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A rant

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Dylan HargreavesA rant
by on May 11, 2011 at 8:29:10 pm

Sometimes, you've just gotta shake your head in disbelief, you really do.

We got approached the other day by a 'media communications agency', asking if we could produce a viral for one of their clients.

They wanted the full shebang - from concept up, something we specialise in, and the project sounded pretty good - basically to increase brand awareness for an online tech magazine.

So I read through the brief, which was all gravy until I got to the budget. £3000 - about 5k in your American dollars.

And that was all in. The creative, the production, any costs, all of it. Of course, the only platform they had identified for this viral was good all YouTube.

Remember, this wasn't some clueless client contacting us direct with no experience of internet marketing at all, this was a 'media communications agency'.

So I gave them a little call. Told them I liked their brief, that we could make them a really cool video, but we had to talk about their budget.

The young lady then came out with the classic line, 'it doesn't have to be anything fancy, just like a handheld camera or something.'

It was about this time, I realised I was talking to a complete idiot. I then told her that the £3k would barely cover a basic seeding and syndication strategy for the viral at which point the young lady said, 'seeding and what?'

She had no idea. None. She thought you could just fart out a 'viral' stick it on YouTube along with the 68,000 other hours of video that gets stuck up there every day and that that's enough. Job done, you have a viral.

A 'media communications agency' remember. With absolutely zero idea about how to use media to communicate.

Thing is, I don't mind so much when I'm approached by the client themselves to produce them something and they have no idea about the production process. A lot of the time they would have no reason to know about it and I'm happy to talk them through it, and be honest about costs, give them options and just generally take care of them.

But these bloody agencies and PR types. God, I'm starting to hate them. This particular agency has offices in central London - they will be turning over well in excess of 8 figures a year and yet they know squat.

It's their client whom I feel sorry for. They've probably been schmoozed and told how well looked after they'll be and handing over good money to these chumps who then try and spend as little of it as possible actually doing what they're being paid to do.

I was that close today to phoning up the client direct and asking if they realised how their money was being spent - because they'll be paying a damn site more than £3000 for their viral, the bulk of it going to some clueless middleman.

I didn't though, for reasons I'm not too sure about other than that it just didn't feel right. I left it with the young lady that I would draw up a proper budget to do this project properly, including putting a value on the creative side - something she had just taken for granted - as well as a proper seeding strategy.

To be honest, I don't even know if I should waste my time doing that. They'll see the costs, run a mile and go looking for the chump with a camera who will make them a waste of bandwidth that'll generate a few dozen views on YouTube. Good luck to them. And good luck to their client.

Rant over.


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Mark SuszkoRe: A rant
by on May 11, 2011 at 9:35:33 pm

I sympathize. And I'm glad your better instincts took hold before you ratted them out to the client. That's not your place, and it would make you look small.

I have no answers for you but two observations.

One: don't worry too much about them getting their just desserts. If they are really as incompetent as you make them out to be, things will have a way of catching up to them, without your helping it along. Hating somebody else or being jealous is like you taking poison, hoping it kills THEM.

Two: when I get a little down from situations like this, I try to counter it by stepping up my own game. Not necessarily for that client, but for SOMETHING of worth or interest. I look for something creative to throw myself at, either at work or in personal life, and I convert the anger and frustration into fuel for the muse. I seem to do some of my best and fastest writing work when I am royally P.O.'d.

I remember coming back from a client meeting once, just seething internally because what was on the table was so awful and incompetent. About an hour later, I presented my boss with about a 20-page script that kicked *ss, and he asked where it had come from.

"Anger", I said: "And the need to see somebody do it right." We handed that in to the client and they were so impressed with the speed and breadth and vision (okay we get it already-ed)of the spontaneous spec submission, it turned the whole project around.

You can't save them all, especially when they don't wanna be saved. And you can't punish 'em all, then again, that's not your department.
Just do the best you can for anybody you CAN help, and let the rest sort itself as fate will allow. Find someone worth your skill and talent and make them a present of it.


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Andrew RendellRe: A rant
by on May 12, 2011 at 12:53:00 pm

I've had a handful of that kind of impossible task come across my path and very quickly learned to take the approach of saying that I wasn't the right person for the job, pointing out that they'd only get inexperienced crew for that kind of money and wishing them the best of luck with it. A couple of times I've then been reapproached a couple of months later and effectively given the option of writing my own check! At least once it became apparent that the person contacting me was new to the business and didn't know any better and their boss/supervisor shouldn't have put them in that position.


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Mike CohenRe: A rant
by on May 12, 2011 at 5:40:23 pm

Are you sure the agency is not doing the advertising (ie, getting the word out) for the video? It seems like the video would be part of a larger message strategy.

