Brand Managers

3 Budgeting Pitfalls to Avoid

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This month, we’ve spent time discussing budget planning, successful budget management, and how to find more money within your budget. Now, let’s take a moment to review some key tips to help you avoid common budgeting pitfalls.

 Annual Budgets

Common Pitfall: Instead of starting with project or campaign level budgeting, pull out and think big picture. Are there certain ground rules or strategies to align all the teams on before jumping in to the detail build?

Helpful Tip: When reviewing the annual budget, do a detail review for any spending not tied to a specific plan or campaign, often this can identify spend that can be trimmed without impacting brand objectives and KPI’s.

Production Budgets

Common Pitfall: Instead of asking your agency what the production budget should be, consider using models to build your own budgets and set guidelines. The budgets and models can be further refined as the detail planning and creative idea is finalized.

Helpful Tip: When building out models for production budgets, it may be helpful to have a ranges of standard costs for components. For example, animation costs will vary widely depending on the complexity of what is required. A :30 spot with heavy CGI will have a very different budget than one with very little. Music costs will vary depending on whether you’re using stock, original, or licensed music. No two :30 spots are exactly the same, and buying production is not like buying widgets. Setting an appropriate budget is a critical first step to managing costs.

Need a production budgeting tool for your organization or benchmarks for different components of production? Contact us — we’ve had the pleasure of helping hundreds of brands with budgeting, and we’d be glad to help you, too.

Ongoing Management

Common Pitfall: Failure to obtain written approval for scope changes, overages, or changes in direction during the project can lead to agency disputes and financial management issues down the road. Standardizing and formalizing this process relieve this pressure on projects, teams and relationships.

Helpful Tip: Use a standard form for routing and documenting change requests and approvals. Also consider using a management report to show project budget, revisions, and final spend. Having a dedicated resource (internal or external) who actively manages the budget during all stages may seem like an additional step, resource or cost, but this pays for itself quickly (usually multiple times over).

Need a fresh perspective on a budget issue/opportunity? Click here to submit questions to our team, and one of our experts will get back to you right away.

Written in collaboration with Angela Saferite.

 

Anita Silverman3 Budgeting Pitfalls to Avoid
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Budget Planning: ‘Tis the Season

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It’s Fall and most everyone is working on budgets. And over the last 37 years, we’ve NEVER heard a marketing professional say, “I have enough to execute all the plans and build my brands. No thank you, I don’t need any more budget money.” Seriously, through all the years, with all the brands, in all the circumstances — never have those words been spoken.

So, as an Operations Team member, Procurement Specialist, Accounting or Finance professional, Strategic Planner, or Budget Analyst, here’s what you need to do to be successful: FIND MORE MONEY!

The business environment of today is a picture of:

  • Doing more with less
  • Holding budgets flat in spite of inflation
  • Negotiating incremental deliverables out of existing contracts
  • Introducing new brands without incremental budget
  • Squeezing payment terms, hourly rates, and fees
  • Working with an approved budget only to later receive cuts to that amount
  • Reducing total spend but providing the same or better business outcomes
  • Reaching consumers in a complex, always-on communication stream
  • Complexities with technology and the digital space

So, the task of finding more money in this environment can seem daunting, but there are ways of analyzing existing budgets, building plans for the next year, utilizing tools, and managing processes that can make this a reality. It is reasonable to find money and identify savings that can make you look like a hero, and that money can be dropped to the bottom line or even re-invested in incremental marketing programs to drive improved revenue!

Success in budgeting and smart ongoing budget management looks like this:

  • You become the “go to” person for the executives
  • Marketing and brand teams respect you and seek advice
  • Teams come to you early when there’s a problem
  • Teams are honest with you when there’s money remaining in projects or available to solve problems or drop to the bottom line
  • You become known for solving problems and helping the marketing team and your company deliver financial goals
  • Senior management begins coming to you saying, “If we have incremental money to spend, what can we do to drive incremental sales and revenue?”

So over the next few weeks, let’s roll up those sleeves, sharpen the pencil, and get after this budget in a new way with results that drive new thinking and help you find money!

Join us next week as we explore some actual case studies and tools that deliver this type of success in budget season and throughout the year with ongoing budget management.

