Are You Paying More Than You Should?

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The last 4 weeks have been home to two major television sporting events – the Super Bowl and the Olympics. Here in the U.S., we glue ourselves to our TVs during the Super Bowl to see which spots are going to make us laugh hysterically or bring a tear to our eye. And this comes with a large price tag…in this year’s Super Bowl, NBC asked advertisers to lay out $5 million for a 30-second spot. For perspective, a 30-second spot during the PyeongChang Opening Ceremonies was a fraction of that, ranging from $544,865-$665,946 (viewership was down by about 3%).

But airtime is only one part of the cost equation – brands shell out big for production as well. Fortune Magazine recently reported that the average production cost for a Super Bowl ad was over $1 million, and, these days brands are “pulling out all the stops” by leveraging A-list Hollywood directors and actors.

Regardless of whether or not you’re spending $1M to produce a single spot or $5M for 30 seconds of air time, chances are you’d still like to drive out unnecessary costs and make the most of every dollar spent. While we’ve never met anyone who says, “I love paying more for things than I should,” many teams simply don’t have the internal resources and/or bandwidth to maximize efficiency opportunities. How do you stack up?

Ask Yourself These 5 Questions:

  1. Do we have an internal production expert who can identify all cost drivers in a creative concept?
  2. Do we have someone on our team who knows how to compare creative concepts to bids and identify which line items need to be adjusted?
  3. Are we leveraging historical data for benchmarking?
  4. Do we have an internal expert who can identify which overages we’re responsible for and negotiate them appropriately?
  5. Are our teams comparing agency billing and vendor back-up against the estimate on a line-by-line basis?

If you answered yes to all 5, congratulations, you are doing well! Did you answer no to any (or all)? If so, don’t be too hard on yourselves…just know there are plenty of opportunities that lie ahead. To identify exactly what those opportunities are and find out the potential impact on your organization, schedule a complimentary consultation with one of our team members now!

Anita SilvermanAre You Paying More Than You Should?
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Production: “Do More With Less” With These 3 Tips

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Over the last several years, MRA has been increasingly helping marketers conquer big-picture production challenges, think differently about their production supply chain, and innovate the way they work. Why? Because the shifting media landscape has required marketers to find innovative ways to produce more and more content – with flat or decreasing budgets.

Whether or not you’ve fallen victim to this “content requirements vs. budget” predicament in the past, if you’re like most, you may soon find yourself searching for ways to maximize efficiencies in your production ecosystem. So, we invite you to check out 3 tips below:

Tip #1: Explore alternative models for production optimization. Evolving content needs and tightening budgets have led to the expansion of alternative AOR providers that marketers can tap for managing content deliverables. Often times, though, we’ve seen that brand teams are unclear which solutions providers are best suited and whether or not the AOR should retain some role in the process.

Leverage internal resources or 3rd party production experts to develop a best practice engagement model for specialty suppliers, mapping project types with partners who can deliver the greatest value/quality at the leanest delivery based on objectives, timelines and budgetary considerations.

By exploring new models, you have the ability to evolve relationships with traditional production partners and uncover potential new content partners and solutions – including creating or expanding your own in-house capabilities.

Tip #2: Implement addressable creative/production best practices. As an emerging area we’ve seen for many global clients, addressable creative for programmatic media buys enables marketers to execute countless creative executions through a streamlined set of master templates that otherwise would be cost-prohibitive to even consider producing.

As brands look to leverage the targeted marketing effectiveness that addressable provides, agencies are challenged with process learning curves that are complicated by the need for multiple agency partners to work together to execute the creative. There’s opportunity to drive significant cost efficiency in how work is executed by identifying cost drivers and implementing best practices to streamline workflows that eliminate overlapping scopes among agency partners. Contact us to learn more about these opportunities and how you might minimize the risk of duplication between agency partners.

Tip #3: Assess your technology stack. As we all know, the marketing tech landscape continues to widen, and there are a multitude of emerging technologies that can help you maximize transparency, increase efficiency, decrease costs, and mitigate risk. A few popular tech trends we’re seeing?

