Production crew filming TV ad for QSR.

5 Ways QSR Marketers Can Control TV Production Costs

Just knowing a few questions to ask and who to ask can lead to significant TV production savings.

When you’re a regional QSR, getting to develop a creative commercial is fun. Getting the estimate…not so much.

First, there’s the shock of seeing the total cost. Then, there’s the shock of getting the 16-page estimate you asked to see with endless line items and terms you don’t understand—key grip, craft service, lens kit, etc. Do we need all that?

Then, there’s the tree full of owls starring at you when you ask if there are ways to trim the budget. But that doesn’t mean you have to give up.

I spoke with producer and cost control consultant Brian Glitt recently about how QSR marketers can confidently question costs and keep their productions as efficient as possible.

Here are 5 ways that should help you better challenge and control your productions:

1. Question your talent-buy

Talent costs are one of the most significant line items in any production—and one of the most confusing. On-camera, or off-camera. Principal, or extra. Union, or non-union. National media-buy, or spot market-buy. Talent-buyout, or cycle-buy. One-edit version, or ten-edit versions. But you don’t have to be a talent expert to keep your talent efficient. Just try these tips:

  • Keep as much of your talent local as possible to avoid travel fees and extra day rates.
  • Make sure you’re not paying national broadcast rates if, as a regional QSR, you will only air regionally, or in select markets.
  • Avoid a talent buyout if you only intend to run the spot for a single 13-week cycle—like an LTO offer.
  • Negotiate a talent buyout if the spot is a core brand spot that you know you will want to run again next year, or more than two 13-week cycles.
  • Limit unnecessary spot versions. Any change or edit option is considered another spot from a talent standpoint. So, try to limit your spot versions to necessary price changes and content you have to change. Doing versions because you like multiple performance takes can be costly.

2.  Check the markup

Each production has a set markup associated with it. This is usually located on the first page of the budget and is listed as the “production fee.” As with any business, the production company has to make a profit. They do that by adding a production fee to the budget. Keep an eye out for exuberant production fees.

The industry standard is approximately 22% markup. However, the larger the production company the higher the production fee can be.

There should never be a production fee higher than 30% on any budget.

3. Limit travel

Travel costs can add tens of thousands of dollars to a single production. Each person traveling can easily range between three to four thousand dollars. So, be sure to:

  • Limit travel to only key agency and company personnel travel.
  • Ask production company/agency to use as much local crew and talent as possible.
  • Avoid script concepts that call for exotic locations where crew and equipment will require transportation and lodging.

4. Minimize moving parts

The more moving parts in a production, the higher the costs to film. This goes for everything from cars being filmed to number of locations. If your goal is to keep costs down, make sure your campaign has as few moving parts as possible: one location, one camera and limited talent.

5. Consider a cost controller

If you really want to feel confident about your production costs, or where to cut costs without compromising quality, insist on a cost controller. A cost controller will go through each budget line item, make recommendations for money-saving opportunities and keep an eye out for any hidden costs within the budget.

Cost controllers are often paid a retainer fee as well as a per-budget fee.

Typically, cost control consultants can save anywhere from 10-20% on a budget. They are also extremely helpful if brought to the shoot, as they can watch for things such as meal penalties and overages.

Hope these tips are helpful to you. Sometimes just being able to ask questions about these topics will immediately cause a production company to more closely evaluate costs and produce savings. Good luck.

The producer mentioned above is Brian Glitt, owner and executive producer of The AdPro Group in Nashville, TN. He has more than a decade of pre-production, production and post-production experience in broadcast, new media, tabletop, integrated marketing, advertising, television specials and cost control consulting. 

photo credit: Pat Buckley

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