Blogging about work is… risky. However, I’ve just been given a summons… sorry, a meeting invite, to a meeting which by the look of the invitees, is meant as a drubbing or a dressing down of us slow interactive producers. See, a ways back, one of our esteemed account guys who self-admittedly knows very little about interactive, made a promise to the client based on some bad advice given from someone who no longer works at my company. Now, the Interactive team is struggling (struggling!) to make everything come together and to make ends meet and do the impossible which was sold in to the client. We’re struggling to make it happen.
What does that mean?
What it means is that we took a look at the client’s budget. Fixed budget. And then we took a look at what was promised. Let’s not get into specific numbers here, but the budget we have to work with is less than 20% of what a comparable project took to get built. Yeah.
So we had to come up with some way of doing the impossible and saving 80%. We scoped out the job completely internally, and we’re swamped. Even with the struggling economy, work in the interactive department continues on the setting of “Cranking!” So the timing and the money came out pretty high… came in about triple what the client wants to pay for what they want to buy.
Already knowing that it’s just not going to happen the way that the client (and more importantly to this post, the Account team) wants it to happen, we start looking around for a better solution. If we farm part of the work for development out to another company, we can make the deadlines (which are beyond tight) -and- we can offer a much more robust service platform than we could create on our own by buying into a third-party solution.
Great! Win-win. We pared down the budget so it comes in only at about 1.5x the original estimate. This is rock bottom, though, so we now are trying to come up with ways to help the account team return to the client and explain why we can’t give them what they’ve asked for it in the budget they’ve asked for. Earlier this week we’re talking with the account team, and one of the members says, “Well, I can get a guy who will do this whole project for one third the cost.”
The guy in the basement
So, we are up against Joe the Plumber. The Guy in the Basement who doesn’t actually really exist. Because let me tell you, one of the things that the client wants on this is a Content Management System and a Scalable Database solution which integrates into a dynamic web site which integrates with e-commerce solutions. That guy in the basement? This is beyond his ability level to deliver on. Maybe if he were part of some “Basement Guy Consortium” he could build a virtual agency to deliver on the project, but then he’d be back to paying the same level of prices that we’re cooking with, all to cover the necessary expertise and effort.
But Account doesn’t see it that way. Because Account doesn’t -see- the actual parts which require effort. These aren’t Interactive Account Executives, they’re Print-based/traditional Marketing Account Executives. They are used to dealing with things that they can -see-. Make a creative change here, and you can see it. If you can see it, if you can visualize the complexity, then you understand that there’s a certain price with it. Print on paper is one thing, on mylar lenticulars which display multiple images depending on the angle of viewing, something else entirely.
But the web… the web is something else entirely.
Preparing for the worst
So now we’re going to get called into this meeting with two of the higher ups invited, and we’re going to get scolded if we’re lucky, yelled at quite the possibility. All because in trying to figure out what the -right- solution to the client’s requests would be, we have had to take more time than Account likes. And they don’t understand what we’re doing, they don’t understand why we don’t react the same way that the Offline side of the house does. When Account says jump to them, they jump. When Account says jump to us, we look at the order and try to figure out what the client really needs us to do, not what Account is ordering us to do.
And you know what? We’re usually right to do so. Because Account doesn’t understand what they’re asking from us most of the time. Account is usually the source of tons of the problems in any interactive agency unless they have interactive experience, because you CAN’T have your point of contact and sales rep for the agency selling, communicating or defending something that they don’t themselves understand.
So we get the lumps, and we get to try and defend ourselves from this onslaught. Not fair. Not fun.
The pain of communicating.