BUDGETING AND PRODUCTION
“…the network’s content operations budget is determined largely by a spectrum of variables.”
In the same way that good creative content is a make or break element for just about any digital signage project, so is a solid, realistic budget.
Even a great looking network can fail if the content stays on the screen past its “Best Before” date – it was left on because there was no budget for new material. In building a good creative content budget, the network owner/operator needs to clearly come to terms with what will be needed, what it should cost, and then who to use as the primary content/creative firm.
It will rarely, if ever, make sense to get creative produced by a variety of third-party content shops. It’s a good way to test capabilities and working relationships, but there are no efficiencies in regularly starting from scratch with new creative directors and designers.
Cost efficiencies come when the client and supplier get into long-term engagements that let the production team know there is a substantial financial incentive. That commitment also lets them plan efficiencies through having a content plan, materials in hand, foundational material that can be repurposed, and faster production times based on getting to know and understand the client’s needs and style.
To help content companies understand needs, and then bid properly on that work, network operators can help enormously by doing a profile and audit of their expectations and needs. Their pricing and therefore the network’s content operations budget is determined largely by a spectrum of variables.
Operators need to understand how many pieces of content, both original and built off templates, will need to be developed for the term of engagement. They can get to that by determining certain factors:
- number of content zones on a screen, on a typical channel (or program)
- number of channels
- duration of average channel playlists
- number of playlists in a channel (for example, there may be different playlists by time of day or week)
- frequency that content needs to get changed (for example, every four weeks)
- ratio of fresh content versus template
- the amount, type, and quality of source material
Operators will also want to understand the client’s expectations, specifically who is doing what. Who, for example, will do the quality control check on work — which may well involve emulating the display network’s set-up in the production offices, to effectively see how finished work will really look in the wild.
The content production team, if they’re good and seasoned, will want to take a very logical, methodical approach to production. The more they know, the better they can plan and accurately deliver budget estimates.
The network operator may well be checking out several potential production shops, and the only way that team can get to an apples to apples comparison of real costs and capabilities is by plotting it all out.
So who to choose...
A network operator’s best option is not likely to be a mainstream ad agency, because their processes are not set up typically for high volume, repetitive business. They build big campaigns on very big budgets. One spot may cost $500,000 or more, and that would do a LOT of digital signage work. Maybe a year of it.
Agencies also don’t have core competencies that relate to digital signage. Creatively, their work will be first rate. But digital signage and digital out-of-home will be utterly foreign to agencies, and they’ll have no experience and insight into the challenges of audience and venue dynamics, environmental condition, and all the technical work that gets sorted out by pure-play shops.
For many reasons, a production team that has an understanding and a passion for this sector will make far more sense. A network operator should look for a team that produces the sort of visual work that is appealing. But the filter in making final choices should also have a lot to do with chemistry, experience, and process.