our first collaboration with Collabpad, and that we chose MODx as our Content Management Framework.

Sure, we’re prepping a proper press release about all this. But in the meantime, here’s more about our award:

Congratulations! We are happy to announce that your entry into the IMA competition, the Muslim Public Affairs Council Website, under the category ‘Nonprofit’, has won the IMA Outstanding Achievement Award with an overall score of 462.

To win an award your entry had to successfully pass through our comprehensive judging system. Our judges utilize a points-based scoring system which allows each entry to receive a maximum of 500 points. By adhering to the specific guidelines and criteria of this system our judges are able to maintain the highest degree of fairness, accuracy and integrity; competently and effectively evaluate entries; and, deliver clear results.

Our individual scores were as follows:

Design: 91
Content: 95
Feature Functionality: 98
Usability: 92
Standard Compliance & Cross-Browser Compatibility: 86


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More Thoughts on Twitter for Business


We were one of the first companies to get into Twitter as a marketing tool and way to stay in touch with clients and colleagues. But lately, something hasn’t been sitting right with us about Twitter. For us, it’s time to completely change how we use Twitter… and a big part of that is a massive reduction in the amount of time we’ll be spending on the service.

Quitting Twitter has become a bit of a fashion lately, with high-profile celebrities abandoning it for charity or personal/business reasons. For us, our decision’s been more of a pragmatic one: there’s just too much noise on Twitter to make it useful for us. Even when we had a fulltime person culling through our followers, setting up lists, etc., the signal-to-noise ratio made Twitter something that rapidly went from semi-useful to useless for us. Twitter’s become much less of a conversation, which is a shame. It’s more like a very noisy broadcasting and self-promoting medium, and that’s no fun.

We’ll still check our Twitter feed now and then. But we won’t be tweeting much, anymore. Sure, when something big and cool happens we may let loose a tweet. But I don’t see the point in adding to the noise, or culling through it looking for the good stuff, anymore.

That’s the thing about social media. It’s constantly changing. I completely understand that many businesses have done well with Twitter. And I know legions of self-described ‘social media experts’ will scream that Twitter’s awesome. But its time has passed, for us.

Subject to change, of course.

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Quantity or Quality

I just watched a short film from a guy I know, and it really struck me that his movie would have been a lot better if it was half the length. Not just in terms of tightening up the story a bit, but also by giving him an effectively larger per-minute budget, which would let him compete with the big guys.

See, there’s a reason national TV commercials cost millions of dollars to make, and feature films cost tens or hundreds of millions of dollars to create. If you want to compete with the big guys, you need to find ways to increase your production value on your limited budget. In my experience, one of the best ways to do that is by simply making a shorter film.

In filmmaking, if given the choice, I’d go for quality over quantity every time.

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Making a Corporate Video

Corporate Video Production Tip of the Week: When you settle on a video production company to work with, you should really include their input from the beginning, at the conceptual stage of your video. It’s always amazing to me that some clients don’t ask for help when it’s time to flesh out their ideas. A good director or production company can really help you put your best foot forward, and make the most of the budget you have. We know all the tricks about how to make you look great, and we want your project to succeed. A few paid hours upfront can save you untold pain and suffering later on.

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Website Design Wednesdays- What is a Good Website Redesign?

Welcome to Website Design Wednesday. It’s a new thing, I’m hoping it catches on. Today’s topic: what is a good website redesign? I know a lot of people wonder about this subject. Well, I do at least. Here’s some things that a great website redesign should get right:

Don’t screw up your audience’s expectations.
Oh, sure. I bet you were thinking I’d talk about CSS or web standards. We’ll get to those, someday. But first, you need to keep your audience in mind. If they’ve gotten used to using your site one way, you better have a very good reason for making huge changes to that experience. I’m not saying you shouldn’t make wholesale changes to your site architecture. But if you do make huge changes, you should really make them with your audience in mind. Anticipate their needs. How can you do this? By spending a bit of time with your Google Analytics or whatever website stats app you use. Learn how your audience is using your site today, before making changes that could mess them up.

Simple is good.
Many times in a web redesign project, we’re asked to have a billion huge buttons screaming and competing for attention. That’s just nutso. Don’t fill up the pages with billions of competing messages. Settle on a few key actions you want people to do when they visit your site. If you do that, I’ll stop exaggerating. Truth is, we’re not asked for billions of huge, competing buttons. It’s usually in the low millions at most.

Consistency is better.
Websites that don’t work the way you think they should ruin the experience and make customers hate you. A consistent user interface throughout the site is best. But it’s not just the UI I’m talking about, here. A certain consistency in the tone of the written and visual content of your website goes a long way towards a successful website redesign.

Make sure the new design fits your brand’s image.
Every once in a while, a potential client will tell us they want a website that’s nothing like any of their marketing or advertising materials. Something that doesn’t truthfully reflect the company. This is almost always a mistake. Your brand is something that needs to be nurtured and carefully protected. It’s OK to extend your brand or identity by stepping out a little with your website. But the best websites are readily identifiable as representing the brands and organizations they were created for. There’s a reason for this.

That’s all for today- happy Website Design Wednesday!

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Michael Tuck wrote a great article today on Six Revisions called The Wabi-Sabi Aesthetic. Wabi-Sabi applies to all sorts of design, not just website design or page layout. Most good filmmakers use a bit of the Wabi-Sabi aesthetic, like when we’re working on tv commercials or whatever for clients. We commonly add a little bit of imperfection, or organic elements, to shots in order to better sell them. Sometimes it’s adding a bit of grain, a lens flare, or even a bit of camera shake. The idea is, sterile perfection is not what you should aspire to. A little bit of imperfection is much more interesting to us humans.

If you create things, it’s pretty cool to keep the Wabi Sabi aesthetic in mind.

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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.