Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Project Cost Containment

Whether your the client or the agency, at one point you're subjected to "scope creep." By definition, the project that won't end and/or elements keep changing. Everyone loses in the end. The agency tries to be PC by balancing cost overruns, between controlling the client and their profit. The client, may or may not, realize the impact of their actions.

Scope creep comes from both agency and client sources. The client may have poor communication channels within the company, i.e. advertising, marketing, R&D, legal, and a plethora of internal department approvals. The agency may not clearly communicate the costs as they occur, back to the client. This is a frightening thought and can/has put smaller agencies out of business.

There are several solutions to avoid the scope creep situation. Although, it may not eliminate its occurance.
- At the project start, have standard documentation that outlines the project's expectation. This can be the creative or marketing brief, quotation or budget approval form.
- Outline in a document, the procedure for additional charges. My agreement called for all costs exceeding 10% of quotation required client approval, prior to execution. There were times when this occured on a photography location shoot and changes required instant approvals to proceed. Be sure an authorized approver is on set or connected to their cell phone/blackberry. Downtime can increase costs exponentially.

Costs can lose control as early as the concept design stage. Be aware, just because the agency designed it, doesn't mean the client will approve it. If concepts are consistently rejected, then review the communications links supplying the client's desires. There is a breakdown somewhere and you must find it. Either the client has not presented their needs properly, the agency representative(s) are not conveying the project accurately or the job initiation process/documentation needs refinement.

All projects should require the following documentations, before anything happens:
- Budget
- Schedule
- Brief (Marketing, Advertising, Creative)

Execution should never start without the following, where applicable:
- Approved creative (layout, storyboard, editorial content)
- Product
- Photography art direction
- Refined budget
- Specifications (print, broadcast, web)

One more area of discussion, level of execution. There are a hundred ways to execute a single layout or storyboard. Talent costs can range from $500 to $10,000 a day for the same skill set, i.e. photographer, model, producer. Be sure everyone on the project understands the pros and cons at each talent level. 99% of the time, the budget will dictate the level of execution. Everyone involved in the campaign execution needs to be clear on the expectation.

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