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The New Normal: Fast, Cheap, and Good

The saying used to be, “pick two.” Fast and cheap, but not good.  Fast and good, but not cheap. Cheap and good, but not fast. You get it. Anyway, that’s a thing of the past. And if you need any confirmation, take a look at the  five-spot online campaign that Mullen recently did for client Century 21.

It was conceived, shot and produced in less than a week. And it cost less than what most of us spend on Halloween decorations and candy. How is that possible? With a client that said, “here’s a few thousand, go do something.” And with a creative team that welcomed the opportunity with a can do attitude and do-it-yourself mindset. Not a “what are you kidding we can’t do anything good for that amount of money,” reaction.

Tim Cawley, the creative director who led the effort, wrote and directed the spots, and shot the five spots in his own house on Boston’s North Shore. Tim is the same guy who led the even less costly initiative to sell Walter White’s house on Craigslist just a few weeks ago. (Also a low-budget, fast turnaround kind of idea.)

Sure there will always be place for the million dollar big budget celebrity studded over produced TV commercial. But the future has a place for the $1000.00 spot as well as the $1,000,000.00 spot. For starters you can make a lot more of them, populating the web, blogs, Facebook, YouTube and even TV with a variety of content. You can produce them a lot more quickly, allowing you to be topical and timely. And best of all you can take more chances. What’s the big deal if you screw up a $1000.00 video?

So what does it take to make things that are fast, cheap and good? Talent, obviously. But more importantly a willingness. A willingness not to hide behind an A-level director. A willingness to learn more craft and skill yourself. A willingness to embrace the the confines of less time and fewer dollars, not use them as an excuse to lower the quality of the finished product.

Granted even these low budgets spots are a team effort. And in the case of an agency like Mullen there are producers, editors and special effects people on staff. And yes, they all get paid. But it’s still a far cry from flying to LA and doing it the traditional way.

I’ve known Tim for years. As a writer, creative director and filmmaker. But what I like about him most is that he gets excited about the new way of doing things, the challenges, the restrictions, the timetables and yes, even the teeny tiny budgets.

Fast, cheap and good. It may be hard to do. But if people like Tim Cawley have their way it may be even harder to say it can’t be done.

Interestingly, in the 1990s, a Mullen creative team and client Sci Fi Channel felt compelled to hire David Lynch and pay him a fortune to shoot a series of commercials that could easily have been done in house with a video camera. Yes, times have changed. What were we thinking?

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