Brand Managers

Defining The Actual Role of Broadcast Advertising

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:


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


Yes – I WILL buy what you’re selling. I’ll change 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.


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

How Much of Your :30 Commercial Is Actually Working?

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 this principle: 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.

Communication Objectives: Are Yours Adequate?

What in the world was that commercial all about?”

How to make sure that’s NOT the viewer reaction to your nice, new, expensive TV commercial.

Advertising is a-changin’.  Radio is shaped to audiences like a glove, internet channels exist for left-handed stamp collectors, and, of course, Programmatic TV is growing like a weightlifter on steroids.

It’s sheer anomaly that, at a time when we can pinpoint the audience better than ever before, we can lose focus creatively.  How many times have you sat through a commercial – maybe even enjoyed it – but been baf­fled at the end, not even able to discern what the advertiser was trying to communicate?  (If you have trouble coming up with a specific recall right after the commercial, you can bet big money that your 24-hour recall will be a mess.)

So, how can you beat the rap of inadequate or absent communication?

Here’s how, in one easy, elementary, most reasonable exercise with your agency, you can be sure the right people will get the right message out of your commercials.

This little bit of magic is called a Communication Objective.  A Communication Objective is a distillation – a tincture, if you will – of your advertising strategy or creative brief.

(If you can’t find, or have mislaid, your advertising strategy, skip right to the part where we tell you who to call to prepare your resume for moving on.)

Of course, you have an advertising strategy.  It delineates, at its very minimum, who should be interested in your product and what benefit they’ll derive from using it, and why your product alone can offer that benefit.  It may also include some other stuff such as mood or mandatories, but the first three factors are the guts of any advertising strategy.

That’s also the essence of the Communication Objective.  When your agency presents a storyboard, ask “What do we want the viewer to remember from this commercial?”  Generally, communication objectives should not describe the look of the commercial or the way the characters are to be depicted.

While executional factors are important (and you’ll spend a considerable amount of time profitably wrestling with them in your pre-production meeting), they are not the key elements of the commercial that you want remembered.  If you have a Communication Objective that wants the viewer to remember how much fun it is to drink a particular beer, you decidedly don’t want people playing back, “It was a dreamy, fleeting moment, music probably by Vangelis.”

Communication Objectives should be few in number – fewer than five, even four pretty crowded.  If you have more, consider: you’re trying to get a single, focused playback expressing a single cognitive bit from a single viewer.  Chances of harvesting five cogent and memorable communications out of a :30 spot are very slim.

How Close Are Communication Objectives to Scene Objectives?

In that both are techniques for organizing your advertising objectives and clarifying communication, they are closely related.  However, the Communication Objective is a simple, “whole cloth” sort of exercise, to be applied at your commercial’s earliest presentation stages.  In fact, it is a really good idea to ask an agency’s creative group either before or after they show you the advertising, “What playback would you be happy to get from our target viewer of this commercial?”

If you’ve got an ad for a superior-performing cleaning product, for example, you’d be delighted if viewers played back that your product gets out the tough stains – and does it better than competition.

Scene objectives, on the other hand, come in handy when clarifying the net take-away of a specific scene in the commercial: here’s where we establish our mom in an upscale kitchen; here’s where we introduce our product; etc.

If you have multiple Communication Objectives, go through the storyboard and identify the particular parts of the commercial that are supporting each of the objectives.  If you’re having trouble finding a match between storyboard and objectives – well, probably the viewer will, too.

Communication Objectives are useful at the production bidding stage, too.  Smart agency producers will include them in the material given to prospective directors.  This will help the directors to focus their energy in the right direction as they determine what their “treatment” or approach to the production will be, and to help insure that the bid allows for these objectives to be given sufficient emphasis.

Communication objectives should be reviewed again during the pre-production meeting to serve as a benchmark by which all decisions can be measured.

Want to know more about Communication Objectives – particularly as to how you might apply them to your advertising? Contact MRA — we’ll be happy to discuss with you.

Commercial Production: Critical Guidelines for Successful Casting

Casting On-Camera Principal roles can sometimes be a difficult part of the production process because so much is riding on a compelling, credible performance.

Want to keep your next casting selection running as smoothly as possible?  Follow the guidelines below, and you’ll be well on your way!

#1 – Casting Specifications

Review and approve casting specifications complete with enough clear, useful detail to define the roles the casting director is being asked to fill.

