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5 Minutes with…Sergio Lopez


Publicis Groupe’s new EVP and global head of production tells LBB why complexity continues to present an industry-wide challenge and how he can’t picture himself doing anything else, even after 25 years

5 Minutes with…Sergio Lopez

Adobe XD is a proud supporter of LBB. Over the upcoming months, as part of the sponsorship of the ‘5 Minutes with…’ channel, we will be spending time with some of the most innovative and creative minds in the industry.

Sergio Lopez recently joined Publicis Groupe EVP and, in a newly created role, as the global head of production. With over 25 years of industry experience in advertising and entertainment across four continents, he brings a uniquely global perspective to the world-wide-facing role. Sergio is as excited by the technological advancements driving progress as he is committed to excellence in craft, combining both sensibilities to drive the production strategy and vision at Publicis Groupe. 

Today, Sergio reflects on what makes this industry such an exciting one, how Publicis Groupe is oriented to manage complexity, and why smart personalisation is a top priority for consumers…

LBB> You’ve just started your new role at Publicis - congratulations! What appealed to you about the opportunity?

Sergio> The world of advertising has been changing for quite some time. Covid has only accelerated that, drastically affecting consumer habits too. We've been talking for a while about the shift from traditional advertising to on demand. Look at the shift from traditional television to platforms like Netflix, like Amazon Prime, and the growth of e-commerce and social media. That means that clients need a lot more content while their budgets are the same. They need to react to the trends in the marketplace. And to do that you need very close cooperation between creativity, media and production.

What excited me about Publicis Groupe is that, for years, they’ve worked with the ‘Power of One’ model that brings everyone together. They have scale, they have fantastic clients. So for somebody like me to come to further develop their production capability, working very closely with creative and working very closely with media, is something very unique — it’s a dream job.

LBB> How have you found the move and how are you settling into the role? Has anything surprised you since joining the Publicis family?

Sergio> I was amazed at the scale of the role. It’s a new role within the industry, few companies have a head of production on a group level. To me that’s indicative of the struggle that advertisers have with producing work. The scale of the operation surprised me. Also the value of the different families, personalities, and skills because absolutely everything is covered; from creative, media, shopper, and digital to ad consultancy. It’s a very broad topic, a great topic. 

LBB> What aims and ambitions are you bringing to the role - is there anything specific you’d like to achieve?

Sergio> I’d like to take production from a place where it’s seen just as a service and to any and all strategic pillars at a time when clients want better, cheaper, faster, but also easier to engage with and smarter too. I would love to build a production agency that’s a one-stop-shop for all things production related. For clients, I’d like to focus on engagement, which I define as producing things that people want to engage with, what they’re attracted to, and that are delivered to the right channel at the right time, for the right audience. To get to as close to personalisation as possible. Media channels and media agencies have developed really smart technology. And there's been investment in data companies trying to provide the audience with personalised content. The challenge is a brand’s ability to actually produce enough content to be distributed on a close to personalised level.

LBB> talking about personalisation for a second, is that a consumer demand or something that marketers are pushing?

Sergio> There are two ways of looking at personalisation. There is creepy personalisation and there is useful personalisation, right? I don't think that consumers are looking for creepy personalisation. Consumers in today’s world are used to personalisation from platforms like Spotify, Netflix, Amazon, Deliveroo. In fact, I think they’re not just used to, they’re demanding to be delivered relevant content. In that sense, personalisation can be seen as the elimination of clutter, and there’s a huge consumer appetite for that. 

LBB> Thinking about craft in the industry, you’ve spoken before about the disconnect with what consumers find engaging and what the industry rewards. Has your opinion shifted at all or have you noticed a change in the kind of ads that are being made?

Sergio> I have seen TV ads become more and more homogenous over the years. There’s a very set style, whether that’s certain visuals returning or it’s comedy. And then we see audiences shift to social media content, platforms with more engagement like TikTok, Instagram, Snapchat. Work made for those platforms isn’t being rewarded with awards. This is a different kind of craft because sometimes we confuse craft with visual values, or production design. 