Written in collaboration with Angela Saferite.

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Production Transparency: Tips & Tricks

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“Change before you have to.” — Jack Welch

Here are 4 key tips to consider as you implement change to bring about greater transparency with your agency partners:

Tip 1: Create Policies, Procedures, & Guidelines

Many people may believe that production policies are developed to simply prevent issues. However, they offer a true benefit by outlining transparent production practices, creating efficiencies in the production process, and including safeguards to mitigate financial risk. Remember, it’s best when your production policies and guidelines:

  • Include the “do’s and don’ts” as well as clearly-defined business procedures
  • Address approval processes, responsibilities, and limits
  • Have training, training, training – BOTH internal advertiser employees and agency employees should be trained annually and/or during on-boarding
  • Are proactively utilized to review/audit for compliance
  • Are updated regularly to ensure the latest industry best practices (including the ANA Production Transparency findings) are addressed

Tip 2: Assign Responsibility

It might seem straightforward and intuitive, but many companies focus on tips 1, 3, and 4 but miss this critical element. Having production policies means nothing unless someone is responsible and actively assuring compliance. Also, it’s important to make sure the person(s) you designate has the right tools and resources to be successful; getting the right expertise or training is crucial and should be considered up-front.

Tip 3: Consider Up-Front Analysis

Analyzing costs and overages after-the-fact (or when the purchase order runs out of funds) is simply just the process of approving incremental spend. The most critical decisions which can have a significant impact on transparency (and costs) are made early-on. Having a seat at the table with standard processes, tools, and templates helps ensure transparent discussions between your brand teams and agencies — and can help you avoid any unnecessary spending. With a proactive approach to up-front analysis, you’ll also be better equipped to manage scope changes (while still staying on budget) — or, heck, you may end up with funds that you can reinvest back into your brand.

Tip 4: Review Invoices Prior to Payment

Prior is the key word here. After payment is made, issues are often discovered:

  • During an audit
  • When invoices come in and there are no more funds available on the purchase order
  • When invoices come in and the project is closed

This wastes precious time and money to resolve — and may lead to issues with the agency.  Moving this review and “audit” process up before payment is made is the key to success.

In Summary

There’s never been a better time to take an active role in managing and governing production transparency in your organization. Check out additional articles on the topic:

Need advice? Click here to submit questions directly to our team, and one of our experts will get back to you with an answer immediately.

Written in collaboration with Angela Saferite.

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Production Transparency: 4 Steps to Getting Started

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With the recent release of the ANA Production Transparency, now is the perfect time to review and refresh your practices.

Step One

Identify someone or a team who is responsible for managing production. This can be accomplished in three ways:

  1. Tap into in-house resources with deep production knowledge (these team members may reside in marketing operations, procurement or finance)
  2. Train and develop internal team members to manage the production process and expenses
  3. Hire production experts to supplement your internal team

Assigning this responsibility is a critical first step to success!

Step Two

Implement solid policies, procedures and guidelines governing production spend. These usually start with your company policies and procedures that need to be adhered to. However, this alone is not enough; more specific production guidelines require clarification and communication. Production guidelines are best when in writing, updated often, and both employees and agency personnel receive training. (The training is best delivered by the individuals responsible for the management of production costs.)

Step Three

Avoid surprises and issues with your agencies up front in the process by conducting a thorough pre-bid meeting, including leveraging an objective party to ensure 100% alignment among agency personnel and brand teams on all elements of the production, including (but not limited to):

  • Recommended bidders
  • Shoot location options
  • Types and number of assets to be included in production
  • Talent requirements, residuals, and buyout considerations
  • State incentives
  • Music
  • Special effects
  • Budget

Input and clarity around these topics early in the process facilitates transparency, effective management of budgets, and — yes, even results in savings.

Step Four

Have a smooth invoicing process which includes a detailed review of invoices before payment is made. This also is helpful in eliminating the painful process of recouping funds if there are discrepancies or disputes with the billing.

Experts that specialize in reviewing production invoices and back-up documentation, monitoring compliance, ensuring verification of all costs can provide a thorough analysis. (Up-to-date, best-practice guidelines are a key element to have in-place prior to implementing the invoice review process.)