  • “35-45 male, good looking bot not too ‘Modelly’…” can be interpreted in may ways. Add relevant details.
  • When pinning an age to a role, be clear this is a “looks like” age and not a chronological age. Many re-cast sessions have been called because the callbacks were “too young” or “too old.”
  • Share a relevant and tangible key motivation to the role description as a starting point: “…he is a retail store manager who is authoritative and confident but not arrogant…”
  • It can be easy to have too much style direction, so choose the clearest and most defining.

#2 – Timing

Allow sufficient time for specs alignment prior to casting and for review & approval of agency recommendations.

  • Specs should be reviewed at the pre-bid meeting so there is time for corrections, if needed, prior to the award.
  • The conversation, however, can start earlier as the script is evolving and approved: Consider having the creative team include a profile of who the character is in the original script and storyboard. Will this change over time? Perhaps, but it provides insight into what the copywriter is thinking. You may or may not be in agreement, but it’s a place to start the conversation with a “flesh and bones” development.
  • Establish a regular approval process:  Casting selects should be posted within a set number of days before your pre-production meeting, allowing enough time for review and alignment across all stakeholders.

#3 – Criteria for Evaluation

90% of the performance you will see on shoot day will be present in the casting select files. Establish criteria for what will show the range in delivery. Don’t expect the director to be able to “pull” a performance out of an actor who doesn’t demonstrate an ability to deliver the performance in audition.

  • Reading the whole script vs. select lines:  If the talent read the whole script, remember that unless this is is a one-take monologue / presenter role, the script will be read several times in different scenes with different emphasis.
  • Choose one line and ask it to be read 3 times in a row – with different deliveries and intensities.

Remember, like everything else in commercial production — from creative development to editorial — casting is a process.  If it feels rushed, too complex, or confusing — contact us…we may be able to help.

Testimonial Commercials: Making them work for you

Testimonial Commercials:  Many package goods advertisers use them successfully.  Are they for you?  Can you make them work for your brand?

“Real Person” Commercials are a highly specialized form of advertising message.  They can be tremendously effective when they are:

  • Set up correctly to achieve the desired result
  • “De-bugged” to prevent costly disasters
  • Conducted unerringly by thoroughly coached, competent people

Why are testimonial commercials so effective?

3 solid reasons:

  1. Testimonials make visible the invisible. Let’s say your brand has a taste advantage.  Great!  But who can see taste?  It’s invisible.  Or, let’s say you have a cleaning advantage that’s too slight for the TV system to pick up.  Again great!  But you’re precluded from presenting a convincing demonstration by the inability of the TV screen to show your advantage. The testimonial commercial enables viewers to “see” what they really can’t see.  They can’t perceive your advantage directly with their own eyes; but, via testimonial, they can see someone else perceiving it.  If viewers also see someone expressing a strong preference in favor of your flavor or your cleaning advantage, they’re inclined to believe it, and give your brand a try.
  2. Testimonial commercials can show conversion. Right in front of the audience’s eyes, an honest-to-Nielsen consumer goes from disbelief to skepticism to growing conviction to a purchase decision.  Obviously that’s what you want out of your consumers.  You want them to try your brand.  Testimonial commercials show people trying a new product or experience – and becoming convinced by it – doing exactly what you ultimately want them to do relative to your product.
  3. Testimonial commercials provide perfect audience identification. You can pre-select and show your prospective buyers.  Identification is strong medicine in television commercials.  On the other hand, instead of accurately depicting your consumers, you may want to “upscale” them about 10% so you have emulation working for you as well as “identification”.  In any case, if your home viewer winds up thinking “that lady in the commercial is just like me (or like someone I’d like to be)”, you’re in.  You’ve pushed the right button.

All right, how do you go about all this?  Watch it, because testimonial commercials are costly!  You can spend anything from $50K to $200K a day, and unless you’ve pre-planned with exquisite care, you can wind up with miles of ineffective or unusable footage.

Thoughtful Pre-Production

Thoughtful pre-production is more important on testimonial commercials than any other production because the copy and the action and the visualization and the result are in the hands of someone over whom you have no control: your unsuspecting interviewee.  Therefore, it behooves you to:

  • Think through your premise and dramaturgy.  Let’s say you want to show a lady discovering that something she thinks tastes reasonably bad actually tastes great.  You can have her make the discovery fairly straight-forwardly: she says “well, yes, by Glories, that isn’t so bad after all”.  (Yawn)

What was needed was a meeting in which careful thought was given to the premise.  Before rolling the cameras, have your interviewer set up the respondent for a bad taste: get her swearing on a stack of bibles that such-and-such tastes awful; she wouldn’t touch it; never uses it; can’t stand it.

