(Your Pricing May Vary)

When prospects decided to include Mad Men’s Don Draper and his agency in a pitch, they were looking for Don and his creative genius to sprinkle some pixie dust on their product to drive their sales or visibility, not just get an ad campaign. And there is a price for that. A price in money (certainly), but also a price in time. Whether creating traditional or digital marketing experiences, if you’re really trying to move the needle for your company as opposed to “just building a website, engaging in social media outreach or building a mobile application”, you should understand the implications of this difference.

The Don Draper Premium

The execution mechanics across the Digital Marketing landscape are pretty well understood. There are a myriad of both firms and freelancers perfectly capable of delivering solid work.  The creative insight into which levers to pull and what buttons to push and in what mix, coupled with the creativity to blend it together in one elegantly appropriate, technically effective way commands a price premium. Let’s call it “The Don Draper Premium”. And just like Don’s time, it is more costly. It has more upside, though there may be some bumps in the road given the required out-of-the-box thinking. And not every firm can deliver against this expectation, budget notwithstanding.

When reviewing bids from multiple agencies, some of whom are using a paint by numbers approach to execution while others are channeling their inner Don Draper, expect sharp price deviations, but recognize that you aren’t comparing apples-to-apples. You are comparing straight-line execution to creativity. These different approaches likely involve different personnel, different commitments of time and differing levels of risk. Think a solution that is more or less what you asked for vs. one that addresses your goals, while transcending your specific requests.

Is Your Agency Solving Your Problem or Theirs?

Amongst the questions that I am fond of asking clients at the outset of a Digital Marketing initiative are:

  • “What objective is more important to hit, the schedule or the budget?”
  • “If during the course of our project, we uncover a key insight that will fundamentally improve our outcome, but will impact our schedule, how would you expect us to proceed?”

While these theoretical questions can be easy to dismiss, they can help to surface the mindset of both teams. Is the outcome paramount? The budget? The schedule? Are you really trying to move the needle or complete the project?

Thinking about these issues prior to your final vendor decision is important to assure that you and your vendor are aligned – and that you stay aligned as the project unfolds. If your vendor is trying to channel their inner Don Draper in their quest for a truly inspired solution, but your new product is launching on Nov 1st, and your new Digital Marketing  initiatives have to be in place prior to then, you may have a conflict brewing. Understanding what your constraints are is critical, whether they are time, money, creative limitations, marketplace…think of this as “Constraint-based Creativity”.

Is your agency solving your problem or theirs? Are they reaching for a Clio when you need them to be done already, or are they delegating your work to the junior staff when you are trying to make a splash? Neither works, so make sure you are aligned before you start and remember, Don doesn’t work on the same old, same old.