Ask the Board – September 23, 2019 | DAVE DOLEJSI


“How do you advise your clients when it comes to budgeting creative services for a project?”

When budgeting for a project, first of all, please remember that you will need creative services!  It is astonishing how many projects I have worked on where little to no consideration was given to the content, how it gets generated, how often, and how much it will cost!  On the one hand, it is understandable that the procurement of tech, and the associated substantial up-front costs of hardware and software can easily take priority when setting up digital signage of any kind. But clients must not lose sight of what will be displayed via that technology, how often it will be refreshed, and what kind of effort will be required to meet expectations and achieve objectives.

Budgets are established by the cost of materials, and the effort required to compile those materials or raw assets into viable content. What are raw assets? Stock video or imagery, fonts, sound, even feeds. All of these are the main ingredients in your final content and all of them have a cost.

Then, there is the effort involved in the creative. Start-from-scratch, custom creative with substantial animation requires more effort and hours than basic adaptation of existing creative. For example, if a client has a well-established visual identity, and the content creator is merely assembling and animating that client’s imagery, font and logo with simple techniques (imagine breaking down a print sign and animating it), the costs and effort should be quite low.

Unique and labor-intensive creative and animation requires time and a lot of effort around ideation and planning, storyboarding and design, not to mention the actual animating. 

Here are a few tips for keeping budgets reasonable, and keeping content creators and their clients’ sanity intact:

1) Plan ahead – Planning well in advance of a project launch, or in-market campaign date, or even the marketing year will pay off in clearer direction, lower costs due to efficiencies in staffing and production, re-purposing of assets, and better categorization of content.

2) Clarify expectations – It can be hard for clients and creators to get on the same page before a piece of content gets designed. Sometimes, even storyboarding doesn’t clarify exactly how the animation being proposed will function onscreen. Creators should show clients other examples of similar pieces or animation treatments to set this expectation. Don’t be uncomfortable having these conversations because you will save revisions and costs down the road.

3) Control the production process – We have all been there. Some clients really get it, and many others do not. There are some who don’t know what they want until it is presented to them. There are others who don’t know until they take it to a team or superior for approval. It is what it is, and content creators need to manage it. If both the creators and clients have followed point one and two, it should be easy to execute on point three. Set the parameters, and identify exactly what the deliverables will be at every stage of production. Set your allowable rounds of revisions, again for every stage of production. Stick to these mutually agreed-upon rules of engagement. 

The message from clients to creators is: This is what I expect and how much I have agreed to pay for it. 

The message from content creators to clients is: This is what we are creating, and because we have communicated well, and you have agreed to our rules of engagement, we can deliver this project for a reasonable price that both sides can feel good about.


About Author

Associate Vice President – Content Strategy
St. Joseph Communications

Content Council

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