JL Audio is a U.S. manufacturer of high-end consumer audio products. Great presentation of their products is critical for sales, so a considerable amount of their creative budget goes to photography — high-quality photography where the lighting, props, and layout are just right. These shots are divided into tabletop “catalog product shots” and more conceptual “beauty shots.”
The cost to shoot both photo styles can add up, so creative director Andrew Sheehy started asking himself these questions:
- “Is this the best use of JL Audio’s production budget?”
- “What type of photos are the best investment and how would his team know?”
- “Would a different allocation of photography affect future product sales?”
If you’re reading this post, you’ve probably asked yourself similar questions. Creative teams are often required to justify the return on their investments to keep their budgets alive. After all, the creative process exists to bring an organization’s business strategy to life in a compelling way. In the end, that means driving revenue. But marrying hard numbers to creative work is no easy feat, especially when soft information like anecdotal research or customer testimonials is the only direct measure linked to a piece of creative content.
Many companies fail when they don’t allocate enough money for creative and marketing work. But with budgets comes the responsibility to manage them well. That means using data to help drive your spending instead of relying solely on previous budget numbers and hunches.
The link between a good budget and good creative work
You may often wish budgets didn’t exist, but clear budgets are incredibly important to successful creative output. Basing your budget on your creative strategy makes it easier to identify the areas that have the highest impact on ROI and demand the most investment. If you’re looking for an example of a good budget, HubSpot offers some great templates to manage your marketing and creative spend.
The long and short is, creatives love to create and will usually work as hard and as long as it takes to do their best work. A clear budget allows creatives to monitor their time, produce the best work possible, and still help your organization stay profitable.
Components of a creative production budget
So what does a typical creative budget consist of? It varies from organization to organization, but these are key components you can expect to include.
- Market research
- Voiceover talent
- Model talent
- Photo shoots and retouching
- Video shoots and editing
- Creative testing
The secret is to look at your creative goals and allocate percentages in each of these areas according to their weight in accomplishing those goals.
Using data to guide your budget
Managing your creative budget isn’t only about allocating dollars and time. It’s about using the right tools to support your creative strategy. Now, let’s go back to the company we mentioned at the beginning of this post, JL Audio.
To understand which photos people were engaging with most, the creative director started using the Insights analytics app in Widen’s digital asset management (DAM) platform. With the Quick Assets feature, he was able to see individual asset data like embed views, downloads, and shares — tangible numbers that hold meaning when it comes to ROI. He quickly realized a few things:
- JL Audio’s "catalog" shots were far more popular than their "beauty" shots.
- They could cut back on the amount of "beauty" shots they were shooting and editing.
- They could save time and money retouching unused images, then reinvest those dollars in other creative areas.
“This knowledge is saving us unnecessary time and money spent on shooting and retouching unused images. We can focus the ‘beauty’ shots on our own internal needs and not over-produce them.” - Andrew Sheehy, Creative Director, JL Audio
Ultimately, the data DAM provides can help creative teams focus their spending and create budgets that deliver results.
- JL Audio can now focus photography spending on catalog shots, which also means less money spent on editing and retouching.
- The money saved can be reinvested in other areas of creative work.
- Andrew can continually review content analytics to see which photos are performing the best and promote them.
Things to remember:
- Good budgets make sure creative strategy happens.
- Share budgets with your creative team so they understand their accountability in your team’s ROI.
- Put the most dollars against the strategies and tactics that bring the most ROI.
- Use DAM data to assess your content performance using tangible numbers.
So, what are you waiting for? Learn all the ways a good DAM solution can support your creative work and help guide your budget.
Your creative budget checklist
Here’s a quick list of things to check off as you develop your creative production budget: