What if we spent more on production than on media?

25 Sep


I don’t think I’ve ever worked with a client that genuinely understood the value of the production budget. It’s one of the many problems indie agencies face. When media is handled by a separate shop, it inevitably develops into an ‘us and them’ situation. The media partner decides to assume the role of arch nemesis.

The thin guy with the nice hands, expensive shirt and boring glasses, and the plump blonde with the lisp, the one who always seems in a perpetual daze and can’t stop eyeing up the last apricot danish – they’re your new worst enemies. These two people have come to this afternoon’s meeting to unnerve the client and unravel your campaign the moment your presentation finishes. Naturally, they haven’t seen the ‘idea’ until now. But there’s no way they need to know what the idea is before they design a media strategy for it.

Because this week’s research shows that even a synchronised web banner with no idea will slam the greatest idea that has ever run on television. (Plus if they sell three synchronised web banner spaces this month, they get the free trip to Rarotonga.)

But after your energetically delivered routine of risqué jokes and bold big ideas, everything the thin guy with the nice hands says sounds so easy and non-challenging.

He’s well-versed in making everything you’ve said sound totally flippant. Like William Wallace, he waits patiently until your presentation reaches its climax, and then calmly recites the statistics that prove beyond doubt that nobody watches TV anymore (which is funny, because I am sure just last week his statistics suggested the precise opposite).

Finally, the plump blonde speaks up. What a coincidence. She’s got a cheap, dirty deal on synchronised web banner space that’s already penciled in with the website. Which means the rest of your week is going to be spent desperately trying to retrofit your watered-down creative into the one place it was never intended to go. Stuff.co.nz.

Later that afternoon we’re back at the agency and its time for your debrief.

I just want to warn you that there’s no budget left for that weird one off radio ad you keep pushing down everyone’s throat. You know, the one you were here all weekend and until 2am last night perfecting. Yeah, that synchronised banner space was cheap, but building such a complex banner actually turns out to be pretty tough work for the code guys. So even though the client agrees that your radio ad would be wonderful and award-winning and utterly hilarious… yeah, they’re going to have to cut it. Guess you’d better get to work making this web banner ‘pop’.


Today I wanted to talk about one New Zealand client that has willingly coughed up for production over the years.

If you’re from New Zealand you probably think of Toyota as a very local brand. Toyota, that utterly authentic Kiwi Japanese car manufacturer? You can imagine how hard it is to retain that perception. It means that everything Toyota does must feel more culturally significant and relevant than an episode of Shortland Street. Love or hate Kevin Roberts’ Lovemarks, it’s actually a pretty sophisticated strategy that has paid dividends for Toyota.

Being big, local and mainstream has regularly rewarded Toyota with some of the best car work ever to come out of this country:

And of course:

But when the production purse strings tightened for the recession, Toyota responded with some of the most irrelevant TV work to ever come out of New Zealand. Of course it’s charming, but it doesn’t sell cars:

So it’s good to see Toyota back on track with this latest commercial, presumably the outcome of having storytelling mastermind and all-round genius of detail Jeremy Taine at the helm for the last few months. An audacious script and very cool, fresh storytelling device, converted into a stylish, international quality commercial thanks to a generous spend on production. This wasn’t done cheaply.


4 Responses to “What if we spent more on production than on media?”

  1. Jared Van Huenen September 26, 2011 at 9:34 am #

    Love the latest commercial, right up until the chimp talks.

    Don’t know why but it seems to cheapen it…

    • jonoaidney September 26, 2011 at 2:47 pm #

      Totally true.

      • joegarlick September 28, 2011 at 4:45 am #

        I feel the same. Bet you it was a client suggestion. Or a media planners suggestion.

  2. Mon October 7, 2011 at 5:18 pm #


    I know you know that not all media planners are this bad. We’re really not. Well, we’re really not when it comes to in house media. I went as far as to specifically plan 10% less than briefed because I had an feeling that production was going to need more than what they were given. Some of us like to work as a team, towards the common good.

    Please don’t tar us all with the same brush.

    (also – online publishers don’t send us to pacific islands, that’s magazines…)

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