Monday, October 24, 2016
  • Thursday, May. 19, 2016
Teaching the Math
Pej Sabet

How many times have we seen a project kick off, go through rounds of creative development and arrive at three great ideas--none of which can be created within the client’s budget?  I’ve seen it more times then I’d like to admit and every time it happens I think about the wasted time, the wasted payroll and, most importantly, the wasted creative energy. 

By providing creatives (or any non-bean counter) a basic understanding of the budgeting process and costs that go into productions, we can reduce the waste.  By teaching the math, we not only reduce the inefficiency but we empower creatives to practice “viable creativity.” 

So how can we effectively teach the math without making a person’s eyes roll into the back of their head? Be transparent with everyone about what the production budget is, put it in the brief and discuss at the outset how it may affect the deliverables. The more people see a budget, the more they will develop an understanding for it.

Empower the Producers: Experienced broadcast, print and digital producers are spigots of information. They already work closely across the agency and use their skills to help turn concepts to reality.  Producers know “how the sausage is made” in all departments and they know what can be realistically accomplished within their budgets. Unfortunately, in many cases, instead of taking an active role in discussing budgets and fostering “viable creativity” amongst the teams early on, producers are handed creative concepts only after they have been worked on for weeks. It’s not a producer’s fault; they are trained to defer to creatives and the creative process.  But if we empower producers to engage in the process earlier on to help channel the creative within the budget, we would be empowering some of the most experienced and knowledgeable people in the agency to enhance the process.      

Keep Talking about Money: Many people are uncomfortable talking about money; thinking it is private or boorish. We need to create an atmosphere where people not only feel comfortable to openly discuss costs and budgets but are expected to.  I find asking someone the simple and direct question, “Do you know how much that actually costs?” triggers dialogue that push people out of there comfort zone and compels them to talk about money which, over time, develops a better understanding of and comfort with money and costs. And when we can openly and understandably talk about money we can successfully teach the math.

Pej Sabet is COO/CFO of Pitch, a full-service creative advertising agency based in Los Angeles, with its own in-house production unit, Bicep Productions. Clients include Burger King, Citrix, Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, Nestle Waters, Netflix, Pepsi, SunPower and Waldorf Astoria. Pitch is part of Project: WorldWide, an independent, global network of complementary, wholly-owned agencies.