Production Cost-Cutting: How Low Can We Go?

October 31, 2014

Production Cost-Cutting: How Low Can We Go? Five Tips to Help Save the Budget and Concept
Steve Humble for Ad Age, October 31

As marketers increasingly use video to engage with customers and work to keep a steady stream of relevant and engaging content in the marketplace, conversations about production costs are reaching a fever pitch.

With advances in technology, marketers are seeing amateur camera buffs capturing some pretty impressive footage with their smartphones, GoPros and remote-control drones. So why aren’t ad agency and content provider production costs going down faster?

Ad Age reported recently, for example, that in an effort to trim more than $1 billion from its marketing budget, P&G had reached out to NASA “seeking a new way to produce moving images for TV commercials and digital video at costs significantly lower than today’s averages.”

Looking to a different industry for fresh ideas is interesting in theory, but great commercials and content won’t come from Excel spreadsheets and process documents. Rocket scientists are clearly some of the smartest people around, but finding the right balance between cost and quality really comes down to these five simple areas:

  1. Trust the client/agency relationship. Our best client relationships have a high degree of trust. Some of our best, most cost-effective experiences are when we work with the client at the beginning of the year and develop and work with their year-long budget together. Oreo is a great example of a client that approaches production budgeting this way. We work the brand at the start of the year and plan out the production budget based on the marketing and media calendar. We bucket money for specific initiatives, discussing where we can make creative choices that can save money in some areas to make sure we fund others. We even budget for working with musical artists, such as Owl City, Kacey Musgraves, Tegan and Sara, Chiddy Bang and others. Working this way, we took the client’s previous budget and doubled the number of executions.
  2. Create tight concepts. We regularly try to focus on ideas that are based on one location and can be shot in one day to try to contain costs. Our most cost-efficient productions come from getting specific parameters in the beginning and then letting our creative teams concept accordingly. But even when parameters are tight, our best clients allow us some flexibility on set to take advantage of impromptu takes and grab additional content as it presents itself.
  3. Remember that spending less means more risk. Choosing to work with tight production budgets often leads to more risk in the finished product. Opting to go with a director who has been shooting for years and has a track record of success is more expensive than choosing a novice just out of film school to direct. Can that new director shoot an amazing spot? Hopefully. Will you save money shooting with him or her? Yes, but the amount of risk you and the client take on goes up with this approach. We can make choices with our clients to reduce budgets, but everyone needs to be clear about the risks that come with those choices at the beginning.
  4. Know that change orders are expensive. If you’ve ever been involved in a construction project, you know that contractors use a little device known as a change order for each deviation from the original plan. One change order for every single change, including the additional cost. Big changes at the pre-pro meeting or on set are expensive, too. Changing the script at the last minute puts everyone in a risky position to be able to do the best work and bring the spot in on budget.
  5. Crew size can affect the work and the cost. Some believe that the fastest way to save money on production is to reduce the crew size. But this choice typically results in one of two things -- a spot that looks less polished because there were fewer people to light and tweak the set, or fewer options in the final edit because you had to agree to fewer shots and fewer camera setups. Some creative concepts work fine with a smaller crew -- just make sure you’re choosing crew size for the right reasons.

Great content comes from talented people understanding a core insight for a brand and communicating it in a way that connects with its target audience. How something is executed and how much you spend is a choice the agency and clients do have more control over than they think.

Posted By: Steve Humble

Richmond Times-Dispatch Gets to Know Jorge Calleja

October 27, 2014

Getting to know: Jorge Calleja Acuna from The Martin Agency

Title: Executive creative director at Richmond-based The Martin Agency

Born: April 12, 1974, Mexico City

Education: Attended Universidad del Nuevo Mundo

Career: Leche Mexico (1998-2001); Six Foot Studios, art director (2001-2002); Juxt Interactive, art director (2002-2004); Exopolis, associate creative director (2004-2005); Goodby Silverstein & Partners, associate creative director (2005-2007); Wieden+Kennedy, creative director (2007-2010); Sid Lee Amsterdam, executive creative director (2010-2012); The Martin Agency, global group creative director (2012-September 2014), executive creative director (September 2014–present)

In which part of town do you live: Richmond’s West End

Best business decision: “Selling my design shop in Mexico. In 1997, I started Leche, a multimedia design shop focused on digital experimentation (The Mexperimental Project). And I loved it. But in 2001 after 9/11, the economy crashed and I wanted to see more of the world, to expand my creative journey beyond what I knew at the time. So (I) sold the shop and I moved to Houston to work at Six Foot Studios.”

Worst business decision: “Selling my design shop in Mexico. I love this global journey I have set out on and, truthfully, wouldn’t trade it if given the chance. But there is part of me that wishes I had held on to that shop. We did some great work in the short time it was open. And Mexico, of course, will always have my heart.”

Mistake you learned the most from: “I can’t name one mistake. In fact, making mistakes has become a hobby of mine. Failure can become a virtue under the right lens. If you are willing to embrace it and understand that it’s just a part of learning, I assure you, you will become relentless. Long live adversity.”

What is the biggest challenge/opportunity in the next two to five years: “For the past 50 years, The Martin Agency has done amazing work primarily in the U.S. market. My challenge now is to create world-class work that travels — work that has a global impact and a worldwide perspective.”

