Spielberg or Ridley Scott, who is the right director for your TVC?

tvc director

If you had the budget which director would you choose? and why?

Most advertisers leave the selection of a TVC director up to the agency. And rightly so, it is often very difficult to recognise what a director has actually brought to a project apart from management and communication skills (or is this all that is required of a great director?) And the agency, especially the Executive Creative Director, will remind you the selection of the director will make or break the production and no advertiser will want to put the whole production budget at risk.

Let’s face it, making an audio-visual communication whether it’s a 2 hour long narrative or a 30 second TVC is a team effort. So not only do you have to be mindful of who the director is but who his or her team is, is just as important.

Of course the TVC budget will often have a bearing on the director. I have worked on many TVCs where the agency put forward directors that were way over the advertiser’s indicated budget and the agency has had to go back and find more affordable directors. This means the agency has wasted their own resources and the advertiser’s time (money) all because the agency thought they could talk the advertiser into the more expensive director.

Personally, I applaud these advertisers for standing firm, after all, what is a target budget for? When I see the cheaper director’s result I often wonder what the more expensive director would have brought to the table because if the TVC is tightly scripted and storyboarded the director has very little room for improvement.

I have seen expensive (often touted as more “creative” than the alternatives) directors bring extra content into the TVC that needed a well scripted 30 second TVC to be extended to a 45 second TVC thus playing hell with the media buy. The 45 sec TVC gets a few spots on air to comply with the eligibility for award entries and then the media schedule goes back to the originally scripted 30s.

So what has been achieved here? The advertiser has paid out more than necessary just so the agency can put the 45 sec TVC into award shows as a Director’s Cut and the TVC if it does win awards has little in common with the actual TVC most viewers saw and what is really annoying is that the 45 second version has no enhancement of the advertisers communication. Just added action to the director’s story telling.

During my time as an agency producer I had requests from creative team members that the agency engage a certain director, here are some reasons.

Reason 1

Agency creative: “I would like to use director X on this job.”

Me: “Why?”

Agency creative: “He has taken me out to dinner quite a few times and I feel I owe it to him.”

Me: “Hmmmmm we’ll see.”

The TVC in question was a car commercial, a direct copy of an ad out of the US. Director X had no car experience whatsoever, and wanted to inject his own creative ideas into the TVC. The advertiser rejected director X and instead we used a competent director that had a lot of car experience and gave the advertiser a frame for frame copy of the US TVC. This was exactly what the advertiser wanted and for considerably less than director X.

Reason 2

Me: “Why do you want to use director Z ? Any competent director could do this”.

Agency creative: “Director Z has an excellent cellar.”

Me: “You’re kidding me.”

Agency creative: “He’s got some great reds.”

Me: “Yeh”.

Agency creative: “He has promised me, we will get to sample quite a few if we give him this gig”.

Me: “Sounds reasonable.”

Director Z went on to direct the TVC and true to his word, we got to sample quite a few of his excellent reds.

At an earlier stage in my career I was a TVC director myself. One agency in particular used me for almost every TVC that they created, this was a wonderful boost to my ego, bank balance and career. It was about a year later that I discovered my producer was giving the agency a 10% kick back for every dollar they spent with us. Soon after I discovered this I went back to working on feature films.

So what have we learnt?

That there are many reasons why an agency will choose a certain director for a job, not all of them are in the advertiser’s best interests or budget. After all, the selection process may not be rigorous or have the due diligence you may expect for such a significant spend of your marketing budget.

So if you suspect you are not getting the whole story ask an independent advisor who knows about such things.

Our Production Management Assessment provides a detailed evaluation of your current production operation and recommendations to achieve optimal performance. Learn more