Friday, July 15, 2011

Setting Expectations

For years I labored under the impression that, in order to create great work, you needed a proper budget. In fact, frequently my first question, after being delivered a brief was "Why isn't there a budget on this brief?" After all, budget defines scale. Right? And often that fact was sheepishly explained away with that classic dodge: "They don't have much money, but if we come up with a really great idea, the client will find the money."

And no matter how good we thought the idea was, how breakthrough, how strategically sound, how oh-so-right for their brand, the fact is, I can count on one hand the number of times a client dug deeper to fund a great idea. Out of around 2000 briefs over 14 years. And one of them was three months ago.

Gradually the realization emerged that the limits of an idea aren't defined by the budget. In fact, most truly great ideas inherently have scale. They work, somehow, at every size. As a single tweet and as a full length feature. Expectations should be set on how to spend any budget in a way that delivers a well executed idea to an appropriate number of consumers at the right time and for the right reason. Budget doesn't define the idea. Just, perhaps the scale and the expectations.

Ever seen the NPR tiny desk series? These are bands who typically take command of a stage with amps, effects, roadies, and seething throngs of supporters. But instead, they are taking command of a room the size of my kitchen for a group of about 25. The result? Well, as long as the artist is worth a damn (think, the idea) it works at any scale. Is it different than the full-blown stage experience? Hell yeah. Is it as good or better? Certainly to the 25 people in the room it's better. Their expectations have been set for exclusive. intimate. Lo-Fi. And for the rest of us, watching at home, it's still pretty killer – thanks to NPR's broadcasting expertise.

Witness. A great idea. At a fully manageable scale.

You can see this artist on a slightly larger scale here in Dallas at Club Dada on July 22nd.

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