The million dollar (saving) question of video marketing: How much should you be spending on video ad production? I get asked this all the time, and admittedly I often ask my colleagues the same question. That's because there's no one-size-fits-all answer and the industry is always evolving. Pricing a video ad is like pricing a sandwich or a haircut. A multitude of factors will determine how much a video should cost and how much you're willing to pay for it.
I've hired my fair share of freelancers, agencies, and production studios. I've also spent plenty of time pricing my own freelance video services. I can't give you an exact number on how much a video ad should cost, but I can help you determine whether or not you're paying a reasonable price.
NOTE: all prices mentioned in this article are in USD.
Hiring Freelance Video Editors
There are countless pros and cons to utilizing an external network of freelancers instead of hiring internally; the largest pro being cost savings. But this can often come at the expense of communication obstacles, quality risks, and an absence of loyalty. The decision to hire freelance video editors ultimately boils down to your exact needs and budget. But how much should you expect to pay for a freelance video editor?
For a full-time contract (40hrs/wk dedication): $1,000 - $5,000 per month. This backs out to around $6 - $30 hourly, or around $12,000 - $60,000 annually.
For a single project: it really depends. This is where we get into the aforementioned issue with pricing video production. Based on my ideal price range for a full-time freelance editor, you might conclude that a one-off video ad should only set you back a few hundred bucks, and you might be correct. But whether you're paying for a single project or a long-term partnership, the cost will depend on several factors:
- Location of the editor
- Experience level of the editor
- Quality of work
- Turnaround time
- Project scope
A highly talented video editor based in Argentina might only charge $200 for a video ad, while an editor of equal talent based in LA might charge well over $1,000 for the same project. Likewise, hiring an editor in Moscow might be more cost effective, but they might also be more difficult to work with due to language barriers, time zone differences, and possibly a slower internet connection. You'll always need to consider the factors listed above when determining whether or not you're paying a fair price for a freelance editor.
Real Ad Cost Estimates
I grabbed the following ads from Facebook's ad library, selecting games based on App Annie's top apps charts for June 27, 2020. To clarify, I don't know what these ads actually cost to produce. These estimates are what I would consider a reasonable price if I was paying a freelancer to produce them.
NOTE: The following cost estimates are for the individual videos as they are presented and do not include resizes, cutdowns, localizations, or additional variations that you might expect to be included when producing a video ad, all of which could potentially increase costs.
Coin Master ad:
This 30-second ad features a mixture of gameplay and motion graphics. At first glance it seems like there's a lot going on here, but it's actually a pretty simple video. Most of the "gameplay" is just static assets. Assuming all animation was original (including the end card), I would estimate production time for this ad to be somewhere around 6-8 hours. For this single video I would expect a price range between $200 - $400.
This is the most complex ad we're going to look at. It features a significant amount of motion graphics and custom animations. Because of this, I'd put this ad's estimated cost at $500 - $900.
Rise of Kingdom Ad:
For the sake of this exercise I'm going to assume this is an actress and not an influencer. This is a super simple concept with very minimal editing. I would expect to pay $30 - $70 for the actress and $50 - $100 for the editing. That would price this single ad somewhere between $80 - $170.
Pokémon Go Ad:
This is a clean, well-designed ad, but it's about 90% captured gameplay. The device and the first and last 2 seconds of the ad are the only custom elements. Assuming the gameplay has already been captured, editing should take no more than 1-2 hours (and not much longer if the gameplay wasn't already available). I would price this single ad around $50 - $150.
We've talked about freelancers, but what about dedicated creative agencies? Are they worth it? How much should you be paying? Let's first explore the pros and cons of partnering with a creative agency.
- Easier to find
- Dedicated account rep to handle communication with editors
- Can take care of ideation and direction
- Multiple editors, someone always available
- Typically offer various services
- Likely to have more industry experience and insight
- Usually more expensive
- You have no direct interaction with the editors
- Output is typically lower quality
- Resizes, cutdowns, and localization can increase costs dramatically
- Creative might be fully or partly templatized in some cases
Personally, I like to have at least one or two solid agencies on my roster of external resources, if only for the guaranteed availability. That said, the right agency can offer you a lot more than just creative production. They can assist with creative strategy, open the door to different creative formats like playables and 3D, and provide insights or make suggestions based on what their other clients are doing. And if you don't have the experience or knowledge to properly vet freelancers, agencies are by far the easiest solution.
So, you've made the decision to work with an agency, but what's an acceptable price to pay? Once again, the answer really depends on what all they're offering. Every agency has their own rate sheet and it's probably not specific to your exact needs. For example, you'll probably be hard-pressed to find an agency that reasonably integrates localization into their pricing package.
I think the easiest way to estimate agency costs is to look at reasonable price ranges per single produced video by quality level (not accounting for resizes, cutdowns, or localizations).
- Low quality: $200 - $500
- Mid quality: $500 - $900
- Top quality: $900 - $1,500
Just keep in mind the agency's costs may also include strategy, insights, and of course overhead. But ultimately, if your costs don't align with expected quality based on the above bullets, you might want to consider another agency.
A Final Disclosure
Ultimately, these are just my personal opinions on creative costs from my perspective working in mobile gaming UA. I know colleagues who are happy to pay $2,000 for a single ad (including resizes, cutdowns, and localizations). I know colleagues that solely rely on freelance websites because they care more about costs than quality. It all comes down to what's right for you. To reiterate, there are countless factors that can determine the cost of an ad as well as how much you're willing to pay for it. So while the prices I've listed in this article might be the perfect reference you're looking for, it's okay if they're still too high/low for your specific circumstances.