An Art Producer’s Take on the Cost Consultant / Art Producer Relationship

When Jacki Angeletti agreed to answer questions for our blog about the cost consultant / art producer relationship, I asked her if she would also share with us a name of an art producer she enjoys working with so that we could reach out to her for the art producer perspective.  She didn’t hesitate when she sent along Molly Dowd’s name.  Molly is a Freelance Art Producer and currently working at Weiden and Kennedy in NYC.  When we asked her if she would participate, she didn’t hesitate.  She had the same glowing words for Jacki as Jacki did for her.  It was obvious from the onset that the two had a great working relationship.

How would you define the role of a cost consultant?
Typically a cost consultant is a third party negotiator put in place to ensure that a production is of fair market value. They work with the ad agency art producer on behalf of the client.

How often do cost consultants work on a project with you?  Do they work on every job or just jobs of a certain level?
I have only had them on large scale global brands.

What is a common misunderstanding photographers have when working with cost consultants?  How about art producers?
In general I think photographers and art producers are weary of a cost consultant slashing budgets and leaving no room for unexpected issues. There is also the perception that a cost consultant views a budget in a vacuum without the understanding of each photographer’s team or project’s needs.

What do the most successful cost consultant / art producer relationships look like?
They look like a partnership. They help foster creativity, protect the art producer, the photographer and make sure everyone is working within a fair bid not necessarily a cheap bid.

What do the most challenging cost consultant / art producer relationships look like?
Having a cost consultant not understand that not every project is apples to apples.

What advice do you have for a photographer when answering cost consultant questions?
Be honest. It’s ok to say you need something and give a reason why. I would also suggest that they be open to other solutions that may not be as costly or alarming to the client.

How do you reply to a photographer or agency person who says that cost consultants cut costs just to justify their own jobs?
I”d say they help even out the playing field, they sometimes know the client better then the agency. I’ve even had some suggest putting more money towards areas that seem low. I’ve been lucky. I”m sure there are some that are a bit more rigid and ruthless.

If a photographer does not think reductions can be made without sacrificing the production, what advice do you have for them on how to share this information with a cost consultant?
I would never want a photographer to sacrifice a production. I would just have them explain that reducing costs in a certain area would be irresponsible. It’s ok to push back as long as you have a reason why it’s important.

When is it ok for a photographer to say no to suggested reductions?
When they think the project will suffer as a result and there is no alternative solution. I would never want a photographer to feel they are not protected, I wouldn’t want the agency to feel unprotected and I would never want the client to receive a subpar campaign.

Do you pass along all questions from a cost consultant to the photographer?  Or, are you ever able to run interference and answer some of them on your own so as not to have to share them with the photo team?
It’s a combination of both. I’m often so familiar with my estimate and project that I can answer many of them on my own. After the first production with a particular client and cost consultant I can anticipate the sorts of things that are needed and what they should cost. If it’s something I can’t answer I’ll be sure to pass it on for explanation.

Do cost consultants require agencies to keep the budget private?  Do you think this is reasonable and how do you handle it if the budget it much smaller than is needed for the production?
Not the ones I’ve work with. I have such a great relationship with the cost consultant that I work with now that we’re usually on the same page in terms of budget, size and scale. If the budget is small I’ll say so and usually will work with the agency and client on solutions.

Do all cost consultants have the same approach to reviewing estimates?  How do they vary?
I have not worked with that many but most review the creative and then work through the estimate line item but line item and come back to me with questions.

What skills does a cost consultant bring to the table that you would not have access to at an agency that makes the negotiation more complete?
I appreciate their broader knowledge of the client’s budget history. Often clients change agencies but maintain their cost consultant. I”m able to get insight into the client’s tolerance. The good ones can be problem solvers and really help make a tough budget work.

If you have other questions for Molly Dowd about relationships with cost consultants, please comment below and we can work on a follow up post.

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