Almost every week, I’m asked, “How much does it cost to produce a video?” This is a challenging question because effectiveness of a video is not necessarily tied to its budget as much as its distribution, exposure, timeliness, and market saturation. It’s a question akin to: “How much does life insurance cost?” “How much does a house cost?” “How much do shoes cost?” It’s hard to answer without asking more questions. The only right response to these questions is “It depends...”
I like to compare the process of producing a video to buying a car. You can buy an inexpensive car with a radio, cloth seats, and manual windows and lock – or you can go with a top of the line luxury model. Or, like most people, something somewhere in between. Essentially, as long as the car is structurally sound, it will provide perfectly serviceable transportation. The low-end model might not have all the bells and whistles you’d like, but it will get you from point A to point B. The higher end models offer greater refinement and structural integrity in addition to enhanced luxury.
The real decisions that need to be made before determining a budget is to first decide what you want your car to do once you own it. Luxury touring? Heavy-duty off-roading and towing? Just a simple ride to get back and forth from home to the office? Once you’ve got this decided, you can select the model that fits your goals and then add options until the budget hits your comfort zone.
What Model Do You Want?
Let’s look at four different examples.
At the introductory level, we’re in the base-model Chevy Aveo or Ford Festiva category. These cars may not provide all the comfort and style of a more expensive model, but they will get you where you want to go.
If you have an intern who is going to record a product demonstration on their phone and upload it, un-edited to YouTube, this is the type of project I’m talking about. Nothing fancy, just basic communication. There’s nothing that says this can’t be effective, it’s simply a low-cost way to deliver a message and travel from point A to point B.
Higher up the scale, you’re not looking for basic transportation but something a little more refined. At this level, power door locks, power windows, and an elevated sound system, aren’t luxuries, but necessities. If so, a modest increase in budget can get you a much nicer car (probably greater reliability, structural integrity, and a much better ability to impress your clients when you drive up to your lunch meeting too). At this level, your car will intangibly show others that you don’t skimp on important options and that you like to make sound purchasing decisions. We’ve graduated into the Toyota Camry, Ford Edge, and Chevy Impala category - good, safe, comfortable cars.
Video-wise, you’ve added professional videography, lighting, sound, and editing that can make all the difference in the world when impacting your customer. At this level, you can drive in comfort knowing that you are projecting a solid, professional image.
Farther up the scale yet, maybe you require turbo, advanced engineering, and an in-dash navigation system? Or, maybe you need a specialty vehicle for pulling a camper or going off road? Here’s where a Dodge Ram, Volvo SUV, Lexus sedan, or Lincoln MKX appears on your radar. More expensive, but you’ll get what you pay for.
Your video budget is now sufficient to wow your viewers, win awards, and show your customers that you know what you’re doing and you want them to take notice. You’ll get a project that is tailored to your exact needs. You’ll be possibly adding motion graphics, professional actors, multiple days of shooting, and post-production that allows enough time to make a few revisions and ensure you’re reaching your target audience. This is the level where you have a product that is custom designed, just for you, and meets your exact goals and specifications.
Finally, at the top of the scale, a very expensive car will definitely get you from point A to point B and it will do so with advanced refinement and style. We’re in the Mercedes AMG S-Class, BMW, and Jaguar range now. These are truly luxury models. Some might consider them extravagant, but others might not consider driving anything less.
Now you’re adding “nice to have” elements of refinement to your video like an original music score, in-depth multi-camera location shooting, and a film-style production crew shooting with prime lenses. These are all options that set your project apart from 95% of the videos that people watch every day. You will be positively noticed and talked about.
Are Bigger Video Budgets Better?
As one moves up the scale from basic to more advanced there’s a tendency to think that more expensive is “good” and less expensive is “bad”. From the perspective of transportation, a more expensive car doesn’t get you to the grocery store any “better” than a less expensive car. Even if your car is not a thing of beauty, it will get you to the grocery store.
Likewise, projects with lower budgets serve a purpose and can be very utilitarian. But, projects produced with higher budgets can deliver intangible benefits like greater watchability, audience retention, creativity, style, and design. A project with a larger budget might also win awards that garners mention in the local newspaper or trade journal bringing your company free publicity. You wouldn’t get this if you’d gone a less expensive route. A higher end project could also be produced with a creative theme that creates a buzz in your company and get’s people talking.
I once produced a music video for a large insurance company which generated employee requests for copies eight years after delivery! A simple talking head behind a desk would not have garnered these results. So, luxury is not the only reason to drive a BMW and not a Kia Rio.
Last Updated May 2019 - Originally Published May 2012