Jessica Manning of DigitasLBi goes behind the scenes of art production and shares insights on estimating.

Whether I am talking to photographers in our own group, potential photographers for our roster, other reps or even other art buyers, the same questions about estimating come up and have been for quite awhile. So much so that whenever an art producer is open to contributing to our blog, I often share thee questions with them first. I was thankful when Sr. Art Producer,  Jessica Manning of DigitasLBi in Boston,  agreed to share with us her insights.

How often are you asked to triple bid a project? And if there is ever a clear first choice, do you let that person know they are the recommend?
I am always required to triple bid new projects.  The few cases where it is not needed are when the Client waives the triple bid requirement; usually due to an existing relationship with their preferred photographer or when the budget is less than $10k.

Sometimes after a photographer bids a job, they will not hear back in regards to the outcome.  Can you shed light on why that may be?
I always make a point to reach out to photographers & agents to let them know the job has been awarded or put on hold.  Sending that disappointing email is the worst part of this job, especially if I had to ask for multiple rounds of estimate revisions.  It’s a show of respect to follow up and the only way to retain great relationships. I can only hope people understand how appreciative I am during the bidding process and know that I will try to work with them on different projects in the future.

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?
There are many reasons a photographer might not be awarded a project.  Some are completely out of their control; existing relationships with a Creative Director or Client to another photographer.  Another reason could be the Creative call. These calls with my Creative Team are so important for the photographer to talk about the project, their ideas and strategies, demonstrate how collaborative they are, and to gauge whether or not the photographer and the Creative Team’s personalities click.  I have worked on a project where a photographer was bumped down to the 2nd spot, based purely on the lack of enthusiasm they expressed on a creative call. 

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?
There is usually a degree of an educational process with either my internal team or with the Client on everything that is involved in large productions.  Seasoned Account Managers and Clients understand large production estimates but sometimes inexperienced Team members are hesitant to present estimates without fully understanding each line item.  I am always happy to be the person to explain all facets of the estimate and productions because I feel like it only benefits peoples’ careers for future productions.

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 am always advocating for the value of photography, production and the importance of original content.  We are in this new phase of commercial work where Clients are trying to connect with consumers in the social media space.  I am trying to find the equal balance where Clients should invest in original content vs stock, knowing that it could only be posted once but understanding the value that it could be reposted or seen by millions of people. 

Do you share budgets when they are available?  Why or why not?
Yes, I have shared budgets in the past.  I think this saves a lot of time from doing multiple rounds of revisions on bids to get down to the final number. I will reiterate that this is a triple bid process, so all 3 vendors can make their bids as competitive as possible.

What is your Clients/Agency’s policy surrounding advances on projects? What do you do as an art producer to help facilitate that process?  And what can a photographer do to help it along as well?
I email/beg/plead/stalk/thank the appropriate people to get my advances processed right away.  Sometimes new vendors need to be set up in our system first before I can even cut a purchase order (which takes time), but I am always trying to get that advance check cut as soon as possible.

What misperception about the estimating process from your end would you like photographers to have a clearer understanding of based on your experiences?
I think this goes back to the educational process about Productions for my Team and Clients.  This takes time and sometimes there are compromises made to the project in order to accommodate budgets & schedules, but the ultimate goal is to always create fantastic creative!

Thank you Jimi Stine for help with the post.

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