When you're preparing a spec portfolio in college, or at any point in your career, you'll be tempted to throw a lot of ideas in there that need a ton of money to be thrown at them. After all, if it's spec, the sky's the limit. But the most impressive ideas - the ones that will really catch the eyes of potential employers - will be those that take very little money to make a big impact.
You Cannot Escape Small Budgets
Throughout your career, you will be faced with varying sizes of budgets. You may even be lucky enough to work on a spot that has a Super Bowl budget. Millions and millions of dollars (we'll get to that in a moment). But usually, you'll never have enough money. If you're working on a print ad, you'll want more money for the shoot than you're given. You may not even get the money you need to do any shoot.
If you're working on outdoor, you'll be begging for more money. You probably won't get it. The same goes for TV,guerrilla, direct mail and radio. There's never enough. But that shouldn't matter. Because armed with great ideas, you can overcome any budget and create something truly stunning.
To Get Around The Budget, Think About the Goal.
What is the desired outcome of the advertising? What is the client requesting? If it's maximum exposure for minimal money, consider the media. They may be asking for a print ad, but you may need to reassess that request.
In Britain in the late 90's, an agency called HPT Brand Response was tasked by the World Gold Council to create a campaign to save the UK's gold reserves. There was a print element, obviously, eliciting phone calls to petition the government to "Hold Onto Our Gold." But Steve Harrison and his team knew that print ads would not be enough. So, they took what little money they had and thought laterally. What would be a good way to get maximum exposure for the small amount of money available?
The solution was ingenious. The agency hired a barge, filled it with scrap metal (spray-painted gold), and floated it down the Thames. The barge passed the House of Commons as the bill was being debated. And that barge, with a sign saying "Gordon Brown & Co, Scrap Metal Dealers," was on every major news outlet that night, and the next morning. Their ROI was astonishing . It was one of the reasons I went to work at HPT Brand Response, and that way of thinking was expected on every assignment by Steve Harrison. I owe him a lot.
Have Great Ideas; Not Grand Ideas.
Anyone can find cool ways to spend a few million bucks. It's not difficult (although the recent Super Bowl ads are certainly trying to prove me wrong on that one). It takes a lot more work to do something clever and cool on a shoestring budget. BUT, that kind of hard work is something you should be doing on every assignment.
When you get a creative brief, by all means look at the budget to see the parameters in which you're working. However, do not let that budget equate to your level of enthusiasm on a project. No money? Then find ways to get attention without it. Some of the best viral videos in the world were done by people who owned a cell phone and captured something that captured the imagination of the public.
You can be big and bold with your creations, without being big and bold with special effects and licensed music. In fact, most of my favorite commercials and print ads were done using very little money at all. They had that certain spark that made them memorable. Money, I'm sorry to say, cannot buy that.