Of course the short answer to your question about the cost of an important new creative project is “It depends.” But that’s not a particularly helpful answer, so instead I like to suggest starting at the end.
Start at the end
Starting with what you want this new tool to help you accomplish is a time and cost-saving move. Think through the answers to questions like these:
- Who is your audience?
- How, where and when will you use it? (Is this a printed leave-behind introductory piece, or a display ad for mobile devices, or both?)
- What actions/behaviors do you want your audience to take? (AKA your communication objectives. Be disciplined – keep yourself to a maximum of three.)
- What is the key benefit for your audience if they do? (AKA key messages. Be prepared to support why this is a benefit with research, testimonials or examples.)
- Are there specific legal or brand requirements that must be included? (You probably won’t forget your own logo, but what about partner organizations, or a funder to be acknowledged, or a required legal disclosure?)
- Available assets? (Do you already have stunning professional photography and original illustrations that can be modified, or is original art and copy needed?)
- Deadline? (The old saying still holds true for creative production materials: You can have it fast, good or cheap— pick any two. If you absolutely must have it for an event by a certain date, that matters. Without adequate lead time, you may end up paying for rush fabrication or premium shipping charges. On the other hand, if you are flexible you may be able to get a discount if the project can be fit in around other scheduled work.)
- Quantity? Most people realize that it costs more to print more, but many are surprised to learn that photo copyright fees and talent fees are scaled based on impressions.
The creative brief
Informed by this information, your creative agency will be prepared to develop a creative brief. This document serves to translate your end point into a guide for your creative team, which depending on the project could include a copywriter, graphic designer, photographer or illustrator, video or audio producer, voice or acting talent, printer, fabricator and more. It’s only after you have approved the creative brief that “It depends” can begin to take shape in dollars.
For many projects, your creative partner will be able to give you a firm estimate or a “ballpark figure” for the cost of the project at this point. But for a complex project involving multiple specialty vendors, you’re likely to receive a two-part estimate: one part for creative concept development and a second for production. Imagine a free-standing, walk-in trade show booth with video and interactive computer displays – soliciting production estimates will need to wait until the creative has been developed and matched to fabrication or production requirements. Either way, once everyone involved has chimed in, you will finally have an estimate to approve.
The creative-production process
So how much will it cost? This may have seemed like a long answer to a short question, but thinking through the process systematically in this way will prepare you to brief your creative agency or in-house team effectively. Here’s diagram for your reference.