From the twisty Victorian alleys of London’s Soho to the sprawling glass-steel-and-primary-colour complexes of Silicon Valley – next week two worlds look set to collide as the UK’s production community decamps to San Francisco. The Advertising Producers Association is taking representatives from Britain’s finest commercial crafters into the innovative world of Facebook, Pixar and Apple for a week-long fact-finding mission.
It’s not the first time the APA has taken UK production companies abroad – there have been trips to Japan, China, Russia and India – but this is definitely the biggest outing. In total 37 delegates from 27 companies will be making their way to San Francisco’s tech central. So what’s driven the event’s popularity?
“We’re responding to the idea that production companies are small, which is great for their nimbleness but it also means they’re so flat out getting the next job in and doing it well. They haven’t got time to look over the parapet. They know they have to. We can set up contacts and learning experiences in the week and all they have to do is get themselves there. That fits their business model and they respond really well to that,” explains APA chairman Steve Davies.
With the likes of Twitter, YouTube, Pixar and LucasArts on the agenda, it’s no wonder Soho’s production gang has been getting particularly excited about the prospects of the trip. While previous events have been all about helping the UK enter new markets, the focus this time round is definitely on education.
“When we went to meet agencies in Japan, China and India it was about knowledge, but it was also about more direct selling. This is more about learning. There are two specifics. One is about understanding how changes in technology will change, how they can communicate with consumers and, therefore as a production company how do help agencies do that. Also with content on the Internet becoming more video-based, platforms want better quality advertising too.”
Rather than being a one-way flow of information, Davies hopes the event will be a meeting of minds. After all, many of the production companies attending the event have been involved in their fair share of ground-breaking digital projects. He mentions that the response he’s had from San Francisco’s finest has been nothing less than enthusiastic. “Generally I’ve found that, when you take British production and visual effects overseas, it’s a bit like being a Ferrari salesman. Everyone’s interested and everyone wants to see you. I think it’s quite good for morale. It’s such an ultra-competitive environment over here that it can be easy to forget you’re producing something great.”
The outing has been several months in the planning and the British government have got on board to support the project. According to Davies, the process of whittling down the final list of companies to meet has been surprisingly complex. Having identified the most relevant meetings and drummed up enthusiasm from the industry, all that remains is for the crew to jump on a plane to San Francisco and watch the magic happen.
“What I’ve found with these things is that you never know what you’re going to learn,” muses Davies. “There are always peripheral things that happen as a result of throwing these disparate, interesting people together, and it’s always something you couldn’t have foreseen.”