How Creative Drives and Impacts TV Ad Production Costs

Along with media selection, creative is a key driver of advertising outcomes. Few factors will impact the performance of your campaign more than the creative you run. That’s why it’s so important for brands to nail their TV creative, especially if they’re new to the medium.

TV Can Build Brands, Drive Performance and Appeal to Emotions

Brands preparing to advertise on TV understandably can get nervous about the creative. There’s a lot riding on getting it right, given the campaign’s potential to perform, the premium content that’s on-air, and the need for brands to show their best selves. But that pressure does not have to mean brands must sacrifice performance for brand building, or vice versa.

TV Ad Cost Containment: Creative Doesn’t Necessarily Require a Huge Budget

When it comes to budgeting overall, consider following the 20/80 rule: spend 20% of your total budget on production and 80% on TV media costs. So, for a $1 million budget, we’d recommend $200K on production and $800K for media.

Your production budget tells the creative team the box they need to work within, but it does not define the quality of an idea. You can draw them a $10,000 production box and they’ll work with that. If it’s a $50,000 production budget, they’ll work with that. Same with $150,000 and on up. The larger the production budget, the more expansive the creative thinking can be.

Just remember, it’s a lot harder to produce a great TV spot for $10,000. It can be done, but you need to accept an extreme level of simplicity. It’s a bit like having $10 and wanting a steak. You can do it, but the steak you get may be really small. Or, you can get something else that’s really awesome to eat for $10, but it won’t be a steak.

We asked Meryl Draper, CEO and founder of award-winning creative agency Quirk, to share a rough ballpark of various creative and tv ad production budgets. Here’s what we learned:

Tier 1: Under $50,000

For this budget, the most realistic type of spot is a fully animated spot. Animated spots can be produced with smaller budgets because, naturally, you’re not paying for crew or equipment. Focus on making the spot(s) modular and set up strategic A/B/C/D tests. This will enable you to walk away with learnings around messaging and more, which can be applied to future spots, even if they’re live action instead of animated.

Tier 2: $80,000-$120,000

At this spend level, you’re likely looking at a one-day shoot with a small-to-moderate crew. A one-day shoot will allow you to capture a relatively straightforward concept with a few variations. You’ll likely be shooting locally to save on budgets and tighter on bells and whistles that determine how much you can flex creatively. (For example, don’t expect to create explosions or to build an entire set).

Tier 3: $150,000+

For this budget, you can expect a bigger production with the ability to flex more, creatively speaking. This is a worthwhile spend for brands who know they want to go big, or brands who want to test a lot, since this budget range can typically afford a two-day shoot or more.

In any budget range, these are the elements that have the greatest impact on production budgets: Number of shoot days, talent, and music licensing.

Match Your Creative to Your Campaign Objectives

No matter the budget, it’s so important to know your creative goal. Draper had this to say about balancing creative with campaign objectives: “Marketers go wrong when they don’t grasp that video is nuanced, and that those nuances are creative levers that will impact the campaign’s outcome. So, aligning about goals and KPIs upfront — before a shoot, before production, and before any money is spent — is critical to ensuring the success of any video project.”

For example, if your goal is to drive conversions, we recommend that your ad creative include a call-to-action (CTA). If that CTA directs customers to your website or app, make sure you’re prepared to measure the impact on your website or app. That way, you’ll be able to assess the campaign’s impact on driving these behaviors. Simulmedia (and other providers) offers our own measurement pixels and partners with leading measurement providers to make this easier.

(Most digital advertisers know that a tracking pixel is a tiny, transparent image that’s embedded on a website or an ad to measure how many people have visited a page or seen their ad. We utilize pixels to determine how website purchases are influenced by exposure to their TV campaigns. For example, once an advertiser has the proper pixels on their website, we can match those visits to exposed visitors through household IP address matching.)

Spot Length and Quality Impacts Results and Costs

If your brand is new to the market, you may want to create a 30-second ad. This way, the ad will have more time to explain the brand and its value. The longer the ad, though, the higher the media cost. For this reason, 15-second versions may out-perform longer ad formats. The best way to find the right approach for your campaign is to create multiple versions of your ad, including both 30 and 15 second versions, and test which ones drive the best results. (We’ll explain how to test and measure results later in this playbook). Technical quality also matters. Different publishers may require different creative specifications so we can help guide you to ensure your creative can run across all publishers as we build your plan.

Tell Your Brand’s Unique Story and Emotional Appeal

While it may be tempting to recreate an idea you’ve seen play out in another ad, resist the urge to do so. Chances are, your brand’s best opportunity to perform will depend on the creative’s ability to tell your brand’s unique story, not someone else’s. Put another way, there are plenty of ads featuring founder stories, which go something like, “I’m so-and-so. I grew tired of products that suck, so I started my company to fix it.” Carefully consider whether that’s the best way to represent your brand, and don’t follow the herd!

Download our Cross-Channel TV Playbook for a more detailed guide on how to unlock audiences on both linear and connected TV.

Want to learn more? Contact us or email us at advertise@simulmedia.com.