First thing is to remember you’re making THEM something. It’s their money, and they’re the reason you’re there. So, don’t fight them on everything, give them an equal creative voice (even if that voice is dumb) and make sure you don’t get too protective or precious about what you make for them.
Secondly, you’re going to get a lot of really dumb brand notes. Your job as a business person is to know which ones to push back on and which ones to relent to. Your job as an artist is to take the ones they’re passionate about, no matter how dumb, and try and make the note work in whatever way you can. Artists work best under limitations – so, in these scenarios, the limitation is a bad note… how do you artistically fix it and make everyone happy? Sometimes you can’t, sometimes you have to give in, but the goal is to try.
Thirdly, know the brand. Know their image. KNow their style. Learn to mimic and be able to speak to their audience.
Fourth…ly, getting to brands is the hardest part. We did it by creating our own content and our own track record. Eventually, people started reaching out to us. The other way we did it was to reach out to brand intermediaries, at the time it was Blip.tv, we also work a lot with CollegeHumor, etc. – people like that have access to brands but might not have access to a production company. So, email them, call them, try and get meetings and sell yourself and your company with a nice reel, body of work, etc.
There are some other ways to contact brands – contact their agencies (VERY HARD), contact their PR companies (also hard, but they’re sometimes more interested in telling a story than an ad agency)… but, I won’t lie to you, it’s really hard to get in business with them because EVERYONE wants to be in business with them, they’re the only ones in the space who have money. So, you gotta make work that shines so you can rise above the rest of the pack.