How to Produce a $30K Commercial on a $3K Budget

You might think that it’s impossible to produce a quality video on a shoestring budget, but when you get the right group of people with the drive, determination, and creativity together, anything is possible! 

The Plan… 

The objective was to produce a commercial that tells people what our company does. When it comes to Internet technology marketing, explaining exactly what all that entails can go over someone’s head—even if they genuinely want to know what we do, the glazed-over eyes happens within 5-10 seconds of the conversation. 

So… 

We wanted to come up with a fun and simple way to tell the world who we are and what we do in 3 minutes or less. What better way to do that than with video? Our team knows all too well how engaging video content can be, so we knew that we not only had to come up with something creative, it also needed to be relevant. And we wouldn’t be a good marketing company if we didn’t acknowledge the end of the year holiday season as the most opportune time to present ourselves to some and reintroduce ourselves to others. 

Fast-Forward, We Wrote the Script 

Now, it was time to scout out some production companies and send out a Request for Proposal. 

What? Did you think we wanted to produce the video ourselves? 

We’re an Internet marketing agency that specializes in building and improving eCommerce sites. A lot of that has to do with our program developers building functionalities from scratch, designers creating a responsive website, and marketers and copywriters teaming up to produce quality content that’s engaging, shows up on the first page of every search engine, and makes people want to click and buy into the service or product our clients sell. Every. Day. 

Production? That’s an entirely different animal…and department, a department that barely existed. So like any hard-working company, we chose to outsource.

Toto, We’re Not in Kansas Anymore! 

When the Request for Proposals came rolling in, I was quickly reminded that I didn’t live in Indiana anymore! Quotes ran about $22K -$30K! Since our objective was about bringing awareness to Optimum7, our CEO, Arthur Cooper and COO, Duran Inci didn’t feel that it was a wise investment. And I couldn’t be mad about it either. If our company is going to shell out that kind of money for a 3-minute web commercial, I’d rather see it in my check as a cash bonus, honestly! 

But Still, the Script was Sooo Goood! 

And we just couldn’t let it sit and collect dust. 

So our team got together and did what we do best—we got creative! 

This was the result: 

 

Instead of telling you the story of how the caterpillar script turned into a beautiful marketing awareness butterfly, I’m just going to give you the 10 steps that will help you produce your own $30K commercial on a $3K budget: 

  1. Have a great script! 

Seriously, if you get bored reading a 3-page script, then don’t even waste your time spending $3 dollars on it. If reading it makes you laugh, smirk, or even smile and you’re genuinely interested in finding out what happens next—and to boot, can visualize this happening and you feel good about what you’ve read, you might have a little something-something to work with. 

  1. Set you’re A-Team in place. 

Look, you must have an A-Team. You know the people you go to for any and everything, whether it’s in their scope of work or not—and they deliver quality results every time…that’s your A-Team. It doesn’t matter if they have experience in video production or not. They will when their done with what you’ve assigned them. If they do, that’s even better, and quite honestly, that’ll save you money because they’ll know what works and what doesn’t. 

  1. Define the purpose of your commercial. 

Even with an A-Team in place, with many different talents collaborating, there will be some creative differences. Some ideas will stray from the original plan and others might embellish on it. Make no mistake, changes will be made along the way during the shoot and in post-production. That’s just the way it is. But before you get started in executing this production, it’s important that everyone is on the same page and understands what the actual purpose of the commercial is. 

In our case, the purpose of our “Santa Commercial” was to bring awareness about who Optimum7 is and what we do in a light-hearted and fun way that’s easy to understand. You’ll be surprised at how quick it is to get hung up on the details that have absolutely nothing to do with the original purpose. There always needs to be a reminder of this, less you lose time and most importantly, money. 