  • Maximizing transparency with electronic bidding tools
  • Mitigating risks with rights management software
  • Tracking asset usage with watermarking technology
  • Optimizing personalized content delivery with AI

Need help assessing where your tech gaps might be? Or looking for recommendations for specific tools or solutions providers? MRA is proud to have strategic affiliations with leading global technology companies and can help connect you with a multitude of resources. Let us know how we can help.

Anita SilvermanProduction: “Do More With Less” With These 3 Tips
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How Can Production Procedures Help Your Organization?

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Let’s face it, creating assets for your advertising or content campaigns is no small task. In fact, it can be an extremely complex process. Without the proper procedures in place you could be spinning your wheels unnecessarily.

Wikipedia describes Standard Operating Procedures as “a set of step-by-step instructions compiled by an organization to help workers carry out complex routine operations. SOPs aim to achieve efficiency, quality output and uniformity of performance, while reducing miscommunication and failure to comply with industry regulations”.

It’s likely that your employer has invested tremendous amounts of time and resources into developing robust SOPs. Why? “When employees follow the SOP for a particular job, they produce a product that is consistent and predictable.” (

Many organizations, though, don’t have Standard Operating Procedures for production. Do you? While production SOPs are indeed helpful for employees, they’re also utilized by external partners who are executing creative production on your behalf.  Similar to “traditional” SOPs, production procedures offer a multitude of benefits. First of all, they allow you to leverage clear, disciplined, best-practice processes to improve quality, maintain consistency, protect your organization from loss, and lower costs.

3 Additional Benefits Production Policies & Procedures Offer:

  1. Allows for careful upfront planning of production budgets
  2. Accelerates speed to market
  3. Maximizes transparency

While Production SOPs add tremendous value for advertisers, many organizations lack the internal resources or knowledge to develop them internally, so they reach out to MRA for help. Regardless of whether we’re engaged to optimize your production investments on an ongoing basis, we can help you develop customized procedures, train your internal stakeholders, and educate your agency partners.

It’s an easy, seamless process – and MRA does all the heavy lifting. Interested in how we do it, how long it will take, and what’s required of you? We’d be glad to share our SOPs for building your SOPs.

Contact us today to learn more.

Anita SilvermanHow Can Production Procedures Help Your Organization?
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Key Considerations for Globalizing Ad Production in 2018

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Producing relevant ad content for any target audience is a tall order, and it’s even more difficult when creating ads for multiple audiences and cultures. However, in today’s world, global campaigns are becoming the “new norm” allowing you to communicate a consistent message to customers around the world, provide strong creative synergies, and maximize cost efficiencies.

It’s important to begin the creative process (at the briefing stage) with the intent of developing global content as there are several key considerations including (but not limited to):

  • On camera dialogue
  • Cultural differences, humor
  • Product packaging on screen, product held by talent or in situations
  • Demographics for different markets
  • Celebrity usage
  • Signage or props with written language
  • Background landmarks, identifiable cities, and topography
  • International copy clearance
  • Music rights
  • Negotiation of talent rights
  • Subtitles
  • Delivery of assets
  • Length of spots – “standards” vary in different countries

Maximize Results By Working With Production Experts

Navigating the waters of globalizing production isn’t easy, and brands often rely on consultants like MRA for help. Recently, we developed a Global Content Production Strategy for an organization with 11 brands that were sold in more than 40 countries. When the client engaged us, each brand was producing its own advertising on a regional level.

We began by analyzing the client’s current processes, creative outputs, staffing, technology tools, content needs, and spending across the brands and geographies to size up the opportunities, barriers, and challenges. Then, we went to work!

The results? Year 2 showed a 44% savings in production costs (versus historical benchmarks for comparable scopes) while yielding additional savings in agency fees and in copy testing. Download the full case study here.

Anita SilvermanKey Considerations for Globalizing Ad Production in 2018
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Common Test Production Formats: Considerations & Cost Ranges

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Copy pre-testing has always been a part of marketing. But these days it has become increasingly important for Brand Managers to reduce risk as much as possible and get advance information on how commercials are expected to perform.