Summary

Regardless if these 4 steps are supported by internal or external resources, there’s never been a better time to take a look in the mirror and identify areas for improvement. Find yourself wondering how you’re stacking up to other organizations, or need help identifying areas that you might be at risk? Call 513-354-3833 to schedule a free transparency assessment.

Join us next week as we provide tips and tricks for implementing change to production management practices in your operations.

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Production Bidding Transparency

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It’s MRA’s priority to ensure transparency and integrity in the production bidding process for our clients, and we wanted to share a quick post regarding the recent announcement of the U.S. Justice Department’s investigation.

Day-in and day-out, our Content Production Advisors advise our clients on best-practice processes and procedures to protect against fraudulent bidding practices like those mentioned in The Wall Street Journal article.

With that in mind, MRA has responded to this week’s announcement by developing additional resources to help you mitigate risk and safeguard your organization against unfair production and post-production bidding processes. We’d be happy to discuss them with you — please request additional information here or call Stacey St. John directly at 513-354-3833.

 

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Defining The Actual Role of Broadcast Advertising

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What is advertising? In its simplest form, advertising is a message from a seller to a poten­tial purchaser – which the seller hopes will produce extra sales and, ultimately, an en­hancement of revenues. And some other descriptors?

  • Advertising is an investment by the adver­tiser, wherein he puts capital into a venture he hopes will not only be self-liquidating but will also produce a handsome return on his investment.
  • Advertising is a golden opportunity to outwit, out­spend, and out-maneuver the competition.
  • Advertising is the very best method of pro­moting, building, rebuilding, or maintaining a Brand.
  • Advertising, in many companies, is the fast­est, most direct route to the Executive Suite.
  • But, above all else, advertising is SELLING.  The sooner we all get that very basic principle clearly in mind, the better off we’ll be.

Veteran salesmen will tell you it’s essential, at some early stage in the selling process, to get your prospect nodding, saying “yes” in response to your selling argu­ments. This, of course, is preparation for the essential “yes” that answers the bid for action, your “closer.”

Advertising, being an indirect form of sell­ing, needs to get “yesses,” too.

For the next few minutes, put yourself on your pro­spective customer’s couch and consider the daunting challenges your ad­vertising must take on. Within seconds, your ad must secure a “yes” answer to six vital questions. You must get six “yesses” in a row in order to win this game. Here they are – in sequence:

ADVERTISING YES #1

Yes – I’ll watch this commercial or read this ad.  If you don’t get this one answered right and right away pack it in.  You’ve lost the game at the get-go. Your commercial or ad must nail the viewer immediately. This is known as “attract­ing attention.”

Consider, for a moment, the enormous competition your ad encounters. You’re fighting the reader’s or viewer’s current mental condition, the accumulated events of the day, the iPad in one hand and the iPhone in the other, whether the dog is scratching itself, what the kids are doing, etc., etc. Your commercial opening or ad visual had better be good.

ADVERTISING YES #2

Yes – I’m interested enough to stick around for a few seconds. This stage in the sale, not surprisingly, is known as “arousing interest.” And you’d best be sure that the interest sought is the prospect’s interest, which you have cleverly ascertained from research. Beware of using an execution technique as an interest arouser – all prospects want low-calorie food that tastes good, you know.

ADVERTISING YES #3

Yes – I want what you’re promising. This is where the principal benefit comes in. Clearly, you market your product or service to provide a certain desirable end benefit for the prospect. Ergo, waste no time getting to the benefit quickly and unerringly (remember that your “temporary” reader or viewer can still bag out on you at any second).

Many sagacious advertisers make sure the principal benefit gets appropriate attention by making it the sub­ject of the ad’s main illustra­tion or using it as an early and dramatic visuali­zation in television. The best advertisers do both.

ADVERTISING YES #4

Yes – I believe what you’re saying or prom­ising. I understand how your Brand is different from your com­petitors, how you can offer some­thing they don’t or can’t…and I want what you’re offering me. If you don’t get this right, your persuasion score suffers.

Brand differentiation thrives on reason-why which is, of course, what we’re talking about here.

