How to Create an Online Ad (from idea to finished product)

Collaborating with Menno Tea to create an online ad

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The process of creating an online ad is a bit more in depth than some may think. It’s not something that can easily come together in a way. An incredible amount of preparation and planning goes into taking the ad from an idea to a finished product.

Menno Tea reached out to talk through creating an online video to promote their business. Menno Tea has always impressed me.  First created by Hans Weaver and Niles Graber Alvarez, they first introduced their product in a small coffee shop in 2010.

Since then they have expanded and developed seven bottled and dried tea products which are sold in over 600 stores throughout the Midwest and Mid Atlantic.  I shoot corporate videos in Denver, Colorado, but worked with a local photograph in Indiana to gather the footage (some footage in Colorado, other shots in Goshen Indiana). I was excited to have the opportunity to collaborate with them on creating a promotional video.

I encourage you to check out their story and what they do at their website

how to create an online ad, hans and miles

I’d like to break down the process of working on the ad to show what went into the creation of this commercial.

Here’s the ad for those of you who haven’t seen it yet.

The Pre-Production of Ad Creation

Like most projects it began with a lengthy and ongoing discussion.  The question that people asked Hans and Niles the most is “What is Menno Tea?”  Hans, Niles and I went through about a dozen drafts to answer that question in the most concise way possible.  The script was the blueprint for all the visuals that appear in the commercial, so we needed it to be exact.

Early drafts of the script spent a lot more time on the owners and history of Menno Tea.  Ultimately we decided these drafts were trying to pack in too much information. Effective ads are very focused.  We decided that the main focus should be the products and what makes them unique.

Once the script was finished, I started to create a lookbook and shotlist.  A lookbook establishes the mood and feel of the piece. The shotlist establishes all of the shots that will appear in the ad.  I started by finding creative ways to visually represent the text of the script.  Once I had a list of all of the shots, I moved on to establishing framing, composition, and elements of each shot as well as the mood, tone, and feel of the piece.

menno tea online ad

​​Menno Tea already had a wealth of professional product photos set in nature on their website.

 I worked hard to keep that aesthetic consistent throughout the piece, as if the video was their promotional photos come to life.  It was really important to capture the feel of Menno Tea.

A big part of Menno Tea is it’s simplicity.

It only has a few natural ingredients, giving it a much more natural flavor than so many drinks pumped with all kinds of chemicals and flavors.

I decided to use almost exclusively earthy and old props.  I found clay mugs, wood stumps, wood cutting boards, old brick walls, and a wooden bridge.  I also tried to stay away from overly flashy camera moves, sticking primarily to dolly moves and tripod shots.

Menno Teas rural Mennonite roots is also something I wanted to aesthetically capture.

The majority of the ad was shot in the golden hour of sunset and sundown.  I used natural lighting on all the daytime shots to make it feel more natural.  While it made filming more challenging, it really helped to add a warm, calming glow.

The use of color was also important.  I chose green and brown as the central colors to appear in most of the shots, since nature was a big part of the brand image.

menno tea mint for our ad

tea leaves for our online ad

menno tea on bridge created for our online ad

menno tea seasonal drinks how to make ad

I wanted the images to have a certain smoothness to them. I kept the hue and saturation from being too punchy and overly bright and unnatural.

barn location we found for the menno tea online ad

I spent a lot of time location scouting.  Hans and Niles described their vibe as 70’s farm. I was thrilled to find an old historical farm that I felt perfectly captured the feel they described.

I also discovered a bridge that captured the rural feel as well as a large grassy area.

This was an ad where I spent a lot of time carefully designing every shot.

Finding the Right Objects for our ad

cinnamon roll for our online ad

For the shot where tea is poured into a mug, I tried out a variety of mugs but wanted one that was a deep brown and made of clay.  I picked out four mugs that could work and then tried them out on camera to see which looked best.  Originally the shot was going to be on a wooden table, but I found the mug blended in too much with the color of the wood.  I found a bright 70’s inspired placemat to add a little more color and separation into the shot.

 I already had a wood cutting board and came up with refreshments that both looked appealing and colorful. Home-baked rolls, grapes, natural crackers, and cheese seemed like a wonderful, appealing evening snack that connected with Menno Tea’s warm community feel.  I had several more items in the frame but removed them, since the shot was starting to become too busy and detracted from Menno Tea being in center frame.

It was definitely a lot of shopping and designing for a shot that lasted 2 seconds, but it was important for furthering the feel of the spot.

how to make a picnic table for our ad

picnic with pickles for our ad

I went through a similar process with the picnic scene, finding natural foods with color and that went well together.  The items purchased were also the lunch for our talent, so we wanted to find things that both looked good and tasted good too.  Home-canned dill pickles and Bavarian-style pretzels remind me of the Menno Tea feel.

I looked through a variety of tablecloths before finally deciding on one that was fairly simple and traditional with a shade of blue that was pleasing but not overly distracting.  I also wanted my talent wearing clothes that were not overly trendy or time specific. I directed them to wear logoless outfits that were inspired by the 70’s without looking like a retro costume.

Overhead shot for menno tea online ad

Unique Camera Angles

The top down shot was more challenging since even with a wide lens, the camera needed to be ten feet in the air and pointed straight down.  I attached the camera to a C-stand with a gobo arm and raised it to it’s maximum height and used my monitor to see what the camera was seeing.  I had to measure the focus distance and set it beforehand, since the focus had to be set when the camera was on the ground.

The days of shooting were fairly spread out due to shooting at golden hour.  After ten days of shooting the project was wrapped and it was time to lock in the edit.  I browsed through 150 songs and 45 professional voice over artists before we settled on music and voice over that we were all happy with.  We didn’t want the voice to sound like an announcer or salesperson but more like a friendly conversation.

Goshen College building for our online ad

I Got By With a Little Help From my Friends (to get shots for the ad that I couldn’t)

This was a shoot where I wasn’t able to film everything myself, due to the Menno Tea Van and the Goshen College dorms being located in Indiana.  I recruited the help of a very talented young filmmaker named Mia Graber-Miller to shoot four shots for the finished piece.  I provided her with a shot list and inspiration for every clip that we needed.  It was a good chance to collaborate with another filmmaker, and reduced the cost for the finished video.

BTS of our online ad

It took a great deal of location scouting, planning, shopping, coordinating, and shooting to create the ad.  The end product not only communicates what Menno Tea is, but also works to further establish the feel of the brand.  It was a blast working with Hans, Niles, and Mia to take this from an idea to a finished spot.  We communicated extensively throughout the process and they were very pleased with the finished video.

Conclusion: You now understand how to create an online ad

We’ve looked through the ins and outs of creating an online ad from start to finish. It starts with the idea, but writing the script, finding items and props, location scouting, finding talent, filming, editing, and mixing the video are incredibly important parts of the process. We had a very successful launch that garnered over 10,000 hits and a boost in their search ranking.

Want to see more of my work? Visit

If you have any questions about the process or would like to get a quote, feel free to reach out at

Do you want to know the best way to interview people for professional videos? Check out this blog post I did on that exact in my post on how to interview people