Do Big Budgets= Lazy Advertising?

I had an interesting conversation with an art director based out of Jo’burg this weekend. Discussing potential differences between advertising in the States and advertising in South Africa, she said, “Well, we just don’t have the budgets that you have in the States, so we are forced to be more innovative.”

She wasn’t the first creative in South Africa to tell me this. And she isn’t out of line. But using John Hunt’s analysis of the two types of people, sunrise people and sunset people, it’s the sunrise point of view. Looking for the positive, a sunrise person would be energized by the challenge of leveraging a smaller budget into more imaginative work. A sunset person might suggest that nothing worthwhile can be done without big bucks.

I’ve encountered many a sunset personality as an account manager advertising in the States. Whether an excuse for poor strategy, poor creative or poor execution, lack of advertising media spend often gets blamed for weak work.

“Well, if we had a bigger budget, we could’ve really done something amazing for this client.”

“The client just cut the budget, so they better expect less.”

By contrast, multiple times throughout this week in Johannesburg (perhaps the permeation of sunrise culture throughout Hunt\Lascaris), I’ve been told that working within restraints forces creative and original solutions. A simple idea can have powerfully impactful results.

Enter digital, stage left.

Gone are the days of throwing big bucks at a television buy, and expecting it to float a mediocre idea to success. Not to say that television no longer has a place in the mix. Of course it does, and it is still a key medium in South Africa. But it is not a band-aid solution to deliver a message to the greatest possible audience.

This is good news for smaller budgets: the lack of funds for a television buy does not a campaign break.

Digital media’s ability to leverage and spread a good idea around the globe in a matter of days (if not hours) is a budget multiplier to an almost infinite degree. Finding and speaking with the exact network that will appreciate the value in your brand, tapping in to key online influencers who can ignite word-of-mouth pass-along, and optimizing your campaign and message in real-time are all possible. And if done right, these possibilities provide exceptional ROI on the time spent managing the medium.

Sure, a big budget to play with is a lot of fun. But the question is not “how big is the budget?” The question is “how good is the idea?”

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