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Content Production Video Production Agency Leadership

Faster, cheaper and better: the case for a new kind of production efficiency

By Eric Soloway, Head of production



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June 12, 2023 | 7 min read

Clickon’s Eric Soloway makes the case for a simplified understanding of efficiency in the modern production environment – what he calls ‘efficiency 2.0’ or, simply, capital-E-efficiency.

A chess piece being taken

Clickon's Eric Soloway asks: are you ready for a new kind of efficiency? / GR Stocks via Unsplash

For brands and marketers, the efficiency drum is always beating: faster; cheaper; and better. Most of the obstacles standing in the way of this perpetual improvement come from us.

Not long ago, when a producer was presented with an underfunded project and an impossible deadline they would say, ‘Fast, cheap, good: pick two’. Usually, it worked. It staved off the insanity – for a little while. Eventually, though, unyielding clients and competition broke the paradigm. Hard work (really hard work) and better technology made the impossible possible. And now there’s no putting the genie of progress back in the bottle.

Sometimes, speed kills. Something inevitably goes wrong on these fast, cheap and good endeavors. Something expensive. Maybe a legality gets overlooked and delays ensue, or stakeholders aren’t aligned, or a frame rate blunder leads to post overages, or the wrong version gets shipped. These are the things that keep a producer up at night (assuming they got a chance to sleep). Whatever it is will usually get fixed – there’s no other option. The production must go on. Hence the saying, ‘they have no money to make it, but plenty to fix it'. These productions sometimes leave a bitter taste and a jolt of PTSD. We all have our war stories.

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Fortunately, there’s a better way. Efficiency, with a capital E. Efficiency from the get-go; Efficiency through-and-through; Efficiency baked into the process, from RFP to delivery, measurement and learnings. ‘Fast, cheap, good 2.0’ can be shortened to, simply, ‘Efficiency’. Efficiency done right is eternal, self-renewing and making the most of time, cost and quality.

The Efficiency mantra can be summed up by another well-worn saying, ‘measure twice, cut once’. It never ceases to amaze me how often it’s not only ignored but defied. Spinning wheels get you nowhere. Spinning other people’s wheels gets you nowhere faster.

So how do we put Efficiency into action?

First, here’s how not to be efficient: calling big meetings to advance half-baked ideas; bidding jobs five different ways from a concept that’s not clearly defined; saying ‘we’ll figure it out in post’; awarding a job without a list of final deliverables. The list goes on. Fortunately, the things you should do can be boiled down to a much shorter list.

1. Communication

Clear, level-headed, thorough, communication among all stakeholders throughout the process is vital for efficiency to thrive.

When a ‘point of no return’ decision needs to be made, be clear about the implications of that decision and get all the right people to sign off on it. Put it in writing, distribute it accordingly, and don’t look back. If it takes slightly longer than planned to gather alignment, wait… but urgently. Efficiency doesn’t always have to mean faster at the moment.

Remember, the tortoise won the race. Keep that turtle on a healthy diet and you’ll always come in on time and on budget. Good communication is the key to saving time.

2. Process

Churning out innovative, revolutionizing ideas isn’t easy, but it’s easier if we can stick to a process with a clear order of operations and defined roles and responsibilities. This takes patience and discipline.

Here’s another metaphor: to make a great cake, follow the recipe. That doesn’t mean you can’t swap out ingredients (good health tip: substitute olive oil for butter) but the icing comes last. Swapping the order of things and ignoring the space-time continuum compromises the process, and ultimately sabotages it. Strategy, creative development, production, delivery, and measurement are phases that rely on each other, successively.

Retrofitting the strategy to suit the creative, or selling in overlength scripts and indulging all sorts of short-sighted demands for impatient execs instead of enrolling them, will only disrupt the process and ultimately drive costs (and frustrations) up.

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3. Craft

We’ve covered speed and cost. Now comes the quality, aka craft. Whether it’s a TikTok or a Super Bowl spot, the craft can never be compromised. With good communication and adherence to process, it won’t be. If the strategy is sound and signed off by all stakeholders, and the process allows enough time (because communication early on was good) then the creatives can do their job to come up with stellar, ground-breaking ideas that can be vetted by production and presented to the client responsibly with any necessary caveats.

I’m all for upselling as long as it’s communicated clearly. And because the client will have been thoroughly kept in the loop the whole time, expectations will be met (hopefully exceeded) and everyone can move forward instead of in circles.

I know patience isn’t always easy these days. And everyone is feeling the pressure. But if we can hold each other (and ourselves) accountable, communicate clearly, and help each other through the process, we’ll work more efficiently and love what we create together.

Content Production Video Production Agency Leadership

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