There are a variety of factors to consider when choosing which type of test production format to use:


Definition – still artwork, stock or custom photos shown in an edited timeline using cuts and dissolves to show movement

Consideration – effective when budgets and/or timelines are tight

Costs – $8,000 – $15,000

Lead times – 1 to 2 weeks

2D Animatics:

Definition – created from hand-drawn illustrations with color and detail added and then brought into computer software and matched with audio

Consideration – choose an artist with a style of artwork that you like: revisions can be tedious, time-consuming, and potentially costly

Costs – $20,000 – $25,000

Lead times – 2 to 3 weeks

3D Cinematics:

Definition – actors and sets are computer generated, motion capture actors used to show realistic human movement. Changes can be handled at virtually any point in the development process.

Consideration– while changes can be made with ease, they also can increase costs by 40%-50%

Costs – $25,000 – $30,000

Lead times – 3 to 4 weeks

The best decision for the format of your test production is made with consideration of the type of research needed, type of product, and the type of commercial. Additionally, many advertisers are tempted to use the test spot “on air”, especially with the more advanced testing formats; however, this is not best practice and represents a critical risk to your brand. It’s important to agree with your agency up-front that test commercials will be thrown out and never placed on-air.

Need advice or recommendations for test production vendors? Give us a call–our production experts consult with brands around the world, and we’ve supported thousands upon thousands of test productions over the last 30+ years. If you need anything at all, we’re here to help.

Anita SilvermanCommon Test Production Formats: Considerations & Cost Ranges
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Licensing of Popular Music in Advertising

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There are two distinct sets of copyrights in music: the rights to the musical composition (the written lyrics and the accompanying music), and the rights to the sound recording of the musical composition. The sound recording is usually owned by a single record company and compositions often have complex ownership groups. Any reproduction of a musical composition or a sound recording requires the consent of the owner of that particular copyright.

Common Music Licensing Terms

Synchronization License: Rights to synchronize the musical composition in timed relation with audio-visual images such as a commercial. Music publishers issue these licenses either as the copyright owner or their agent.

Master Recording: Rights to use a specific recording called a Master. Covers the owner of the Sound Recording (typically the record label, or whoever paid for the recording such as the producer or the artist).

Most Favored Nations: A promise by the licensee to treat a licensor equal to any other licensor on a particular project. This would mean that the Sync and Master licensor would receive the same fee.

Linear Use: Using a song “as is” without any manipulation (i.e. moving around verses, cutting the horn section, etc.) may need special permission for non-linear use.

Exclusivity: The rights granted to the licensee will almost always be in the form of a non-exclusive license; the advertiser will pay more for an exclusive time period or industry.

There are many factors that can contribute to the fees you pay for licensed music. Consider these 10 important questions that will contribute to what you pay:

  1. Do you want to use the composition AND the master recording? Or, do you want to use only the composition and do a re-record?
  2. Do you want to re-record the composition with a parody lyric?
  3. For television, how many spots are you producing and what are the timings of each spot? (include versions, edits, lifts, tags)
  4. What is the media buy? (network, cable, spot syndication)
  5. Are you doing any radio spots? If so, how many?  Lifts, versions, edits?
  6. What other kinds of uses will there be? Do you need rights for non-broadcast/industrial use, sales meetings, trade shows, internet, in-store, POP, use of song title/lyrics in print or use of talent name/image in print, phone systems, in-cinema, in-flight, in-stadium/jumbotron, theme parks? Now is the time to include as much as you think you’ll need.
  7. Term – How long will the campaign run and what is the first air date?
  8. Territory – What cities, states, and countries will the campaign be airing?
  9. Exclusivity – Do you need exclusivity and if so, for what product category?
  10. Option – Do you need an option to renew the use for an additional consecutive term?

In order to procure the most competitive music licensing fees, MRA recommends the use of a third party vendor who specializes in negotiating popular music. Why? These companies have professional relationships with all major publisher and record label licensing departments and have the expertise to secure the best rates for advertisers.

Wondering how to get in touch with a music licensing specialist? Submit a request, and we’ll be glad to introduce you to the best resources in the industry — based on your specific needs.