Then, without telling her the interviewer gives her your product.  The very vehemence of her previous position is now working for you.  He withholds the reveal until he has milked her positive reactions.  And then he tells her what she’s been tasting.  And works both sides of the reaction: “but you said you hated it?”  “So, what do you think now that you’ve tried it?” etc.

  • Be sure of your legal ground.  It will do you no good to come back from location with stunning, effective commercials which no one will let you run.  Claims and support in testimonial advertising are unusually tricky.  It’s likely, too, that the lawyers will have a point of view about the people you select for your respondents, as well as your rights and the proper legal releases.  Better check out early what you can do and what you can’t.  (Some agencies even take experienced legal counsel to the shoot.  Makes sense.)
  • Triple-check your questionnaire.  Knowing exactly what answers you ultimately want out of the respondent helps frame what questions you initially ask.  Try out your questionnaire in a dry run or focus group.  See if it’s producing the results.  If not, revise it until you get what you’re paying for.

Also, consider the advantages of keeping one of your areas or districts “clean” (i.e., not running testimonial advertising).  Nothing kills an interview so quickly as having the respondent know what the joke is.

  • Pre-test with an audio test.  When you’re actually in production, and film or tape is running by the mile – that’s a terrible time to discover a weakness in your questionnaire or your interviewer’s technique.  Test out your production plans on a small scale, with only an audio recorder going.  You’ll be able to spot problems and fix them at leisure – perhaps even retest – before you start unloading money by the ton.

Pick your suppliers with great care

You may very well end up paying between $100K to $400K or more for your shoot, so it’s a big cash investment.  On the other hand, if you get 12 commercials and three years’ effective advertising out of it – and you should expect that, if your planning is right – it’s a fine payout.  So be terribly careful in selecting the people who are going to spend your money.

  1. The production house is paramount.  There are a handful of directors in the business who “do” testimonial commercials, and they’re worth every cent they earn.  Ask to see samples of their work.  Look at the pictures: is the action clear, the camera close-up enough?  How’s the sound: is it clean, can you hear the testimonial clearly?  Ask the agency to have a director in for you to meet and question; get an idea of how he sees your job and wants to handle it.
  2. The interviewer can make or break you.  But don’t just settle for a high-priced announcer who’s all over the dial and likely to be recognized by your respondents in the field.  You might consider developing your own interviewer: a psychologist; a paralegal, trained in taking depositions; a researcher.  Audition two or three if necessary.  Don’t hire an actor!  Actors are trained to talk; they have skimpy experience in getting the other person to talk.
  3. Watch research costs.  Firms have driven up the costs of recruiting respondents, but you may not need those firms.  Check, as a second bet, the Psychology or Economics Departments at your local university.  They’re used to recruiting statistically valid panels, and academic cost levels are attractively low.
  4. Hire a production advisor.  Specifically, MRA, Inc.  We’ve had over 35 years experience with this kind of commercial, can watch your dollars and improve the odds in your favor.  The advice you got herewith is general and free; there are no warranties, express or implied.  Instead, what we’d welcome is a chance to tailor a testimonial shoot for you – or for your agency.  Write or call, we’d like to work for you.

Pre Production Meetings: What Every Brand Manager Should Know

OK, your storyboard is finally approved (with a few footprints on it, left by various Advertising Managers, Marketing Managers, and Division Presidents) and you’re ready to produce it, EXCEPT for the pre production meeting.

This is an inordinately critical stage of your incipient commercial’s life.  Unrecognized possibilities for disaster loom on every side, and people start talking a new language: “production gobbledygook”.  And you have to midwife your baby through the last stages of its pre-natal existence.

Take heart.  What’s more to the point, take this article to your next pre production meeting.  It may help.

Why Have a Pre Production Meeting at All?

Two excellent reasons:  To save money and prevent mistakes.  The pre-pro meeting is the time when the people who have planned the commercial get together with the people who are going to execute it.  It’s terribly important that the ideas and hopes and “watch-its” get transferred understandably and unerringly.

When to Have a Pre-Pro Meeting:

Not less than a week after you’ve got the board approved (really approved, no hold-outs for the Legal Department) and at least two days before you want to start shooting.  The temptation is strong to hurry things, but don’t forget that pre-production is a planning stage; hurrying a bid from a production house means more pad as the production house rep, deprived of time to get thorough answers and check out alternatives, simply covers his risk with a few creative entries.  Hurrying an agency’s casting department means they have to settle for whatever actor’s available, rather than taking time to think, carefully, about who would be best for the role and then tracking them down.  Hurrying the production schedule means you might have to settle for bids from three directors, but all of those available might be second choice.

Time spent constructively in pre-production comes back to you in speedier editorial and quicker finishing.  So, despite the temptations to ram your commercial into production quickly, don’t.  You will be shortcutting yourself and your job.

