Maximize Production Values With Minimum Budget

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Within the direct response television industry, it appears that the production value of the shows and spots has increased on the whole over the past several years. But as with all campaigns, some marketers have less money to spend than others do.


Unfortunately, the DRTV industry has long been associated in the general public's mind with the cheap-looking late-night slicer/dicer spots. This has made it harder for DRTV to be taken seriously by larger companies with existing brand images looking to sell directly to the consumer. These companies then turn to their traditional advertising agencies to create DRTV campaigns. In many cases, these agencies don't have experience in successfully creating cost-effective direct response advertising.


There are many additional factors at play today that are forcing direct response companies to become more competitive with Madison Avenue. The average price of products being sold on television has increased over the past few years. And with the new influx of Internet companies looking to drive traffic and increase name recognition, the DRTV industry has had to become even more competitive to demonstrate its collective experience in getting the consumer to take action.


It is understood that most marketers have limited budgets or want to stretch their overall annual budgets so they can test as many products as possible. Now many of you may say, "Well, if it's making money it doesn't matter." But it does. The perceived value of the product you are trying to sell is directly related to the value of its production. The reality is that with those same production dollars and a little extra effort, you can produce better-looking spots or infomercials that increase the product's perceived value, project a better brand image and broaden retail appeal.


Following are some issues to consider when putting together a production budget that will enhance the look and feel of your spot or infomercial and that won't necessarily add significantly to your overall cost.


This should go without saying, but first and foremost use a production company with DR experience. Next, make sure these basic areas, often overlooked or neglected to save money, are addressed: lighting, direction, editing, music and animation.


Lighting. It's amazing how many productions overlook this simple, yet key element. Most leave the lighting to the camera operator because it often comes in a video package deal. But for a mere $500-$750 you can hire a lighting director, who can dramatically affect the tone, quality and overall look of your production. You'll be amazed at the difference this can make.


Direction. Find a director who is willing to participate in pre-production and contribute the latest camera effects and styles to your show. This is what they're paid for. Consider using a director who has done Madison Avenue commercial work - as a result, you can get an inexpensive direct response spot with a Madison Avenue feel. Cost: $750-$1,500 per day. Make sure your director understands the product and the purpose of the demonstrations.


Editing. When it's time for post-production, keep it simple. Many people think that fancy "fly-ins" of the product, twirls and crazy wipes can make your production look like you've spent more. In truth, they look cheap and are synonymous with low-end productions. Watch the high-end spots on TV, and you'll see most are created with simple cuts and dissolves. Remember keep it clean and simple. It will cut your post-production costs and make for a better-looking show.


Music. Music sets the mood and tone of your entire commercial. Try playing a variety of music under your spot. Don't rule out anything until you hear it in the commercial. There are lots of good music libraries that have low one-time fees for usage. But don't rule out custom music. Many musicians will negotiate their rates for steady work or multiple projects. Remember, if your music doesn't move you or add to the emotion behind your product, it probably won't for the viewer either.


Animation. Animation can greatly contribute to the production value of a spot, as well as convey a complicated idea or concept in a short time. This requires a little homework, but it's well worth doing. Ask your production company to get competitive bids and work samples from several animators. 3D animation looks great but can be expensive. Find a great animator who can create 2D graphics with 3D moves. This can make all the difference.


Lastly, don't forget what you're selling. Despite everything about production values, it all comes down to telling your product's story to the viewer at home. Good luck and happy shooting.
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