Commercial Production

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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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:

Pros:

  • 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)

Cons:

  • 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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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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Can You Spend Your Production Budgets More Wisely?

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You can with MRA.

Check out a few examples of how we’ve helped others spend their production budgets more efficiently:

Recently, a client was pre­sented with new creative work.  The agency recommended producing three :30 spots behind the new creative; total bid for the production amounted to $1,600,000 — somewhat steep, but within the limits of what gets spent for com­mercials in that category.

On analysis of the boards, MRA’s consultant broke down the costs by commercial.  She suspected that a disproportionate share of the ex­pen­diture lay in an unassum­ing-looking set called for by only one of the spots — not immediately apparent from the board, except to a trained eye.

On digging fur­ther, it turned out that this set alone cost $540,000, or 34% of the total pro­duction cost for the entire pool!

When the Product Manager was ap­prised of the facts, she decided (smart Product Manager!) to produce the other two :30s. Total produc­tion outlay, just over $894,000, instead of the originally-recommended $1,600,000.

It’s not easy to see production pitfalls and extravagances in a storyboard.  That takes years of practice, and the experience of working with thousands of commer­cials. The average Product Man­ager, who may produce as many as three commercials a year, can’t be expected to act as his own produc­tion expert. Moreover, negotiating costs is not the optimum use of a Product Manager’s time.

It is, however, the optimum use of MRA’s time. That’s why we work for over more than 30 clients on retainer, and why we’ve done project work for all but a handful of the top 200 adver­tisers over the 35+ years of our exis­tence.

Cost Control: A Blend of Art & Science

Here are a few more examples of the kinds of savings MRA experts make  — large and small.

A major client was facing produc­tion of a large pool of commer­cials, featuring multiple non-speaking actors in each commer­cial.  The agency bid the job in Los Angeles — and also in South Africa and South America. Since the tal­ent was non-speaking, dialogue wasn’t important: looks, acting, and loca­tion were.

MRA has had considerable experi­ence with overseas production and was able to provide valuable infor­ma­tion about the necessity of ex­tended lead-times in scheduling and the placement of heavy em­phasis on preproduction in order to assure a smooth job.

The commercials turned out just fine (thank you!). The client ulti­mately saved $500,000 in production costs over the Los Angeles-based bidder and, coincidentally, $458,000 in reuse fees. The agency feels good about the results and, when last seen, was sporting the commer­cials on its sample reel.

Cost Control: A Blend of Art & Science

Another client had two :30s (each with a :15 cut-down). The shooting schedule called for four con­secu­tive days in outdoor locations in California. Given the potential for rain in February on the west coast, MRA strongly recommended that weather day insurance be in­vestigated; our people were able to recommend an insurance com­pany which had previously pro­vided good coverage at a very favorable price for our clients.

Weather-day contingency costs on this project were estimated at $80,000 per day for a total rain-out. On the other hand, the weather-day insurance premium came in at $28,000 for all four days, guaranteeing that nine hours of each 12-hour shoot day would be rain-free.

As it turned out, one shooting day was drowned out and a total loss. With proper documentation, the in­surance company came through with $80,000 in coverage, the pool of commercials was produced as planned, and client and agency were pleased with the results.

Cost Control: A Blend of Art & Science

Do you always accept the low bidder on production?  We don’t; instead, we look for the “best value” bid­der.

We had a recent case where the agency recommended — and the cli­ent con­curred — with the middle bidder: $25,000 higher than the low bidder. MRA agreed that the mid­dle-bid­ding director would do a better job and then set to work, negoti­ating a savings of $11,693 in pro­duction, casting, and agency travel. What that meant was, the commercial got the best director; agency and client were happy, and nearly half the premium cost was saved by judiciously pruning the production estimate.

In addition, the agency planned to hire nine on-camera principals as actors — four more than the five agreed to in the pre-bid confer­ence. Notified of the additional actors by MRA’s consultant, the client was able to persuade the agency that six on-camera princi­pals would be plenty — with an ul­timate savings of $45,000 in reuse payments.

Net result: the commercial seemed sufficiently “populated” with ac­tors; agency and client were happy with the results, and the client had a little extra cash to put into media or other areas.

 

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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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Understanding SAG: What Every Brand Manager Should Know

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Understanding SAG: Live Webinar

This year brings new changes to the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) contract with the Joint Policy committee of the ANA/AAAA for all the marketers and agencies who use actors for advertising. The SAG negotiations started in February and the new contract, tentatively agreed upon on April 3rd, 2016, will run until March 31, 2019.

If you plan on doing any type of broadcast advertising – including TV, Cable, Internet, New Media – using members of the Screen Actors Guild union or even non-union talent you should be prepared for and up-to-date with all the new changes in the SAG contract.

With the rising demand for online digital videos, agencies are using more talent than ever. The new contract aims to adapt to these new demands and will bring new changes to the SAG commercial rate sheets (split into TV and online/new media), retroactive payments due to performers, working conditions, the signatory/non-signatory status, off-shore production rules and other non-economic issues like using non-union actors for your production.

Because MRA is committed to helping you through this process, we will hold a live webinar on April 20th at 2pm EST to help you anticipate and prepare for all the specific problems that might arise for you.

