Sunday, 19 September 2010

How much IS an idea worth ?

When you're creating radio adverts, how much is a good idea actually worth ?

If you’re a Commercial Producer, chances are this has happened to you...

Mr Client is a regular advertiser on the radio. For the last year or so, he’s been on the radio with a bog-standard ad which by now really is wearing thin. The station Sales Exec quite rightly says to Mr Client that he really should start investing in more in creative in order to have a stronger brand on air.

Mr Client agrees to a briefing session. It’s highly productive. Mr Client opens up his heart and you discover some Golden Nuggets that you and the Sales Exec never knew.

The meeting ends with everyone feeling positive and incredibly optimistic.

10 days later, you present your Killer Creative Strategy to Mr Client. Mr Client is thrilled. “How Much to get this all made ?” he asks.

You tell him and then...

“£xxxx for THAT ?!” He chokes. “I mean it’s just a few words, a bit of music and a couple of voices, no way. You’ll need to seriously sharpen your pencil.”

Then there’s this scenario....

Ms Client is interested in adopting a completely brand new sound. The briefing session is highly productive and when the idea is presented a week or so later, Ms Client is delighted. You quote the price and she says it needs to be signed off by the MD. The meeting ends and you expect to hear from the client in a day or so.

It all then goes a bit quiet. You call Ms Client and she tells you she still wants to advertise on the radio, but she’s found someone who will do the creative for a lot less.

You put the phone down and the swearing begins.

As Radio Commercial Producers, we’ve all encountered enormously frustrating scenarios when clients love the idea, but don’t appreciate the investment that needs to be made to make everything sound fabulous. So what’s going wrong ?

First, we have to accept there are lots of clients who are just simply timewasters. They love the attention they are getting, but will simply not put their money where their mouths are.

Those people aside, I believe a distinction needs to be made between the value of an idea and the value of executing it. In my belief, the value of the execution will be justified in the value of the idea is clearly justified.

We all have ideas. You don’t need to be a creative person to have ideas. Right now, billions of people are having an idea. And with so many rattling around the place, it could be said they are worth zilch UNLESS the client feels there is some value in it. That means before presenting the idea to the client, there needs to some well crafted preamble. Imagine the moment when top agency man Trevor Beattie presented the fashion Chain French Connection the now notorious ‘FCUK’ idea ? None of us were there, so my assumption of what happened is speculative. But I reckon he didn’t sit there and just hand over a logo and say “Clever eh ? See what we’ve done ? Nudge nudge ?” There would have been a meticulously crafted process in order to 100% justify the concept to French Connection’s chairman Stephen Marks.
In an interview on, Beattie is reported to have said "People too often misunderstand branding. This campaign has no logo but it is still branded: branding is in the DNA of what we have done."

I completely get what he means. The whole concept isn’t just about cheekily-constructed 4 letters and that is why it is worth so much.

Who knows what effect the government cuts are going to have on the economy. But no matter how tough it gets, the public will still need to buy beds, cars, TV’s, food, services or whatever. Advertisers will therefore have to understand that in order to touch the hearts of those who do have the money to spend, they’ll have to dig deeper in their pockets. For those of us who are tasked to devise the Big Idea, by golly we’ll need to come up with the perfect justification for the investment.
As I heard one radio sales person say once: “It’s a catchy tune isn’t it ? Yours for £2000”.

Come on, you'll have to try harder than that.

John Calvert.