ADVERTISING YES #5

Yes – I want what you’re selling. Your proposition meets me squarely in the area of my interest and pro­vides the benefits I seek in Brands like yours. You’ve also convinced me why I need to buy your Brand over any other.

I like what you’re telling and showing me, and I’m ready to buy.

ADVERTISING YES #6

Yes – I WILL buy what you’re selling. I’ll matriculate from becoming a consumer of your advertising to be­coming a consumer of your product. You’ve showed me the package, you’ve rammed home the Brand name, and you’ve urged me off of my couch and made me make a note reminding myself to pick up look for your Brand while shopping next.

Cost Control: A Blend of Art & Science

Okay, now that you’ve studied the answers your advertising must elicit from viewers, we have some questions for you. Look at your most recent advertis­ing, particularly your Creative Strategy. How hard are you selling? Have you traded in a potentially effective cam­paign for “a little top of mind awareness”? How long has it been since you spent a day in the field with your agency, talking to retailers? How long has it been since you ran a truly innovative us­age and attitude study?  What are the analyses of your last copy research tests showing you?

MRA has more than 50 major advertisers as clients, and our consultants deal with questions of this kind every day.  Want to learn some more? Give us a ring!

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15 Hot Ad Agencies

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Keep An Eye On These Hot Ad Agencies

We live in one of the most interesting and challenging business environments the world has ever seen. New trends and technologies are emerging overnight, making it difficult for brands to keep pace with the rapid changes. Finding the right partner(s) to support the changing needs and preferences of customers is paramount. That’s where a list of the best ad agencies comes in handy.

In today’s marketing world, working with the right ad agency can make the difference between rapid growth and the slow decline of your business. Top ad agencies today offer a fresh approach and new ideas to companies to help them get a competitive edge.

If you’re searching for an ad agency, or you just want to keep a watchful eye on the market, you’ve come to the right spot. Day-in and day-out, MRA has the pleasure of working with hundreds of agencies around the world. And we consider it a privilege to collaborate with many of the brightest minds in marketing and advertising. Some of the agencies featured in our lists are ones we work with — and some we simply admire from afar.

We decided to publish our first Hot Agencies list in April — which featured were rock stars like Sparks & Honey, Droga5, TDA_Boulder, Huge, and gyro…just to name a few. And now, we’re continuing to showcase some of the best and brightest ad agencies to watch. Download our latest edition of MRA’s Hot Agencies list, and you’ll find 15 top shops in the following categories:

  • New Breed Agencies
  • Independent and Proud of it
  • Small(er) with a Fresh Approach
  • Digital Roots
  • Content

The ad agencies in this list are pushing boundaries, coming up with innovative approaches that blur the line between marketing, strategy, creativity, and technology. Ready to find out who these hot agencies are? Download your copy now!

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Are You In Production Trouble?

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And What Exactly IS “Production Trouble?”

Let’s face it — you may or may not know if you’re in “Production Trouble,” and that’s okay! Heck, you may or may not even know what “Production Trouble’ is. We’ll tackle that in a minute…

You know, when you I was a teenager, being “in trouble” meant I was either sent to my room, grounded from going out with friends, or…heaven forbid…had my car keys taken away. (We didn’t have cell phones back then. If we had, I’m sure that would’ve been first on my parents’ list.)

But what is “Production Trouble?” Well, it’s when you’re wasting precious time and/or money on production — and you may not even know it!

Things You May Be Experiencing When You’re In Production Trouble

  • The production process feels too complex — and rushed
  • You aren’t happy with the quality of your advertising
  • You’re not sure if you’re getting the best value for your production spending
  • You’re producing content for social media and want to ensure you’re getting the best ROI possible
  • You don’t have a central repository for asset management
  • You need to find creative ways to spend less on production so you can reinvest into other things
  • You’re not sure if you’re following best practices when creative is being produced
  • You’re not benchmarking production costs
  • You don’t have clarity on how production partners are selected
  • You work with multiple agencies, and they all seem to work in “silos”
  • You don’t know what different types of deliverable should (or shouldn’t) cost

Did you know there’s an expert resource at your fingertips that can help you with each of these? (Yep, that’s us). We can help you anytime and anywhere — MRA works with clients all over the globe. We’re here anytime…

Tell-Tale Signs You Need Production Help. Right Here. Right Now.

