What’s the Cost of Creativity?

By Jeff Lowy, President Encore Creative

TradeExpo1According to LinkedIn, two of the most overused words in resumes and in company names in the corporate world are “creativity” and innovative.  Synergy and passion are close seconds.  Yet, as I plead guilty to my company overusing both of these words, and actually include them in our name, along with hundreds of likely competitors, I wonder how much value, if any is placed on the creative process by meeting and event planners?

As we all continue to strive for that next event, whether it be an “experiential” (another choice buzzword) branding event, synergistic (another) or innovative theme party (the worst), I often wonder how much  our customers think about,  place or even if they place a value, in real dollars and cents for the vast spectrum of creative (oops) disciplines that are involved in coming together (synergistically of course-ouch) to create that one of a kind, once in a lifetime event, out of the box event.  Out of the box is a painfully overused, underappreciated and misunderstood concept. It also requires a multi-disciplinary team coming together with a lot of creative minds, technologies, and approaches.

As corporations cut budgets for meetings and increase budgets for marketing, or vice versa, the need for creative (sorry) or innovative (sorry again) solutions becomes even more important, but what is a reasonable expectation with regard to the cost and delivery of  “creative” services? Including but not limited to: industrial design, graphic design, lighting design, stage design, sound design, and the associated tangible services (printing, layouts, floor plans, custom builds and fabrications, and even more once you get into entertainment and food and beverage) when seeking a company or companies to bid or actually hire to provide these services.

So this is where I get stuck. And please feel free to respond (whether you’re a buyer or seller and a “creative” or not).  How much is too much?  Plainly, if you’re faced with an RFP that is asking for specific ideas attached to a specific budget, you’re now faced with an extraordinary challenge.  If you provide a fully fleshed out concept with costs and you can’t charge for your time in developing all of that creativity, ingenuity, and resources that are required to get there, and you provide it free of charge, you’ve now placed a value of zero dollars on your creative services. In fact, I’ve even had clients ask for full color renderings, storyboards, material call-outs, etc. So the question remains, if you don’t place a value on it, or the value you place on it is zero, then the buyer will place the same non-value on your creativity and work.

I recently saw a cute post on a social media site, as musicians get increasingly frustrated by their ever shrinking business in the corporate world (except national acts at the highest level) and the lack of value or the questioning of the value of a live musician. It was called “What You Get When You Hire a Live Musician,” and there was a long list of answers that apply here as well—

  • Years of study and practice
  • Tens of thousands of dollars worth of gear and instruments
  • Transportation to and from your venue-labor to set and strike
  • Continual education
  • A breadth of knowledge of styles and specific music
  • The ability and experience to entertain an audience

If you don’t place any value on these things, try putting yourself in that position, or think of what your value to any company is and why?

Creativity and Innovation are the keys to any successful event or endeavor in the corporate or small business world.  Without it, you can have a lovely gathering of any number of people without any “wow.”  That works if, your expectations are greater (and they likely are), by definition, you need a group of talented “creatives” and I think we’ve beaten that to death.

What I’m hoping is that we all begin to realize and recognize that creativity is also an expensive endeavor.  We don’t want to settle regardless of budget, and the tighter the budget the more creativity you require (unless balloons and crepe paper are your style or you’re a do-it-yourselfer). That brings us full circle: Creativity is important.  And creativity costs money, which should be factored into your budgets, always.  Paying for creativity is worth it because in the end, it’s what you need to ensure that you have the perfect event for the perfect audience and achieved all of your goals without having sacrificed what you originally set out to do.

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On February 18, 2014