Answer big questions first for most effective use of your budget
There are some businesses who get lucky—a whisper from the right person, a write-up in a popular magazine—and they’re suddenly flooded with customers forever. For the rest of us, there’s advertising.
In my career, I’ve served as a producer and supervisor of post-production for massive corporations, indies and agencies. Today I’m lead of content creation for a Miami-based agency that specializes in healthcare and wellness brands. I can confidently say that every single client I’ve ever had started out dreaming of a Super Bowl-style ad with Hollywood-quality production, Pulitzer-winning copy and talent worthy of an Oscar—then the reality of the budget sets in.
That’s not necessarily bad news. There are lots of things you can do to optimize the quality of your advertising dollar, and if you have a solid strategy in place, your piece will have much more of an impact. The most important element to understand here is that you don’t want to trip over dollars to get dimes—for some ads it will make sense to spend more on certain aspects, while you can save in other areas. Let’s walk through this.
Make a plan.
Your ad is an investment, and like anything you buy, you want to make sure you’re getting the most out of it. Before you even write down that clever line or cast Joanie from accounting as the lead, back up and ask yourself (then answer!) some key questions:
- Who is your target audience and where do they spend their time? For example, buying a lot of inexpensive TV ads to run in the wee hours of the morning might not get you as much of an audience as, say, running just a few ads during primetime. Or if they’re off TV and more engaged in social media, there’s where you’d put your focus.
- Do you have an experienced writer? Confusing or off-brand copy can actually end up costing you customers. Make sure you have a clear idea of your brand and the story you want the ad to tell—and then hire the right person to tell it if you don’t have someone in-house.
- Who is the talent? It’s great to save money by using staff members—but what if they leave the job for a competitor? Or what if they’re not up for the challenge? You don’t want to waste an entire production budget and end up with unusable footage. Consider hiring a pro.
- What will be original to your production, and when can you use stock photography, music or footage? Sometimes it makes sense to get pre-made assets—but the risk here is that another company in your market, or even your competitor (the horror!) might use the same thing, taking away points for originality.
- Where will you shoot? Will it be your workplace, a public space or a studio? Consider any location permissions and permits you may need. You can also check out Giggster or Peerspace for location rentals of all kinds and budgets.
- When will you shoot? The earlier you make a plan, the more time the producers and writer will have to make a better product. Think also about time of day—will there be noise and traffic, or people in the way? What’s happening with the light?
One you have a marketing strategy figured out that includes all the classic “W” questions—who, what, when, where and why – you can work on your “how.”
Set a budget and define your goals.
We try to treat our clients’ money as if it were our own. Look for a producer who understands your goals and can gently steer you toward them if your original idea isn’t feasible for your budget. Even if your competitor is, say, flooding TikTok with their videos, if that’s not a great place for you, don’t worry about going there.
You’ve probably figured out how much (if anything) you’ll pay for talent and crew, but consider the often-overlooked costs that can blow up your budget, such as permitting, graphics, licensing and locations. Ask lots of questions of your producer and get everything in writing to avoid sticker shock.
What do you want the customer to do? Visit your website or call you? Comment on your social media post or click a link? Sign up for screaming deals via text and email? Make sure that’s clear in your ad.
I love video, because it’s so versatile for all the different channels. You can use it in traditional broadcast, but also on YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, TikTok and on your website. Just make sure the producer you’re working with understands that you want to be able to have a robust enough resolution, size and composition so that an editor can size down for smaller formats.
Your most important investment.
Yes, you want to get the right talent and location, but ultimately the most important investment you can make when developing a video is the script. It is the foundation of the entire production. Make sure the script resonates for you and some trusted colleagues or customers before you sign off.
There’s also some great news about the actual filming part for smaller brands. Equipment is incredibly inexpensive these days. You can rent drones and camera stabilizers for under $500, for example, and there’s a whole universe of video tutorials online about the best ways to use them. Even your iPhone is a powerful tool when you use it right.
And consider filming more than one video in a day. Even if you need to pay more for additional scripts, it could be worth getting two or more ads out of the shoot to maximize your production dollar.
Finally, be creative. We’ve all seen the pharmaceutical ad with the happy elderly couple riding bikes, and the car dealership with the flashy sales guy. What’s different about your brand’s story? What will inform your audience, as well as entertain them? Because in the end, it’s not just about eyeballs, it’s what happens after.