Something that’s very fresh, very relevant can be as well crafted as a $3 million campaign. It’s about relevancy and the context of who’s watching. On platforms like TikTok there’s content performarning incredibly well but it wasn’t produced at the level of a commercial. It’s contextual and based on audience demand. 

LBB> With the work created today, how much of it do you think is responding to consumer demand versus shaping it? What kind of effect is it having on craft and creativity? 

Sergio> it’s a chicken and egg situation. The real question is about the longevity of the format or the movement itself. New platforms and formats inform consumer expectations, like Snapchat did years ago and now TikTok. Once people embrace them, start exploring and creating content on those platforms, it in turn inspires creative agencies. As it’s a global movement, it’s influencing not just what people are consuming but also what people want to do at a massive speed. That’s why agility is the buzzword of the last few years. Look at the TikToks that got millions of views last year, they look obsolete today. All these formats are experiencing burnout in months, maximum two or three. 

With traditional advertising campaigns, the cycle used to be six to eight months. Now, we need to come up with ways to respond, and come up with something in less than half the time for half of what we used to spend. People are quickly embracing the new things that are coming. As an industry, we need to be part of that loop — not just to embrace it, but also to inform it.

LBB> You’ve spoken in the past about the unprecedented scale the industry operates in today, with an ever-increasing number of channels and formats. When you look at the conversation that’s happening around the Metaverse, is that something which excites you or scares you?

Sergio> Both! Changes are always exciting. For people like me in production, it’s exciting to explore a new format, see how it can open a new way of communication, storytelling, and creativity. The metaverse is a very interesting field and we have seen it accelerated a lot in the last two years. The technology is so advanced, we’re ready to take it to the next level. But a lot of conversations need to happen first. Who owns the metaverse? What are its uses? How are we going to regulate it? As is often the case, the tech is way ahead of regulations, which can lead to misinterpretation, and result in something like the Cambridge Analytica scandal and no one wants to see that happen again. 

LBB> To call your career international would be an understatement. Which markets are currently exciting you and why?

Sergio> How do you pick? The Asian market is always very exciting, it’s its own universe. There’s so much diversity of culture and behaviours. China is growing and developing new technologies and ways of working. The US is always exciting, due to the scale, and it’s a market that really needs our kind of production agency. I think we have all the pieces needed to deliver for it and that’s going to be my focus over the next few months. I also keep an eye on the African market. So much fantastic creativity is coming out of Kenya. I try to follow all the markets; the world is a very exciting place. 

LBB> You’ve worked in the industry for 25 years. What drew you in to start with and what keeps you going this many years later?

Sergio> I started in the industry when I was 16 or 17 because I didn’t know what else to do. I was producing records for friends and I liked photography. Advertising gave me an ability to do a little bit of all of those things, and to meet incredible people. Sometimes we’re very hard on ourselves; we forget about the calibre of talent we work with and the resources at our disposal. The first few years after I started working in America, I met so many incredible directors, editors, photographers. Watching something that starts as a storyboard and then turns into content on many platforms is magicaI. I still like seeing the first draft of projects and the finished product on social media, television, or digital platforms. 

What keeps me going is that this is such a complex business and it’s so difficult to understand that I’m still wrapping my head around it on a daily basis, and that doubles when you try to do it on a global level. This work has enriched my life in many, many ways. I love what I do and I couldn’t imagine myself doing anything else. 

LBB> What are the main challenges facing the industry today and are there any solutions that should be implemented before it’s too late?

Sergio> The biggest challenge we have on the production side of the business is complexity. Complexity, as silly as it sounds, leads to a lot of problems. Because of complexity, creativity is getting diluted; people are trying to figure out how to get  work out the door, as opposed to focusing on the quality of the work, leading to waste of money. Which means that at a time where clients need more, they're spending in areas where they shouldn't. They don't have the resources to invest on the creative aspect of the production or to produce as much as they can. 

And it's definitely affecting agility, and it's affecting brand consistency. We need to be helping clients address complexity and that's why I believe that something like a collection agency can bring the needed simplification of complexity that comes with so much of the advertising industry these days. We can help clients focus on delivering beautiful creative that people can watch on the right channel at the right time with the right message.

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Adobe, Wed, 02 Feb 2022 11:20:10 GMT