Mike Cohen


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Malcolm MatuskyRe: A rant
by on May 12, 2011 at 8:34:13 pm

A clueless client? How unusual!

An opportunity to up-sell, no more, no less. Tell them that for the scope of the project, the budget is unrealistic for you to do. Stress that you have "standards" and though they can get "anyone" to take their money, will they receive a project that they can use, or will meet their needs? Doubtful.

I have found that people always want more than they can afford, you have to make a profit and protect your reputation. If you can do that by getting the client to increase the budget, or decrease the scope of work you can cut a deal. If not, there is no deal to be made and they have to shop elsewhere or not do the project.

I have found out (later) that I was in competition with either an employee who "had his own video camera and software" and could do it cheaper..." because he was already drawing a salary from the company! or someone's kid in high school, who was living for free and could undercut any job, presuming he was not grounded and could actually deliver. These are not competitors, they are a waste of your time. If the client is looking for this level of production, let it pass and find better clients who actually value your services and professionalism.

Business can be grossly unfair, but it is for you to determine if the job is viable or complete BS! I have had a few clients over the years that, in retrospect, would have been much better off if I passed on the job and never had any dealings with them. Financial desperation can ruin better judgement, no one is immune from that!

Good luck.

Malcolm
http://www.malcolmproductions.com


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Dylan HargreavesRe: A rant
by on May 13, 2011 at 8:51:30 am

I made it clear to the client that I would not be undertaking the job at the price were offering. We're established enough with enough work coming in that we don't have to work for cheap jerks.

My little rant was just that. Venting a bit about this company's lack of scruples. I also left the young lady's best line out.

Me: "So your marketing strategy for the viral is just to get it up on YouTube? You're aiming at a very defined audience - technology buffs - I think you should consider a targeting your approach more."

Her: "Yeah, but it's a pretty niche audience. There's probably not that many places out there for the viral to go."

I kid you not.


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Mick HaenslerRe: A rant
by on May 13, 2011 at 2:54:32 pm

The mere fact that they approached you to do "a viral" shows their lack of media knowledge. A video isn't "a viral" until it goes...well...viral. You don't produce a viral, you produce a video in hopes that it goes viral.

Mick Haensler
Higher Ground Media


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Mark SuszkoRe: A rant
by on May 13, 2011 at 3:03:05 pm

You can ask Sony's PSP games division about that:-)


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Nick GriffinRe: A rant
by on May 14, 2011 at 3:10:38 pm

[Mick Haensler] "You don't produce a viral, you produce a video in hopes that it goes viral."

Bingo, Mick.

Because we offer a range of services that includes things like strategic planning, advertising concepts and PR we get to see fairly deeply into our clients' businesses. We also are able to ask a lot of questions of prospective clients. A few years ago we were shown the business plan of a new company by someone who was considering investing in it. Their entire marketing plan was "create a video which will go viral, giving us all the exposure we'll need and that way we won't have to spend money on conventional marketing." Genius, much like the people Dylan describes above.

I was tempted to say, "Oh, that's simple. Here, let me open this file cabinet by my desk and look into the 'ideas that will go viral' folder."


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Bob ZelinRe: A rant
by on May 14, 2011 at 10:40:10 pm

I was tempted to say, "Oh, that's simple. Here, let me open this file cabinet by my desk and look into the 'ideas that will go viral' folder."


that's very funny. Like someone that wants you to write a "big hit song" for them. I heard an interview with a member of Deep Purple a long time ago, where he was asked "how come you can't write another song like Highway Star". Of course the real problem, is that the agency "producer" has no clue, probably makes a very low salary, and she saw her other 24 year old friends make "fun videos" on YouTube with their iPhone 4, so how hard could it be !

Bob Zelin



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grinner hesterRe: A rant
by on May 15, 2011 at 3:59:57 pm

weird. When folks call and ask for a 5k video that'll only take me two days here, I just ask when the call time is.



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Patrick OrtmanRe: A rant
by on May 24, 2011 at 8:04:54 pm

Mark Said:
"Two: when I get a little down from situations like this, I try to counter it by stepping up my own game. Not necessarily for that client, but for SOMETHING of worth or interest. I look for something creative to throw myself at, either at work or in personal life, and I convert the anger and frustration into fuel for the muse. I seem to do some of my best and fastest writing work when I am royally P.O.'d."

And I agree! It's so awesome to turn something bad into something good. Sometimes it's a hard turn, but worth it every time.

----------------------------
PatrickOrtman, Inc.
Los Angeles Digital Agency and Video Production Company


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