Opinion: Of Glorious Campaigns and Tight Budgets…

Good campaign low budget

Mitchelle Carvalho, CEO of CogMat, shares her take and a few learnings on executing a substantial campaign with a relatively low budget. Read on to understand how to rise above the dichotomy of Good campaign low budget

This has been in the works for a while now but here I am finally writing a few pieces for the kind and patient folks at Social Samosa on things that matter to us Digital Media Industry folk.

Through this column, I shall talk about insights, observations and trends in our Industry. Things that affect us, things that don’t. Some heavy, some light. Hope you like what you read.

Today’s article is inspired by a Twitter thread I was following some time ago. Just like Arya Stark during her tutelage at the House of Black and White, this tweet belongs to “A person who has no name.”

However, said nameless person had a sentiment that I think is important to address.

To paraphrase said person – “Agencies are letting go off campaigns with solid ideas because client budgets are low. Sadly, retainers eat into overall digital marketing budgets and agencies that are unwilling to sacrifice said fees are losing out on opportunities to create campaigns that are worthwhile.”

Here is a statement that rings true in our industry on almost every level. Anyone and everyone who is part of the Digital Media Industry on either Client or Agency side have faced this at some point.

We longingly look at great ideas developed that had cracker potential only to see them rest quietly in a folder far, far away (mostly in drive C:\)

Who should be held responsible for this –  Client? Agency? Both? None? Tyrion?

There are two “key” phrases in the statement I wish to touch upon – ‘Campaigns with solid ideas’ and ‘Retainers eat into overall digital marketing budgets’.

Also Read:Case Study: How Shoppers Stop garnered 20K+ product visualizations without paid promotion

Not absolving or blaming anyone but here’s some perspective on agencies (since I run one) and reasons why we often, reluctantly, give up on good campaigns for lack of budgets:

Campaigns with solid ideas: No one understands this better than us agency folk. We’ve all spent many a sleepless night working on campaign pitches for potential or current clients. Pitches that are a result of countless hours of research, dipstick surveys, brand comprehension study, competition analysis and current industry trends. Pitches that are a result of that “One Great Thought” after countless hours of arguing and haggling following all that research. Pitches that we know, have the power to create a positive impact for a brand. Though some agencies in India (I call them The Big Daddies) charge to pitch for a brand, most agencies don’t and are often times asked for iterations and changes for a second round with newer ideas. 

While agencies still do this because of #RoziRoti, any agency in question has to put its best minds to work on such pitches and the execution thereon if they win the account.

These best minds are employees of a company and their time is billable. ‘Billables’ have a value attached to them and that value is Money which brings me to the next “key” phrase

Retainers eat into overall digital marketing budgets: While most argue that there are no standard annual retainer values for our Industry one must also remember that there are no standard values for salaries either. 

Every agency decides its annual retainer fee basis a Cost Sheet they’ve created. This cost sheet is arrived at by calculating the value of the team on the account (copy, design, creative strategy, client services, media management, HoD) plus additional tools, utilities, rent, and profit (Hahaha, #ProfitKyaHotaHai). It is basis this retainer value that a team is allocated to carry out digital or social media campaigns and daily management duties.

If one is asked to reduce this value, in essence, one is asking to reduce the structure of the team that will be largely responsible for executing these well-thought-out campaigns. A brand needs a capable team to bring great campaigns to fruition and such teams come with a cost, hence a certain retainer value. This obviously poses a conundrum – can great campaigns be executed without compromising on the quality of resources?

#YehSabTheekHai but can something be done?

CogMat has been around for 9 years and we’ve had our share of “Low Budget but want to execute great Idea” dichotomy and here are three ways in which one could address such an issue:

Find a cost-effective alternative to the main concept: Say the star idea is a live-action 45-second video that segues into the remainder of the campaign. However, the conceptualization and production of this video is eating into a large portion of the budget. You could think of cost-effective alternatives like Motion Graphic Videos or even multiple GIFs, helping you work the same messaging just in a different format.

Explore the power of User-Generated Content: This is an alternative to Influencer/PR collaborations that may eat into your budgets. If you have a brand page that has active people participation – create content (boosted with minimum spends) that compels your users to give you stories that you can spin into great content pieces for your brand. A little gratification, not always monetary, goes a long way in building a genuine base of users who follow your brand because they identify with you.

Be Judicious with Media Spends: As much as the core idea of a campaign is for it to be seen everywhere, careful selection of platforms where your ads are shown can be an effective way of working with a tight budget. After careful assessment of your TG’s digital/social media consumption habits, place ads on select platforms for an effective and meaningful campaign.

These are a few temporary solutions to deal with the issue of low budgets, however, as agencies, we must be responsible for continuously educating both current and potential clients on the power of digital media marketing and the desired results they could bring to the brand and then hopefully, Glorious Campaigns will receive Glorious Budgets.


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