  1. Hire interns. 

Did I mention that the budget was only $3K? Yes, this is where you’re going to need some moderately free labor, but it can’t be just anybody off the streets. It needs to be people who are serious about their craft, creative people with an entrepreneur spirit, who want to learn and have the drive and determination to make things happen. People like the Optimum7 team! Our star intern, Juan Pendas played a critical part in helping us produce this Santa Commercial, and most importantly, he had previous video experience and was smart enough to see this as an opportunity to increase the stock in his portfolio. Some of our best Marketers were interns first! Just saying… 

  1. Set a budget and stick to it. 

This has a lot to do with sticking to the purpose of the commercial. You don’t want to go too cheap, but you also have to be smart with money. Our Lead Marketer, Luther Joseph was another key player in making sure that we had everything from the elves’ and Easter Bunny costume to the actual actors to wear them! Details like location scouting, obtaining permits, and organizing the casting call all fell on his lap…and he did it like a BOSS! (#ateamfactor) 

  1. Don’t cheap out on video equipment. 

Although the option of shooting video on our phone was discussed, we decided not to “Kardashian” our company with a home phone video. We’re an Internet technology marketing agency, we had to come correct! Luckily, we had a decent amount of technical equipment in the way of lighting and sorts, so we invested in the proper video technology that was needed to make the finished work come out professional. But remember, we also had Juan the Intern who already had his supply of video equipment, so we didn’t spend much on video equipment, surprisingly.

  1. Use ALL of your resources. 

The commercial was scheduled for 3 separate shooting days—one during office hours. On THAT day, it was all hands on deck! Anyone we needed for those unplanned changes was at our mercy. Questions like Who was going to fit into the Easter Bunny costume? was one of those impromptu changes we made to the script during the shoot. Thankfully, Brian the Intern gracefully volunteered (or was drafted—I don’t know, a lot was going on that day). And as our luck would have it, Fabianna the Intern is an aspiring model and we needed an extra body for a scene that ended up getting cut on the editing floor. Thanks, Fabianna for being a trooper! Aside from the two actors and an extra we didn’t have to pay, the rest of the cast were actual Optimum7 employees—some who we literally pulled away from their desk to film! And how can we forget our Make-Up Artist and Marketer, Mike Christianson, who also doubled as a stunt guy and took the brunt of Brian, The Easter Bunny’s wrath? Talk about taking one for the team! 

  1. Hire amateur actors. 

Do you know how much seasoned actors want in Miami? Roughly $1,500 – $2K for a one day shoot! We needed to hire three actors, including one to play Santa and on a $3K budget, we weren’t getting any professional Miami actors with tons of experience. And we found out that Santas aren’t cheap! So while most of our acting budget was spent on Santa, we had to spend a little less on our other two actors, which meant they were inexperienced, but could get the job done. 

[Enter an A-Team member who can coach your actors.] 

Note: If you’re going to hire amateur actors, then please—pleassse refer to Step #1: “Have a great script”. It’s the only way you’ll get away with having an inexperienced actor. This can also work the other way around. You can have a good actor performing on the worst script. Example: Sharknado, Tremors, Leprechaun, or almost anything on the Sci-Fi network, really. 

  1. Use licensed video stock footage. 

The first part of our video had B-Footage of aerial views of Miami. Do you really think that we shot that on a $3K budget? None of us knew anyone with a helicopter either! We just browsed the Internet for the perfect licensed B-Footage, purchased it, and edited it into our existing shots. This alone speaks volumes about the quality of footage our company shot. Being able to edit professional B-Footage with our own is something we’re quite proud of. 

  1. Get a talented video editor. 

Seriously, all this will be in vain if you don’t have the right talent to bring all of this together visually. You MUST have a video editor who knows how to seamlessly blend the shots together with smooth and creative transitions! It also takes a certain talent to get the money shots, like our guy L.A. Rubio, a friend of Juan the Intern did. Everyone, from the interns, Marketers, screenwriter (yours truly) to the COO had a say in how the final body of work would turn out. Creative differences came into play but as long as we reminded each other of our main objective, we got the job done. It truly was and is a team effort. 

In the end, Optimum7 produced a well-edited production that was engaging, edgy, humorous, and effective. I’d say we represented our company quite accurately.

Contact an Optimum7 marketer to discuss how to produce your next marketing project.