In addition to the list above, you may be in serious trouble (without even knowing it). Check out 6 Things You Might Say When You Need MRA (and shouldn’t go another day without calling us):

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Migraine Med Makes Heads Turn at Cannes

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Excedrin® Migraine, Congrats on the Recent Wins!

It’s thrilling to see a Silver and two Bronze medals in honor of the creative associated with this campaign, and we’re honored to have played a part in making it come to life.

After more than a year of planning, the Excedrin® Migraine campaign went live in April 2016, and the entire campaign wrapped itself around various real stories of people who suffer from migraines.  Four individuals who suffer from migraines tell their story in four different videos. These stories are told in a truly unique manner whereby their partner or family member wears an augmented reality migraine simulator.

The production of this campaign kicked off many months ahead of the launch, since there was so much to plan in advance of video shoot.  MRA was involved from the very beginning when we helped capture the best people for this project — from casting to directors to editors, etc.

In addition to the four videos being shot, a long format video showing what a migraine feels like, science expert videos, preroll deliverables, and print stills were a part of this project. MRA recommended a genuine real people casting agent for the project and also recommended a production company, editorial company, and a talent payroll company to help with talent payments, which proved to be extremely successful.

Throughout the production process, which involved many layers of agency personnel (creative, digital, account, and even some freelance), MRA provided support well-beyond cost control. Many deliverables were produced for various regions around the world, and we were delighted to be part of the team, co-produce, and serve in an advisory role to ensure everyone could do their very best work — at the very best price.

MRA is so very proud to have the opportunity to serve more than 500 brands around the world, and we want to give special thanks to Excedrin® Migraine for allowing us to serve you on this amazing project!

Haven’t seen the campaign yet? Check out the videos here.

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Hot Ad Agencies

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Keeping A Watchful Eye on the Advertising Agency Landscape

If you’re searching for an ad agency (or in a great relationship but want to keep a watchful eye), you’ve come to the right spot to stay up to date with today’s hottest ad agencies.

In today’s marketing world, many brands are on the lookout for a fresh approach and new ideas to give them a competitive edge. As marketers evolve to meet the rapidly changing needs and preferences of consumers, ad agencies are also evolving to keep up the pace and become better partners to their clients.  With an eye on the landscape, you’ll be poised to see the leaders innovate and watch up close how agencies are structuring to do work that moves brands forward.

In this new fragmented and multi-channel world, many are ditching the outdated labels of “advertising agency” or “digital agency” and are taking the role of a trusted advisor that solves business problems by delivering innovative approaches. New models and disruptive forces are influencing ad agencies to forge new ground and blur the lines between strategy, creativity, marketing and technology.

If you want to stay up-to-date with the best industry practices and keep an eye on who’s out there leading the pack, then be sure to grab a copy by clicking the button below.

6 Types of Ad Agencies Featured

These are agencies that for one reason or another we keep our eye on, and would suggest that you do the same! Some of these agencies do great work for our clients that we see first-hand; others just do great work, and we would love to work for you as you work with them.  When you download the pdf, you’ll find links to each agency’s website, notable clients, and recent kudos — and the ad agencies listed are sorted into 6 various categories:

  • New Breed
  • Independent, and proud of it
  • Smaller(er) with a fresh approach
  • Digital roots
  • Media
  • B2B

“New Breed” Digital Agencies

The only thing these marketing agencies have in common is that they do things differently. It may be their approach, their world view, their way of doing business or just the combination of intangibles that makes them so uniquely who they are. They are not going to be right for everyone, and they are likely to put as much energy into determining whether you are the right fit for them as you would expect them to put into trying to prove that they are the right fit for you.

Independent, and proud of it

These agencies are staunchly independent and very proud not to be beholden to the oversight of large holding agency holding companies.

Small(er) with a fresh new approach

These ’boutique shops’ have specialized core competencies and more often they will tailor their offer to a particular industry or sector.  Despite their small size, they can pack a strong punch.  You’ll likely find that all of their talent is their top talent, so you’re working with key personnel every step along the way.

If you’re curious who these great agencies are…click the button below!

Hot Ad Agencies List

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