By: Zach Hegde

Brief vs budget: the budget must match the brief and be realistic or you could end up with something like the image below! (source:

Agency:          So… How much do you want us to spend?
 Client:            You tell me!

Agency:          We don’t know! This should come from you.

Client:            Why don’t you get back to us with options and we’ll take it from there.

We have always been very lucky that our clients are professional and understand the importance of having a budget. However, I am sure there are many agencies in marketing and other client facing sectors that have come across this dialogue numerous times. I want to put into perspective just how important having a budget is in the creative merchandising sector, for both the client and the agency.

Not having a budget from a client is like driving blindfolded: no one knows where they are going and it’s likely to end in disaster for everyone. The agency might provide an amazing solution that is way over budget that breaks the heart of the client, or on the other hand, the agency under budgets and the solution doesn’t meet the client’s needs.

Huge amounts of time and energy get wasted when we set off chasing an exciting idea only to find out that it’s going to cost ten times more than what you have to spend. The fear that "Oh, they’ll try to spend the whole lot if we tell them what we’ve got in the budget - let’s get them to tell us how much it will cost instead," should form no part of an honest, open and trusting relationship. And only an honest, open and trusting relationship is going to produce a mutually beneficial, sustainable relationship between the client and its agencies. Knowing the budget and the client’s needs, the agency might find a stunning alternative that could be both more effective and less expensive; hence, it is far better to have a ballpark figure in mind.

Let’s face it, there are millions of factories around the world and good tidy number of them can produce the item you want and need at varied costs. I am pretty sure your agency can also match you up with the right factory to produce the items for you. But they sure can’t guess how much you want to spend, and the factory that’s situated thousands of kilometers across the world can’t guess either. If they could, they would be making millions as mind readers!

Of course, you should expect a precise quotation from your agency before you incur any external hard costs.

In our industry the absolute must haves in a brief are budget, quantity and time. To get the best possible outcome, you truly need to partner with your agency. You wouldn’t go to the doctor and not tell them all your symptoms or you might end up getting treated for hemorrhoids instead of hernia, giving you headaches as a side effect! If you are able to spend some time on your brief, you will be surprised at the outcome you will be able to achieve.

Hot tips:

  1. How much do you want to spend? Give your agency a ballpark figure to work with so they understand what you’re after and have somewhere to start.
  2. How much can you afford to spend? Have a budget range for the agency to work with and they can provide different options for you and make the most of your budget.
  3. Have an understanding of benchmark prices for the items you are after. Talk to your agency or check out eBay and Amazon or other platforms to get an idea of what it will cost you so you can prepare a realistic budget.