Saturday, September 13, 2008

Small budget, Big idea

I discovered these spots the other day on a planner’s blog.

The entire series is fabulous. The writing is incredibly amusing. This particular spot, with its repetition of “Bring on the trumpets”, is so quirky that it continues to make me smile even after a dozen viewings. And who doesn’t love the gummy bear with bravado, until the dinosaur comes along, in one of the other spots. But the thing I love most about these is their incredible simplicity. It’s just shots of gummies and a voice over. I’d love to know what the budget for this was. I do hope that the agency kept it low.

Watching these spots made me think about the campaign that was done for the Honda Element a few years back. That was the campaign that featured an animated Element in conversations with, if memory serves, a mule, a platypus and a crab. The crab spot was my favourite of the bunch, with its question “Why no pinch?” While they probably did cost more than $100k each, they really shouldn’t have.

Thinking about these spots makes me think about the power of having no budget. None of us likes having no money to work with. We get so used to spending at a certain level, that we begin to think it necessary to develop great work. But something amazing happens when you challenge a great creative team, give them the freedom to do what they do best, but without the funding that can be a crutch.

I’ve personally had the good fortune to go through this process. My client at the time, a restaurant called Bogart’s, had no money. We took them on as a client because we really liked the guy who ran the place and we thought it was a good opportunity. But his money had to go to media, not production. Fortunately, I was working with a great creative team at the time, Lara Palmer and Paul Little. The two of them came up with a way to turn stock imagery of a cow, chicken and bison into an entire campaign with a final production hard-cost of way under $50k. That little campaign won a boat load of awards, was short-listed at Cannes, and also built the client’s business very nicely, thank you very much.

There are loads of other examples of low budgets driving great ideas, particularly in secondary markets like Vancouver. Film festivals. Charities. Fairs. These things are often seen as award show fodder, but I wonder if their success is more a result of low budgets forcing great thinking. After all, if you’ve got no money, then there’s nothing else to fall back on but the craft.

addendum - I posted this the other day, then sat back and thought about it some more. I love these fruit gummy ads, but is there an "idea" behind them, or are they just well written good spots? I supposed it depends on your definition of "idea", but I might argue that they're just very good executions. Is there anything wrong with that?

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