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Everything I didn’t know about TV advertising: How to choose a creative agency

From costs to choosing the right creative, have a look at Resi’s journey through its first TV ad.

8 min read

By Charlotte Costa, Head of Growth at Resi.
Picture © Freddie Ardley

My growth and marketing experience up until now has been heavily digital. Like most digital marketers, I’m comfortable using channels where I can easily measure the return on investment –  which is not the case for television. But despite the rise of digital, TV still has significant reach. Many people still watch TV on a regular basis and it fosters an “as seen on TV” trust factor which is essential in our industry.

Resi has been operating for seven years, bringing an innovative technological approach to traditional architecture. We decided it was the right time for us to hit TV because we wanted to accelerate our brand awareness to help us move from successful start-up to confirmed scale-up. Given that in our line of work we’re dealing with large budgets that directly affect people’s homes, word of mouth, personal recommendations and trust are key elements in decision making. TV enables us to speak to as many people as possible and enforces an element of trust and brand credibility.

All that said, when we started our TV journey, it was a bit like renovating a house. We didn’t really know where to begin, who to contact – especially not how much it would cost. Now the ad is finally live on prime time ITV, I’ve put together a series of articles to share everything we didn’t know about making a TV ad to help other startups or scale-ups considering this marketing channel find their feet. In this article, I’ll discuss how we went about choosing a creative agency, how much shooting a TV ad can cost, what that includes and how to reduce the budget where possible.

1. Determine your objectives

Before you start talking to agencies, it’s essential to outline what you actually hope to achieve by investing in TV advertising. Making a TV ad is very expensive and time-consuming so jumping in without knowing what you’re aiming for is potentially really wasteful. So, first things first, I made a list of our top priorities to help keep us on track later on:

  • Increase public knowledge and recognition of Resi – as a little-known brand, I knew it could be a real challenge.
  • Communicate Resi’s revolutionary role in a traditional sector – people have a fairly good understanding of architecture practices but what we do is a little bit different so explaining this properly was really important.
  • Get across to a wider audience why Resi is a credible and trustworthy choice.

2. Choose your partners

There are many more players in the process of running a TV ad than I could have anticipated. We’re talking communications agencies that introduce you to media buying agencies, who then introduce you to creative agencies that work alongside production agencies. The list goes on!

As a quick overview you will probably need:

  • A communications agency: Unless you are rock-solid on your audience and messaging, a communications agency can be a really good investment. Considering how big your investment in TV will be, spending a little bit more to ensure that you’re saying the right things to the right people makes sense.
  • A creative agency: This is the agency that will take your messaging and transform it into a creative concept with a script and storyboard.
  • A production agency: These are usually managed by the creative agency in order to transform their vision into your final creative.
  • A media buying agency: This is the agency that will get your ad “out there” by buying the airtime. I’m not going to talk in too much detail about media buying in this series and the reason is that we ran our ad campaigns as part of ITV’s Media for Equity portfolio and so our media buying was relatively straightforward. I might circle back on this at a later date with insights into what we learned about broadcast times, different regions, etc but as the first campaign is still currently running, it’s too soon to judge what our key learnings are.

3. Choosing the right creative agency

Trusting the people who are communicating your company’s message is key, particularly when it’s on a platform with such a large reach (and with a considerable budget invested). Our main criteria for selecting an agency included:

  • Recommendations from our network (other entrepreneurs, ITV, our communication agency Craft Media)
  • Budget (as we are a scale-up)
  • Timing as we needed to go live very quickly
  • An understanding of Resi’s DNA and product offering
  • Excellent messaging and innovative ideas as we had quite a complicated concept to communicate in 30 seconds

Managing the pitches

Prior to the initial agency pitches, we didn’t share too much information about Resi. This enabled us to judge how much research each agency had done and whether they “got us”, whether they understood our product and style.

Once you’ve got a good feeling for the agency’s approach, the more information you can provide for them the better as this will help them develop their creative to ensure it connects with your target audience.

