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Lakehouse Partners’ Paul Mavis on the New Production Management Model

Trends and Insight 225 Add to collection

Anthony Vagnoni chats to founder and president about the company’s progress as it prepares to mark its first anniversary in business

Lakehouse Partners’ Paul Mavis on the New Production Management Model

Lakehouse Partners recently asked industry pundit Anthony Vagnoni to spend a few minutes chatting with Paul Mavis about the company’s progress as it prepares to mark its first anniversary in business. The pair know each other from way back, while the former was working closely with AICE (and later with AICP) and the latter was consulting at Unilever. They bonded over their admiration for production and post craftspeople, their high regard for the creative product coming out of production and post houses and their shared fascination with where the ad industry was headed in a time of rapid evolution. As a former trade magazine journalist now working as a consultant for many of the industry’s best known companies, Anthony brings a broad view of the business to every conversation. Here’s an excerpt from his recent chat with Paul. 


Anthony Vagnoni> So Paul, how do you think Lakehouse Partners is doing so far?

Paul Mavis> Well, my high expectations were exceeded within months of our launch and the positive responses we’ve had from the agency, brand, creative, production and even the marketing procurement communities has been particularly gratifying.  


Anthony> Why gratifying?

Paul> Well, it’s proof that we’re on track and that we’re being heard…specifically, that advertising production management is no longer exclusively a ‘client driven’ prerogative, like the way it was when I started.


Anthony> Which was?

Paul> In 1994!


Anthony> How different was it? Did they even have TV back then?

Paul> It had just come out. But seriously, back then, ‘production management’ was essentially just ‘cost control,’ and that task fell to cost ‘consultants’ who spent most of their time pruning agency estimates and supplier quotes, to get costs under control. This didn’t address the underlying reasons why production costs were getting higher.


Anthony> And, since agencies were charging 17.65 percent commission on those productions, they had no incentive to cut costs, inviting those cost consultants to “protect” the client from overspending – inciting the antipathy that continues to this day between consultants and agencies, right? 

Paul> Precisely! But as commission-based production phased out, agency producers were becoming more attentive to costs, and I was able to work with my clients and their agencies collaboratively. Together we refined or discarded the old processes, made them more efficient; and savings accrued, without the trauma!  So, for me, it was always more about production management than it was about cost control.  And, since no one else was calling themselves a production consultant, and because I am a producer by trade, I was the first guy to start using that term exclusively.


Anthony> Did clients understand the difference?

Paul> Not at first!  When Unilever engaged me in late 1994, they had an external cost consultant on retainer and a production supervisor on staff, and I was asked to find ways to help harmonize the relationships between the brand teams and their agencies during the production process. Cost control had very little to do with what I was asked to do.


Anthony> Tell me more about this approach.

Paul> Well, by 2001, my company had assumed the cost-consulting role, as well as the internal production supervisor role, for most of the Unilever companies in North America. So yes, I had to negotiate a production estimate every now and then!


Anthony> And now?

Paul> Well, now we’re getting to the reason why I decided to sell my firm, Mavis & Co., to Larry Byrne, and why we’re getting the response we’re getting at Lakehouse.


Anthony> How would you describe that response? 

Paul> Well, for one thing, Larry wasn’t setting out to create another a production consultancy! 

We’re a management consultancy with unparalleled expertise in production strategy, production advisory, and production services. 

Which means we approach our brand engagements from a completely different perspective than how I used to do as a production consultant. And while we’re suggesting that the current advertising production model is broken, we’re also offering a world-class solution to fix it. 


Anthony> What evidence do we have that the current model is broken?

Paul> That’s easy. Almost all the cost consultants that I competed with 30 years ago are still in business! If I was a client, I’d have to ask myself why I’m retaining a production consultant, sometimes for decades, instead of just improving the process. I mean, no one puts a plumber on retainer, expecting there to be a leak one day. You engage a plumber to fix a leak and then leave. 


Anthony> That’s an almost perfect segue: production strategy is at the heart of what Lakehouse offers, and you believe that every brand should have one. What’s been the response to this positioning?

Paul> Well, most brands have marketing, media, and creative strategies, yet probably only a few have clearly defined production strategies. We believe a strategy is like a bridge that connects where you are today to where you want to be tomorrow. A well-thought-out production strategy will define a clear process for creating compelling content; one that supports creativity, complies with budget and timing parameters, flexes for near-constant change in the marketplace, and delivers to the vast number of media channels available. 

Creating and then rolling out a production strategy – which Larry and I have done for Unilever – can reduce spend, increase yield, and condense cycle times by clarifying goals, roles and responsibilities among the client, agency, and supplier teams. And, once in place, our strategies allow the agency and client team to focus on producing the best work at the best price…at least, that’s the goal!     


Anthony> Sounds like you’re still so passionate about the work!

Paul> Absolutely! Working with Larry and the rest of our incredible team and delivering great results for our clients is what it’s all about for me!

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Lakehouse Partners, Thu, 28 Apr 2022 13:45:31 GMT