Sharing Estimating Insights from Spencer Bagley of MRM McCann in Salt Lake City


Back in July, we shared a post from Emily Hoskins, an art buyer and blogger from Upshot in Chicago.  She offered some insight into the bidding processthat proved to be very popular. So much so that we decided to send out the questions to a few more art buyers to get their take on the process.  Spencer Bagley, a Photo Shoot Producer at MRM/McCann in Salt Lake City was the first to reply.  Thank you Spencer!

1)  How often are you asked to triple bid a project?  And, is there ever is a clear first choice, do you let that person know they are the recommend?

I would say 95% of the time we triple bid every project.  This helps us understand the range of costs, get a sense of how the various photographers and production teams handle the needs and demands of the shoot and allows us to show our client the due diligence of making the most of their budget.

There is never a clear first choice.  We always go in selecting three photographers who we feel confident can get the job done and understand the brand and style of the client.  At the end of the day, it could be award to any of the three photographers so we always make sure from an agency standpoint that we are covered on all bases.

2)  Sometimes after a photographer bids a job, they will not hear back in regards to the outcome.  Can you shed some light on why that may be?  

I have heard several photographers and production companies tell me they never hear back from various companies.  I’m not sure why that happens.  I always make it a point to let the other photographers, who were not award the project, know what transpired so they can free up their schedules and understand how we came to our approval.

3)  We all know there are many reasons for a photographer not getting a project.  Besides the obvious of price or creative, can you share some other reasons that they may not be awarded a project?

Usually it’s because of cost or creative.  I haven’t encountered a time where we didn’t award the project for a different reason.  We always hand select photographers who work within our creative realm.  From there it can sometimes lead to costs, but surprisingly it’s not always the lowest estimate that is award the project.

4) What sort of things are you dealing with on your end to get an estimate approved?  We all know it is not always as easy as presenting a photo estimate for approval.  What other things could your client be considering at the same time that could hold up the process?

Usually it’s the client getting approval either through their management team or through other business partnerships sharing the imagery.  This usually takes the most time for getting the budget secure.

5)  What sort of things are you doing behind the scenes that you would like photographers to know you are doing to sell in the project to a client?

I usually make a pros and cons list of the top three photographers.   As we know, there are upsides and downsides to everything in life.  We make a fair list and share with the client so they understand how we came to our top three recommendations.  This could be relied on from past experiences, exposure from other agencies or production companies, and the overall skill set of the photographer and team at hand.

6)  Do you share budgets when they are available?  Why or why not?

It’s rare that I am told a budget upfront when bidding on photo shoots.   Even if I were to know the budget, I wouldn’t want to share up front with the photographers because I want to see what it would really take to get the job done.  Then I can gauge and determine where we either need to scale back or beef  up an area.  I don’t want to put the photographers in a box when putting together costs.  Negotiations can always take place once they take their first initial stab at the estimate.

7) What is your client’s/agency’s policy surrounding advances on projects?  What do you do as an art producer to help faciliate that process?  And, what can a photographer do to help it along as well?

Our policy on advance payments is usually 50% up front plus all talent fees.  This helps get the ball rolling with the development phase and  making sure talent can get paid quickly with the new laws in effect.  As soon as the client has approved the estimate I request an advance payment so we can get the paperwork processed into the next available check run to issue payment as quickly as possible.

8)  What misperception about the estimating process from your end would you like photographers to have an clearer understanding of based on your experiences?

I would always say to be budget conscious as they are bidding against other photographers and production companies.   It’s best to keep cost in check and then we can have a discussion if a particular area of the estimate needs to be bumped up.  When I ask for photographers to scale down their costs, I like to see a drop in the bottom line, but if it is a drastic drop, then I can only assume the bid was padded heavily which would be frowned upon by the agency and the client.

2 thoughts on “Sharing Estimating Insights from Spencer Bagley of MRM McCann in Salt Lake City

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