You should be ready with:

  • Your communication and planning strategy.
  • A definition of what success will look like
  • The 5-year vision for the company
  • Your target audience analysis and breakdown (Craft Media helped us complete our initial research as they have access to national data)

TV ad - choosing a creative agency © Craft Media

Other key pieces of information to present to a creative agency include:

  • A clear messaging framework (for the uninitiated, this is a set of words and phrases in order of importance that are used to represent and deliver information about a brand).
  • Company USP/clear definition of competitive difference
  • Brands, adverts, and copy that have inspired you or where you like the style. Where do you think ‘I wish we could feel a bit like that’? A particular inspiration of mine was a series of ads by French DIY retailer Leroy Merlin. Their ads manage to clearly explain the product proposition while channelling an emotional feel which, I believe, is precisely the right approach when we’re talking about something as personal as people’s homes:

Other ad references that came up during the creative process were the  simplicity of the B&Q messaging, the humour of Purple Bricks, and the emotive effect of Zoopla.

We met with three impressive agencies who outlined their vision for the ad, which gave us a great insight into how Resi was understood as a business. These were The Outfit, iye and Big Small.  We chose to work with The Outfit. We really appreciated their team’s motivation, their speed in coming up with ideas that suited our brand as well as their creativity.

4. Working out costs

Costing the ad

A straightforward TV ad production will cost between £100-200k.

This generally includes:

  • Creative concepts for the ad
  • Script/ casting/ location/ music/ shoot brief/wardrobe
  • Production process
  • Director’s Treatment & DOP
  • TV shoot ( Shoot elements/ TV shoot) (on ours we had 30 people on the shoot so that’s quite a lot of resource)
  • Edits/ Voiceover / End frame / Music
  • Clearcast validation

Extra content: The extra content uses the same creative but with different mediums (photos/ animations/short and long versions/ prints etc …), depending on where they are broadcast.

  • web movie content (an extra £5K (+-15%)
  • Social media creative
  • Several formats: add length (around an extra £8K)

Costs will rapidly increase if you need to include:

  • Brand strategy
  • Special creative elements (e.g. motion design, special effects, complicated scenery)
  • Casting (actors used, their image rights)
  • Music chosen (royalties, licensing)

On top of those costs, you need to factor in the cost of media buying and the media plan to launch your TV spot. This means getting specific about how you want to share the news on social media, on your site and in the press.

How to keep costs low

There are various ways to reduce the overall cost. Here are a few:

  • Choose not to opt for brand strategy from the creative agency. In our case, we already had existing brand guidelines, a communication strategy, audience insights and a working messaging framework – what we really needed was a winning concept and expert production skills.
  • Choose “easy” production methods. We considered filming one of our clients talking about their experience as it would have been a very straightforward shoot. Stay away from complex and costly methods like motion design if you’re looking to keep costs down.
  • Consider hiring your own actors. But ensure that you have the correct insurance and understanding of their legal rights (particularly if you are filming with children!).
  • Find your own location. We opted for a real-life Resi renovation – partly because we had an extremely happy and generous client who was keen to share their space, for transparency purposes so the audience can see real results and because the cost of location scouting and hiring can stack up quickly.
  • Choose music carefully. Some music is incredibly hard (and expensive!) to secure the rights for.
  • Work on multiple projects with the agency. If you’re planning a long-term TV campaign with multiple creatives, not only does this give you negotiating leverage when it comes to the contract but it means you can potentially reuse assets, reducing the cost of each ad.

5. Who does what

It’s also really useful to understand who does what in the agency. It sometimes seems like there are lots of people in the loop so knowing who to go to for specific questions or why they are taking part in each meeting can be helpful:

  • Commercial Director: Sell the concept based on potential growth.
  • Head of Strategy: Develop the steps to deliver growth.
  • Account Director: Liaise between the client and the creatives.
  • Creative Director: Create the concept for the advert.
  • Director: Instruct, guide and create the set while filming.
  • Producer: Manage all the important behind-the-scenes aspects of a shoot.

…This is just a snapshot of the huge team of around 30 people on set when it came to actually filming the ad.

In the next article I’ll talk more about the creative process and the filming itself, the lessons we learned and what we’d do better next time.

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