The evaluation of a video or film production prior to the awarding of a contract usually takes place via a request for quotation by the client. However, there are also alternatives worth considering to the classic awarding of contracts by means of pitches in the film and video business.
The goal is clear: to find the best possible supplier for a contract production. How to do it?
Just like always and everywhere. You tell a number of potential providers what you want. And see what prices you get offered. Surprises, for better or worse, are included. That’s why it makes sense to look at alternative ways to the classic pitch.
You need to know
- The traditional way of commissioning videos is usually to get a price quote for a film sketch from a number of different suppliers.
- There are alternative ways to do this. They take a more holistic approach to contracting. They don’t just focus on pricing.
- Ways to alternatively evaluate video production providers include: answering a list of questions, selection based on case studies, exploratory roundtable discussions or a workshop.
The challenge of awarding contracts
At first glance, the classic request for a quote offers many advantages for the requesting party. You think you can see what you’re getting and how much it’s going to cost you. In most cases, the initial enquiry is accompanied by a request to include a creative concept.
However, anyone with experience of creating and producing videos knows that this is only true to a limited extent. Every film, no matter how short, is a bespoke shoe. Every video is different. Before you can put your signature under the contract, there are many points to clarify carefully.
“Copy-paste” has very limited application when dealing with moving images. This lack of understanding is just as much a problem for the procurement departments of global corporations as it is for many medium-sized companies looking for a provider for their first image video.
The fact is that moving images, unlike toilet paper, can hardly be bought in a standardised way as a creative service.
The classic pitch
Developing a video concept and budgeting seriously is time-consuming.
- Firstly, due to the prototype character that almost every video has.
- Secondly, because the majority of briefings often leave many gaps open. Be it out of ignorance. Or because the purchaser wants to delegate the ambiguities to the supplier. “They are the subject matter experts, after all,” some may think to themselves when writing a brief.
- Video production usually has to make two decisions when an order is requested.
- She considers the likelihood of getting the film job.
- At the same time, she is considering whether she can even afford not to fight for the job.
The consequences give rise to non-negligible risks for all parties involved in a pitch.
As tough as it is: Only a minority of film productions have a handle on the costs of acquiring new customers. Also, the growing market of narrow-minded filmmakers continues to fuel the dead-beat, but tough-as-nails struggle for survival for commissioned productions.
The buyer may get an offer with a “fighting price” based on a concept that is more wishful thinking than budget.
Let’s not kid ourselves! Regardless of how solid the contractual arrangement following the pitch win is: Either the price will be improved later. Or else the concept is slimmed down, or the quality suffers.
Video production, on the other hand, is in danger of bleeding itself dry financially just to stay in business. This is because, unlike in the traditional agency business, where it is customary to pay for pitches, film productions are expected to regard the time and effort they put into winning contracts as a gratuitous advance.
Alternatives to the classic pitch
Four different approaches have proven themselves in practice as an alternative to the unpaid pitch. They all have the advantage that
- resources and the effort involved in awarding the contract remain within a commercially acceptable range for all parties involved,
- the definition of the task is carried out at eye level
- The briefing is more targeted, and
- thus laying a better foundation for a collaboration than with an unpaid pitch.
The path to a film is always a joint journey of client and contractor. This is the only way to create videos that are convincing and effective. The proposals set out below also take this into account.
The alternative forms listed below can also be combined or designed modularly as gradual qualification phases.
The potential partner for a cooperation is asked a series of questions in advance by the client, which he answers during a personal presentation. Possible questions may include:
What distinguishes the production company from other market participants? Which projects are you particularly proud of? Why? Which videos produced in the last two years do not meet your own (or your client’s) expectations? Why? What conclusions did the company draw from this? Which customers are loyal to the production company, which are now working with competitors? Why is that? If the company had to describe itself with three songs, what are they?
The advantage of this form compared to the classic pitch is on the one hand the short evaluation time. The presentation is short, involves an exchange, and is likewise already tailored. It provides the client with important indicators of transparency and reflectiveness, provided that smart questions are asked.
On the other hand, technical questions can also be asked. However, it is important to consider whether a film production company whose professional skills are not beyond doubt from the outset will be included in the race for a contract award at all. Also, a pitch is not a free continuing education event.
Video productions present a case study. Ideally with the specification that the presented project has successfully solved a comparable problem.
The presentation covers process flows, explains the interfaces between client and contractor and their contributions to success. The analysis highlights what went well, what may not have been ideal and what is being done to ensure the repetition of positive factors and the minimisation of negative experiences.
This type of presentation allows important insights into the strengths and weaknesses of a film production in a simple way. With a manageable effort, the evaluation can make a judgement on the creativity, project management competence, methodology and learning ability of the future partner.
It is not unusual to have the requested production company analyze and present a sample of the client’s work rather than its own. This makes the presentation a hands-on technical test that provides many clues to understanding the market for a video production.
Another advantage is that many specialist video providers in the field of corporate communications are not allowed to talk about their clients for contractual reasons, and even less about the details of the videos in question. The client is different. A simple confidentiality agreement will suffice here.
Where creative and technical competencies are not in question and budget-wise reverse budgeting is used, a round table (exchange with a discussion) is the perfect solution and alternative to a pitch.
The roundtable will focus on questions concerning the nature of cooperation. They take into account the trend towards close cooperation and co-creation and show how well the teams from both sides harmonize.
The discussion often focuses on the talents of the people involved and the corporate cultures. This is why this type of evaluation often brings together the teams that will later work together when a contract is awarded. After all, the chemistry between the people involved will later determine the success of the project.
Due to the social aspects at the forefront, such a meeting often takes place in two parts: first the business in the office, later a concluding, less formal lunch.
The workshop also usually goes through several phases. It is far more demanding for all participants than questionnaires, case studies and discussions. Because the name is deceptive and sounds far more harmless than the purpose behind it.
The workshop is an assessment that includes both technical knowledge and socio-cultural values. It does not require days of preparation from the participants, but only competence and high concentration during one afternoon.
As a rule, the client sets a clearly defined task at the workshop. But this is only at the beginning of the workshop. This allows the customer to experience the potential supplier directly at work. This is regardless of whether the focus is on creativity or strategies.
A time frame of two to three hours is usual. Afterwards, the production company presents and explains its solutions and discusses them with the client. Hints on chances and difficulties of the tasks are mentioned as well as budget and time frame.
Variant of the workshop
At the request of the client, the roles at the workshop may provide for more responsibility for the potential supplier:
The client presents his problem, the production company implements the workshop based on this (together with the client). Subsequently, both parties prepare a management summary, which summarizes the respective findings and serves as a basis for decision-making for a possible later commissioning.
If the client wishes to use the solutions developed during the workshop, a clear arrangement must be made in advance. It is conceivable that, in the case of cooperation, the rights are transferred to the customer as part of the overall contract.
It is also possible, however, that the work (should it not come to a cooperation) is to be paid for separately and thus transferred to the client.
The evaluation of a production partner for an image film or a web video is not black and white. In the end, making a video or film is not just a matter of talent, experience and knowledge of the partner. It’s also a matter of trust. This is also important to consider when choosing a video production.
The necessary alternatives to the classic pitch exist. Their application is worthwhile for both sides – client and contractor!
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