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One of the first questions an agency asks when a client comes to them with a project is “what’s the budget?” Invariably, it’s never enough. Even on those massive Super Bowl spots, the few million dollars the client allocates just isn’t enough to pay for the explosions, SFX and A-list actors. so it’s better to take a moment and rethink the ad-budget. Enough, it seems, is never enough. But this is the wrong way to approach the ad-budget you’ve been given. Think of this problem, often given to college freshmen in business school: “Here is $10. You have 24 hours to turn it into as much money as possible. Go.”
The teams, or individuals, who focus on what to do with $10 will fail. The $10 is a red herring. The real problem is, how do you make as much money as possible in 24 hours? Start there, and the $10 is meaningless. What you really have to rethink the ad-budget, and do better advertisement if the budget is not enough.
Now, with that in mind, here are FIVE ways to rethink the ad-budget you’ve been given. Remember, your end goal is to get people to notice your advertising, and thus, your client’s product or service; never lose sight of that.
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1: Give The Money Away
What? Well, let’s think about this. The cost of putting a full-page ad in the New York Times is around $100,000. That’s before you add in the rounds of creative, the meetings, the proofs and so on. What could you do with that $100,000 instead of printing an ad? What if, for instance, you go to a hot dog vendor in the middle of New York and ask him to give away $50 bills with every hot dog. A simple sign on the hot dog says “this smile is brought to you by Brand X.” You could make 2,000 people very happy, and at least 10% of those people will say something about it on Facebook or Twitter.
Now think about how that will spread, and fast. It will almost certainly get on the local news. Isn’t that better than an ad most people will flip past without really paying any attention to? Similarly, charitable donations can also work in your favor. The charity benefits, and so do you.
2: Do a Stunt
Again, look at your budget and the request from the client. The end goal is almost always to get attention for your client’s (or your own) product or service. If that is the goal, do something guaranteed to score. A prime example of this comes from HPT Brand Response. They were asked to do an ad protesting the sale of Britain’s gold reserves.
Creative Director Steve Harrison knew an ad wouldn’t cut it. He and his team used the client’s small ad-budget to spray paint a ton of scrap metal gold, then placed it on a barge that would pass the House of Commons when the sale was being debated. On the barge, a sign saying “Gordon Brown & Co, Scrap Metal Dealers.” Every major news station covered it, turning a tiny budget of five thousand pounds into a massive media blitz. Incredible work.
3: Buy Something Unusual
one other way to rethink the ad-budget is that you can spend the money on something tangible, and it can still work in your favor. For instance, could your client’s money save a crumbling relic from demolition? If it’s in line with their brand, it could be newsworthy and get major coverage in social media. What about adopting a pet at a local zoo, or providing money (or your product if you’re a meat brand) to feed the lions for 3 years? A small press release could get that donation into the news. What could you buy that would provide a platform for news coverage? Think about it.
4: Think “What Would I Do With That Money?”
Of course, you can’t think “that would really help me pay off my mortgage” (BUT paying off a stranger’s mortgage is perfectly acceptable). A great example of this comes from a filmmaker hired to create a film for Nike’s Fuel band. Casey Neistat threw out that idea, and instead used the money to go traveling around the world with his friend Max. They traveled 34,000 miles, covering three continents, 13 countries, and 16 cities – all in just 10 days. The video they created capturing the tour went viral, and reached way more people that a regular ad ever would have done.
5: Throw It Out
Seriously. rethink the ad-budget, Whether you’re a client or an agency, forget the ad-budget for the first round of creative. Encourage great ideas. They don’t have to be expensive; they don’t have to be on a shoestring. By simply asking “what if?” you are giving everyone the chance to run wild. Once you have something that’s really breakthrough, start thinking about how to make it work. Who knows, maybe the original ad-budget was way too big. It happens.