Do You Bring The $1 Million Team To That $50K Budget?

It's the burning question for agencies when it comes to their clients and pitches. Do they use their top talent when there isn't an equitable payoff?

"It happens all the time -- with new business probably too much," says Sophie Kelly, the former Barbarian Group CEO and newly appointed SVP marketing for Diageo's whiskey brands. "Part of what has to be done [is the need for] much better transparency around budgets."

Kelly joined other industry executives during an Ad Week panel held at B.B. King's in admitting that they are currently working in a weird system. "There is a lot of chaos out there," says Aarra's James O'Brien. "But when there is chaos, there is opportunity."

The challenges for those in the industry are figuring out the business model around this new status quo, the panelists said. When it comes to budgets, a better process would talk about the brief, what is required and expectations as well as type of deliverables and what is a digestible number. But this wish list does not happen 90% of time, says Kelly.



There is another problem with the evolving definition of a producer, the panelists said. It's hard to monetize what can't be defined. Great producers were once craftsmen who did one thing incredibly well. Now they wear different hats as educators and experts in different platforms, virtual reality, product development and design.

The industry has trained brands that they can get amazing creative talent and ideas for free. While some of the blame can be placed on brands not valuing the work, another part of the problem is that we aren't putting enough value on ourselves, says Kelly. If you have a to pay for something, you are more engaged and personally invested in the project. "Upfront ideation fees, platforms or build. Integrated media and how it translates into brands," says Kelly. "That costs money -- that is thinking."

This money talk is also fueling the mantra: fast-good-cheap. "Do what you were doing before but less," says Deutsch's Winston Binch. He grew up in the digital world where there was less expectation about their projects and people were more scrappy. He calls them Swiss Army knives workers, known as people that can do any tasks and are willing to do anything to complete a project. This mentality is likely to separate the winners from the losers in terms of success. Those having the hardest time adapting to this new normal are the large scale production companies, those making Super Bowl quality spots more than once a year, they say. 

It's advantageous to be proactive, they say. "Don't wait for the brief," they advise. "People just sit around waiting for things. No client will turn a good idea down." It's also important to be curious about the total business. Think about the calendar ahead and why deadlines are there. "Pepsi always does the Super Bowl, don't want until December," jokes Kelly.

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