Who to Have at a Pre-Pro Meeting:

You, certainly.  The Brand point of view must be represented, for questions will surely arise.  Your Production Representative, if you have one, should be there for he’s your interpreter: he’s the person who can see puzzled frowns developing, and realize that the director doesn’t understand your need for a certain product handling, or you don’t understand his need for a return wall on the set.  (If you don’t have a Production Representative – AHA! – call us.  We’ll do that for you.)

Beyond that, the Agency Producer should sit in, or whoever at the agency fulfills that function.  If you have a Copy/Art creative team on your business, OK, but the function of Agency Producer must be represented by someone who knows production thoroughly.  If you go, your opposite number Account Executive certainly will; but remember, the fewer people involved, the better.  Insist that either the director be there or someone who can commit him.  Since the purpose of the pre-pro meeting is to reach agreements, you don’t need to talk to the director’s functionary, who later has to rescind commitments because the director, on subsequent consultation, doesn’t agree.

Props, set decoration, wardrobe, and other specialists will attend as needed.

What to Cover at a Pre Production Meeting:

To bring order out of the chaos; to provide an agendum to which everyone can subscribe; and, most importantly, to make sure all subjects are covered – the following is a workable but not onerous outline:

  1. Overall Objective:  Before you do anything else, ask yourself “What is the single net impression I want the viewer to take away from this commercial?”  What single, unified message do I want to get across to my target audience?  Get this answered in one short, simple, direct sentence – and you are well on your way to a good commercial.
  2. Visual Objectives: For each scene and sequence, ask yourself “What do I expect the viewer to get out of this?” In reality, you don’t need to know where the camera is placed or how the scene will be shot (the director’s job); you want to know what selling message your viewers are going to get as a result of each individual scene you are putting before them.
  3. Casting Objectives: When you think these through, don’t describe people (i.e., tall, short, old, young); instead, describe characters.  This gives the casting director something to sink his/her teeth into – and gives you a tangible goal against which to measure the actor’s performance.
  4. Props, Set, Wardrobe, and Product: Here, again, learn to talk and think objectives; leave the actual execution of these objectives to the experts.  A small tip, however: challenge every square foot of your set.  Chances are someone may be over-building to cover a filmic eventuality that will probably never happen.
  5. Director’s Point of View: By this time in the pre-production meeting the director has heard quite a lot about what you want to see as the result of his work.  Make him now play that back to you in his terms.  Ask him to tell you precisely how he intends to fulfill your objectives and get the results which will bring off the commercial you are looking for.
  6. Discussion of Demonstration: Obviously a demo is where you show off your product in its most advantageous light, either versus a previous incarnation of that product or versus its best available competition.  This merits considerable discussion; and your Properties Master should be deeply involved in the talk; he is often a gushing fountain of helpful information and ideas.
  7. Final Script Reading: You’d be surprised how many times the omission of this simple step leads to a comment in the screening room like “Oh, didn’t you hear?  Charlie wanted us to change that.”  Make sure that the script that comes out of the pre-pro meeting is the same one the Script Clerk will be using on the set.
  8. Production Schedule: By now all of the production requisites and requirements have been discussed and decided – and you’re ready to determine finally when and where and how long each scene will take in actual production.  It’s your money: make sure your agency producer tells you precisely, hour-by-hour, how and on what it will be spent.
  9. Summary and Next Steps: If there is any unfinished business arising out of the pre-production meeting (and there should be as little as possible) this is the time to put it on a piece of paper and make sure someone has taken each item and question off the check list before you actually start rolling cameras.
  10. Changes: If any changes do come up, be sure they’re covered in the original bid. If an overage is submitted, you’ll want to confirm it’s your responsibility (and accurate) before approving.

What to Get Out of a Pre Production Meeting:

Clearly, the steps above are going to lead to a number of decisions.  Equally clearly, these decisions should be written down so that they can be screened, agreed to, and reviewed by anyone involved in the production.  This means a pre-production call report – and it’s an important document.  Don’t let your agency get by without writing it.  You will need it in the screening room as a check against your commercial objectives.

Does All This Sound a Little Complex?

Certainly, that’s why MRA was formed.  We can help guide you at this most important meeting – as we can through the entire production process – so that you get better commercials at lower costs.  If you need any help – give us a call, contact us online or give us a call; we’d like to help you!

Are You Paying More Than You Should?

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!

Production: “Do More With Less” With These 3 Tips

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.

How Can Production Procedures Help Your Organization?

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.

Key Considerations for Globalizing Ad Production in 2018

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.