by Jess Dudley Wonderful Machine Producer
Public Service Announcements (PSAs) are advertisements intended to raise awareness of a topic and to change public attitudes (rather than sell a product), often advocating better health practices or safety. The typical patron of a PSA is a government agency or non-profit aimed at improving public welfare.
Recently, one of our photographers was asked to submit a cost estimate to produce some photographs for a PSA. Though the concept was simple and straight forward, the details were still a bit vague when the photographer contacted me for pricing help. Here’s what he knew:
- He’d been contacted by the creative director of a mid-size East Coast ad agency.
- The client was a large non-profit organization whose primary interest was in public education and health policy.
- The PSA concept featured a close-up portrait of a woman in a light filled, airy environment. About half the frame was negative space for copy, and there was a “gritty” treatment layer overlaying the image.
- The talent would be a real patient who had realized the benefits of the non-profit through improvements in health care practices.
- The use was described as a PSA that will be distributed on the non-profit’s website, possibly in print publications and in the form of posters hung in airports and train stations.
After reviewing the details and discussing possible production approaches, the photographer and I developed a list of questions to ask the creative director and got the following responses:
Wonderful Machine: Would you like us to cast the talent or will the talent be provided?
Creative Director: We’ve already selected the talent and determined availability.
WM: The comp hints at more environment than a studio sweep, would a white daylight studio work as a background?
CD: We’re open to shooting at a daylight studio. We just don’t want flat seamless. We want some texture to the background. A window, horizon, clouds. Something to subtly break up the negative space.
WM: What duration of use will you need?
CD: 3 years.
WM: What is the geographic distribution?
CD: Southwestern United States.
WM: Do you have a budget in mind?
CD: Nothing set in stone, but we need to mind our “Ps and Qs.”
WM: We think this can be accomplished at a studio in a few hours, are you expecting to shoot for more than about half a day?
CD: We only have the talent for 3 hours in the early afternoon. So it will have to happen in half a day.
WM: Will anyone from the Agency and Client be attending the shoot?
CD: Yes. Two people from the agency and one from the client.
Although the PSA would be displayed like a typical commercial ad, it’s purpose was not to generate revenue, but rather to promote public awareness. So it’s not worth nearly as much as a regular ad shoot. Additionally, the concept was straight forward, the talent would be provided and the shoot wouldn’t take more than 6 hours including set-up and break down, which is a consideration. BlinkBid shows the fee for regional Collateral, Out Of Home and Print Use at 2800.00 – 4000.00/year. Additional years aren’t discounted in BlinkBid’s Bid Consultant. So for 3 years they price this use between 8400.00 and 12000.00. Also, there’s no specific selection for PSA use in BlinkBid. Corbis doesn’t provide regional pricing, only national. They price the OOH Use at 1170.00 for the first year, Print Use at 7815.00 and Collateral Use 2550.00. To extend the use to 3 years, Corbis multiplies each of those numbers by about 1.66 bringing the total for this use to 18,456.00. They also don’t have a specific selection for PSA use. Adjusting for regional rather than national use might bring it down to around $10k which is in line with BlinkBid. This is really the kind of project where the fee could be anything, depending on the cause and how the photographer felt about it. After discussing it with the photographer, we decided that we wanted to come in at about 1/2 of the normal advertising rate, so we settled on 4500.00 for the fee.
Since the lighting would consist entirely of natural light, the photographer only needed one assistant on set during the shoot. The digital tech would provide an extra set of hands to help load in, set up and break down. During the shoot, s/he would man the laptop, wrangle images and process galleries.
The photographer owned all of the equipment he needed for the shoot. He’d be using a camera body (@250.00/day), two fast lenses (email@example.com/day), and some miscellaneous items like a reflectors, flags, silks and stands (@200.00/day).
The photographer also had his own shooting space. He charges 500.00/day to rent the small studio which would be ideal for this shoot; white, with a couple nice big windows.
Since we were only shooting one subject from the shoulders up, we were comfortable working with a stylist capable of light wardrobe styling and hair & make-up. We budgeted a half day to buy 200.00 worth of wardrobe. We would ask the subject to bring some of her own clothes as well.
Since the crew and agency would be setting up for the shoot around lunchtime we included catering for the crew, talent, agency and client. Generally we’ll budget 35.00 per person for light breakfast and lunch but were able to trim it down to 25.00 per person since we wouldn’t be providing any breakfast.
Indexing is what that photographer likes to call it, but we normally call it Digital Capture and Delivery by Web Gallery for Editing.
Retouching hours to apply the gritty treatment layer to the image after basic processing.
Miles, parking, shipping, insurance and miscellaneous was pretty low since the shoot would take place at the photographer’s own studio.
Lastly, we made sure to clarify that the talent would be provided by the client or agency and that a 50% advance is required to initiate production. After attaching our standard terms and conditions we sent the estimate to the client.
Wouldn’t you know it, a budget materialized 10 minutes later.
WM: Just calling to follow-up on the estimate. Do you have any questions?
CD: What can we do to get this down to 7600.00?
WM: Right off the bat, one thing we might be able to do without is the additional wardrobe. Would you be comfortable relying entirely on the subject’s own wardrobe? (That would knock of 200.00 for the wardrobe and 325.00 for the stylist time.)
CD: Absolutely. I’ll ask her to bring a dozen tops.
WM: Are you comfortable reviewing images straight of the camera or do you need a separate display? (That would be 300.00 for a second assistant rather than 500.00 for a digital tech.)
CD: If it gets me closer to 7k, I’m cool with it.
WM: Aside from the licensing, there’s not much else than can be easily trimmed. Let me check in with the photographer to figure out a way to come shave off another 600.00.
CD: Great. Let me know what you can do. This is a hard 7600.00.
After contemplating the peculiar budget, we dialed down the use from 3 years to 30 months, reducing the fee and bottom line by an additional 500.00. The last hundred came out of the equipment rental line. Since he’d be using his own equipment he could bend a bit on the rates, particularly for the miscellaneous stands, reflectors, etc.
We submitted the revision, the creative director quickly approved it and the shoot went off without a hitch.
If you have any questions, or if you need help estimating or producing one of your projects, contact Wonderful Machine.