How to avoid blowing the budget big time

This case study is an amalgam of incidents we have encountered and illustrates how an advertiser can spend more than twice their budget on a tv production.

The brief

: The client provided a brief for the development of a major tv production to be utilised over the next two years. A production budget of $300,000 was specified.. The on-air date was 12 weeks ahead.

Creative development

: The agency developed a numner of concepts over the following three weeks that were presented for approval. The advertiser accepted one concept and rejected the others as they were off-brief. The agency was asked to develop additional concepts as the current practice of the advertiser was to concept test before committing to production. The agency developed additional concepts over the following two weeks, which were presented and all three concepts went into research.


After two weeks of testing, the results of the research indicated that the original concept was clearly the one preferred by the target audience. This concept was then approved to proceed to pre-production.


The agency provided the showreels of three directors for approval. These were approved for quoting. An estimate for $750,000 was presented almost two weeks later. The competitive estimates were within $20,000 of the recommended estimate. There was now just 4 weeks to the on-air date.

The options:


1. The advertiser asked the agency to obtain further quotes. The agency responded that this would take time and already the production schedule was tight. The agency maintained that this concept required a highly skilled and therefore expensive director to do the concept justice.

2. The advertiser asked the agency to re-look at the estimate and see what saving could be negotiated. The agency returned 48 hours later with a $25,000 reduction, declaring the estimate had been cut to the bone.

3. The advertiser concidered asking the agency to prepare another concept that was within budget, but rejected this as it would require research. In the end that advertiser had no option but to approve the production at $725,000 and bought forward funds from future media to accommodate the difference.


There are a number of steps the advertiser could have taken to manage this process more effectively. The three most obvious are:

1. Have a schedule prepared at the time of briefing and before media is booked, that takes into consideration the time required for all stages of the project including: concept development, research, approvals and production to avoid running out of time and options.

2. Ask the agency producer to provide a “Ballpark” production estimate at the time the concept is presented or at least before any concept research. Inform the agency producer that you will require the “ballpark” estimate to be within 10% of the final estimate.

3. If the agency believe the solution cannot be achieved for the budget, ask them to support this by presenting concepts that can be achieved for the budget as well as their preferred concept. In this way the advertiser can compare the quality and suitability of the proposed solutions before committing to the additional budget requirements.

Author: Darren Woolley