This webinar is designed to help you make more informed decisions when storyboards and budgets are submitted for approval, and while this webinar will be most valuable for TV advertisers who also create online videos, any company is more than welcome to attend if they plan on doing any broadcast advertising in the future.

Join us on Wednesday, April 20th to learn more about:

• The Screen Actors Guild, who they are and what is their jurisdiction
• The SAG contract, and how to find out if you are a signatory
• Is it ever possible for SAG signatories to use non-union talent?
• Arbitration: What are your chances of winning
• The experimental Coverage Waiver for ‘Made For Internet and Made For New Media’ commercials

SAG Webinar Registration

Presenter: The webinar is authored and will be presented by MRA’s own Jerry Rice

Who is Jerry Rice?

Jerry Rice has been a Senior Production Manager at Procter & Gamble, an agency producer and a production company owner. Jerry has considerable expertise in advertising production and has served on numerous industry committees, most important being the ANA Production Management Committee and as the Vice Chairman of the Joint Policy Committee of the ANA/AAAA, which negotiates the SAG contract on behalf of the industry.

Jerry has been through four SAG contract negotiations so far and will provide you with special insight into this process to help you smoothly navigate through the changes.

In addition to helping clients capture significant savings, Jerry also brings a wealth of insight and perspective regarding best practices, production business models, trends and innovation.

Click here to reserve your seat!

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How Much of Your :30 Commercial Is Actually Working?

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How to analyze your commercials for better results.

What do you require of your TV commercials?  If all you want is “a little top-of-mind awareness,” click off this page right now.  You aren’t the sort of Product Manager who needs to read this.

If, on the other hand, your answer is “Move some units,” “Build a brand,” “Get prospects into dealerships,” “Convince category users to switch to our brand,” or “Fight off a competitor,” then stick around; we have a simple and useful analytical technique that will help you make each of your commercials work harder.

We start with a principle that posits: the better media buys you make, the better your commercials need to be.  If you have weak, inane and ineffective commercials in great time slots at high frequency, you’ll deliver your insipid advertising to a huge audience with admirable efficiency — thus, blowing your chance to achieve some real career-enhancing business results.

We also start with the premise that the sole function of any of your commercials is to make the audience do something as a result of all the work and money you’ve put out.  Nobody should get a free ride on your advertising; that is, no one should be able to consume your advertising without also trying the product. If all you want is a “little top of mind awareness,” buy some outdoor advertising: it’s probably cheaper.

Determining how much of your commercial is working is simple and easy — and requires nothing more than a stopwatch, recording device, and a reel of your latest brand commercials.

You simply time the “working” scenes, add ‘em up, and voila!  You know how much of each :30 is actu­ally working for your brand.  How much is actually sell­ing, as op­posed to getting ready, preparing a mood, being charming, or other­wise wasting time on irrelevancies.

Be thorough in your analysis.  Check both audio and visual.  Then turn off the audio, and see how much visual selling your spot is doing.  (You might be surprised.)

Here’s what to look for in your commercials:

  1. Scenes (short ones) at the opening of the commercial designed specifically to attract your desired target audience.  Such scenes work to bring in the right prospects for your Brand.  Keep those scenes in.  They’re working.
  2. Opening scenes devoted to “creating a mood” are probably wasting time that could better be used on the product. It’s always a good idea to throw out all “mood setting” scenes (along with the creative group that so volubly defends them in presentation meetings).
  3. Product shots are fine. You should have at least two of them per commercial, and they should take up no less than 20% of the total air time. (God forbid you should have so little product identification that some potential buyer might think your terribly persuasive copy was plugging a different brand — and as a result, go out and buy that)
  4. Jokes, on the other hand, are usually not fine. They’re so rarely relevant to the product or commercial message they’re almost unexceptionably a waste of good commercial time. Chuck all jokes out; they usually ingratiate only the friends of the creative team.
  5. Scenes showing problems of not using the product are okay — if they’re short and segue immediately into scenes showing the advantages of using the product.
  6. Scenes showing the end-result benefit of solving problems by use of the product are always acceptable.  They should make up the majority of the time spent in your commercial.  This is where you pay the rent — with compelling scenes of your product’s benefits and advantages.
  7. Demonstrations of how your product is better, or produces a more desirable result are great. Use them lavishly. Remember that Bounty went from zero to a commanding share in the paper towel category by using :21 worth of demos per commercial — which left only :09 for other visuals (all told, probably not a bad thing).
  8. Immediately reject any shot with flying doves, swirling leaves, or running brooks — unless you’re actually selling those particular commodities.

Okay, you now have timed all scenes, and can arrive at some conclusions.  If your commercial scores in the range of the follow­ing numbers of seconds, you can:

:0-:l0 — Clear a space on your desk for the Clio or Cannes Gold Lion your commercial will undoubt­edly win.  You’ll also need plenty of room on your desk for your resu­mes, which you will be sending out in quantity right after the next share numbers are in.

:10-:20 — Fair; but you’d better call your agency to set up an earnest discussion of strategy and business objectives.

:20-:30 — Good for you.  You understand advertising, and are likely to be successful at it.  Go to the head of the class.

MRA’s experts understand advertising, too.  We work to improve the advertising and cost performance for national and global clients in all sorts of categories.  Interested in learning more?  Let’s schedule a time to chat.

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