Anita SilvermanLicensing of Popular Music in Advertising
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4 Pros And Cons Of Shooting Off-Shore

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Selecting the “best” location for your production is an important decision that should be made with care. Several factors come in to play:

  • LA and NY are relatively high-priced but have a high concentration of directors, photographers and talent available
  • There are a multitude of cities around the world that can offer lower costs
  • Many advertisers travel U.S. based directors and talent to lower cost locations

MRA has created a quick reference guide categorizing popular international locations into high, medium high, medium low and low-cost ranges — click here to download your copy.

While there can be significant cost savings with an off-shore shoot, here are 4 important pros and cons to consider:


  • Lower production costs
  • Broader selection of directors geographies, etc.
  • Ability to tap non-union talent and negotiate talent buyouts
  • Reduced overtime (film crews tend to work longer standard days before incurring overtime)


  • Increased travel expenses
  • Possibility of paying for travel time (directors, producers and agency supervision may charge for travel time outside the U.S.; in some instances these can be negotiated)
  • Longer lead time to organize and plan the shoot
  • Smaller foreign talent pool if an American “accent” is required

Other Considerations:

  • If the product is not sold in the country of the shoot, customs could delay product delivery
  • When shooting outdoors, be cognizant of the background (i.e., are cars driving on the correct side of the street? Are there signs close-by in a foreign language?)
  • Many countries have very specific regulations specific to producing content – ask an expert to ensure you’re aware of all local laws that may impact your shoot
  • Consideration should be given to safety and fluctuating currencies

MRA has more than 37 years of experience in consulting with clients on making the best decisions when it comes to production locations, and we’d be happy to help you as well. Contact us today to learn more.

Written in collaboration with Angela Saferite.


Anita Silverman4 Pros And Cons Of Shooting Off-Shore
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Save Big Money By Asking the Right Questions

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Cyber Monday Case Study

According to CNBC, Cyber Monday 2017 is expected to produce more than $6 Billion in sales, and RetailMeNot reports that 95% of employed consumers plan to surf for deals while at work. Having the right strategy to capture the attention of consumers on Cyber Monday is critical for advertisers; yet, you may be paying a premium to reach your target consumers this year.

I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Angela Saferite of Saferite Consulting, and in this 10-minute conversation, she highlights a recent consulting engagement where she helped her client optimize their Cyber Monday digital campaign — and generate $175,000 in savings by asking one key question.

Anita SilvermanSave Big Money By Asking the Right Questions
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Best Practice Timelines for Live Action Production

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You Have Good Intentions

You planned sufficient time for creating your online video. Unfortunately, you ran behind on approving the final concept, and the production calendar was squeezed. It was never your intent to get behind schedule. It just happened…

So This Happened…

  • The preferred directors were all booked, so you were stuck with who was available.
  • Your agency said, “Because we’re in a hurry, we don’t have time to triple-bid this job,” and you lost all the advantages of competitive bidding (which can save 10%-20% of the production company’s costs).
  • You needed to find the right talent with very little time, so you held casting in 3 different cities, which built in a waste factor of 66% for casting expenditures.
  • You needed color-corrected packages and paid a premium of 50%-100% because of the rushed schedule.
  • Extra props and wardrobe were bought. (“I don’t know which she’ll like better, the yellow or the blue. Get ’em both.”)
  • Extra setups were shot, and scenes were overproduced. You heard people on-set say, “We’ll fix it in post-production.”
  • Post-production and retouching costs escalated by 50% due to “fixes” that were needed.

Why waste up to 25% of your budget on rushed production when those same dollars can be used for additional assets or media? Follow these best practice timelines to ensure success.

90% of Rush Production Can Be Avoided

Carefully review your advertising plans. Producing a spot for TV?

  • Starting point. Keep in the 8 weeks as a baseline (include additional weeks for global campaigns and/or special effects).
  • Extra time. Include extra weeks for creative development, copy testing & research analysis, management approvals, and legal review.
  • Create deadlines. Then, keep the pressure on agency partners and suppliers — and your internal teams — to stick to them.

Brands all over the world struggle with the costly ramifications of rushing production. With MRA, you don’t have to be one of them.

adminmraBest Practice Timelines for Live Action Production
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