First job after college: “I was an assistant director for Simón Bross, a famous Mexican director and producer. He recruited me right out of college to help him create TV spots. Interestingly enough, I decided to forgo my fourth and final year of college to work for Simón. The dean of my university said I had two choices: fill a portfolio or graduate with a title. He encouraged me to chase after my portfolio and I’ve never once wished that I stayed.”

If you had to do it all over again, what would you do differently: “Easy, I would become a professional ‘fútbol’ player (that’s soccer in North America).”

Book/movie that inspired you the most: “That is a tough one-answer question. My favorite directors of all time would have to be Alfonso Cuarón (mine all time mexi-hero), Pedro Almodóvar for his art direction and Roman Polanski for his theatrical story-telling. My favorite writers are Hermann Hesse, Henry Miller and Octavio Paz.”

Favorite/least favorite subject in school: “My favorite school subject would have to be art. But surprisingly, I’ve always had a passion for physics and mathematics. I really enjoy problem solving; it’s part of my daily life. My least favorite was always related to law. Rules are no strength of mine.”

Posted By: The Martin Agency

The Creative Resurgence of the Account Executive

October 27, 2014

The Creative Resurgence of the Account Executive
By Hill Shore

All right, I'll say it. This isn't what I came here to do. I came here for the creativity and the brand-building workshops, and I came here for the afternoon brainstorms over a beer. I came here to be creative, and to think dynamically. Not for this.

Not to blindly take notes, or to organize team schedules. Not to update and double-check status reports, or to crank through emails during the breaks of a day filled wall-to-wall with meetings.

This isn't a generational thing. Yes, I'm one of those, born between 1980 and 1995, but this isn't a case of Millennial entitlement. Think about it. The day-to-day has always threatened the opportunities account executives have to flex their creative muscles.

We battled into the industry fueled by creative firepower, but are now so focused on maintaining daily assignments that we sit creatively stifled, considering surrender as schedule-driven cogs in the machine. I mean, were we ever actually that creative in the first place?

Hold on. We are, and always have been, excellent creative thinkers. And, while we fight the uphill battle to prove we “Millennials" are willing to pay our dues, we can't afford to abandon that creativity. In fact, in our current positions, the implications are enormous.

If we repurpose our creativity to dynamically manage day-to-day tasks and approach every interaction with fresh thinking, we'll create a hotbed for our own professional development. Our otherwise-mundane tasks can become a training ground for skills that will revolutionize our careers.

Consider these perspectives:

Acting as the gatekeeper of all creative feedback and revisions can teach us more than good time and file management. “Please, proofread the creative, and send along to client." Sound familiar? We can become great process and time managers, but we have more thinking to contribute, right? Let's write POVs on why this creative works and send THAT to the client.

We can explain why the work resonates with the Millennial target from the brief. Or better yet, let's be the specialists on the target so we're the authorities on why the campaign works. With time, we'll develop an eye for great work, and build in ourselves formidable creative opinions.

Becoming comfortable with agency workflow during chaotic projects is actually a huge deal. We're learning to build teams that don't always follow process, and fill roles we weren't hired to do. We'll have to play digital producer, copywriter, project manager and planner every once in a while.

Developing a calm demeanor amid chaotic workflow will help us become steady, comforting leaders in the volatile agency world.

Delegating assignments to agency specialists can actually train us to become authoritative, multi-talented project owners. In fact, our broad access to the agency could be our biggest asset, as it teaches us to own agency opinions.

With each interaction, we can learn the details of every agency role. Shadow that planner you look up to. Have a beer with the creative who hates account management and figure out what makes them tick. At our best, we'll be a one-person agency, able to craft creative and strategic POVs in stride over a phone call.

If we re-energize our creativity, our daily work becomes a training ground to learn the characteristics of group account directors, agency executives, CMOs and CEOs. The busyness of the day, the thousands of emails, the brief interactions, and the hundreds of tasks are all small opportunities to grow into the leaders of the industry we're longing to be.

So…no, we aren't brainstorming campaign ideas or writing TV scripts. And we aren't yet key contributors to the brand planning sessions. But, we'll take it. Let's awaken our dormant creativity to form opinions that define meetings, grow into a presence that calms those around us, and become the support our teams need to do the best work of their lives.

It's time to get creative.

Posted By: Hill Shore

Campaign US Features John McClaire’s Article on Stayin’ Alive

October 09, 2014

Creative Technologist John McClaire's talks 5 lessons you need to know to fight of a mob of clients....or zombies.

Link to full story.

Posted By: The Martin Agency

The Martin Agency Included in Forbes Article on Making

October 06, 2014

Forbes featured The Martin Agency as an example in their latest article on "Why More Marketers Are Working With Companies That Actually Make Stuff."

"They define it as their “make it and take it” culture and try as often as possible to present a finished piece to a client rather that a rough idea. Putting their own resources behind an idea also shows to a client the commitment the agency has to an idea: 'If we put our heart, soul, talents, our craft into it, it endears us to clients. We become more partners than vendors.'"

Link to story.

Posted By: The Martin Agency

Ad Age Announces Ritz Win

October 01, 2014

"We are excited about the opportunity to engage Martin on the U.S. Ritz business, a priority and iconic brand in our portfolio. We look forward to working with them on what's next for the brand in 2015 and beyond," said the Mondelez spokeswoman.

Link to story.

Posted By: The Martin Agency