I’ve had it easy. I’m lucky to be where I am at a time in which production is front and centre of a lot of people’s minds for two reasons. By now everybody gets that, unless you produce your campaign, you have nothing. The second reason is that nowadays brands need to produce a lot of stuff, in many languages, for a broad range of audiences and a plethora of media. Unless you are smart about how you produce your work you won’t be able to produce everything you need exactly when you need it. Remember the previous point.
The reason why I had it easy? The deceptively simple solution resided in the name of our production unit: Craft.
We focus on achieving a great understanding of how to bring to life a great creative product in a way that is repeatable because of a process that is constantly improved. It’s the evolution of an integrated production department on steroids, executing in a meaningful way, both for the consumer and the brand. We help our clients make better work and better commercial decisions by having a holistic view of all the things needed and finding a bespoke solution tailored to their needs. It is the place where creativity meets procurement. We call this ‘Craftspeopleship.’
Quick, cheap and good, pick two. Left brain or right brain. Creative or efficient. Who on earth came up with that? Brands need an amazingly creative full brain, now! And one they can afford. That’s what our team of barely a dozen people started doing in London four years ago.
You can’t imagine how much fun it was to recruit very creative people and convince them that a tight process will set them free in an industry built around “no rules”. But, it’s not about having rules, it’s about having a process. Every great artist has a process. It’s called “the creative process” for a reason. Having one leads to three things: creating a common language for the team, ability to constantly improve (helped with data analytics) and the ability to make it “something we do” instead of “something we miraculously made happen once and almost killed us”. Our constant investment in the pursuit of excelling at operations combined with a technology platform is what has allowed us to be one of the most awarded production agencies in the world while innovating and generating considerable savings for our clients. That has only been possible by building an operations team that truly understand our product is creativity.
We built Craft starting with the more creative product. This has helped us separate ourselves from the competition. One thing is being efficient and the other is eliminating creativity from production and looking at it through a lens of “manufacturing”. Work removed from any type of creativity opens the door for the competition to react, learn and take the lead. It is true that we are automating a fair share of our work to enable us to keep up with the speed of programmatic and dynamic advertising, but even the resize of a banner or template for an automated leaflet performs better when the people making it care and inject creativity into it.
The “deliverable” (I can’t stand that word) is the thing that connects the brand with the consumer and yet out of a brand’s marketing budget, production is just a minimal part of it. It’s considerably lower than media spend, research, strategy, fees… It is sad when we see brands being compromised due to the prioritisation of cost-savings, instead of looking at efficiencies achieved through new models that fit the brand needs. Savings via the way we purchase something as common as paper could provide funding to invest in a better television campaign and elevate a brand’s exposure. Having a clear strategy on how to shoot photography and video throughout a year could allow a brand to have its own library of assets that looks and feels like the brand for the same price they used to pay for stock. It leads to xBox’s “Survival Billboard”, Bisto’s “Togetherness Project”, Mastercard’s “Brits” and the work we do for brands like eBay, Microsoft, Nestle, L’Oreal. It is not the type of solution that easily fit a rigid RFP template or an hourly rate spread sheet.
It is something that requires a partnership based on transparency and trust with our clients. We work with them to help them build their brand, which in turn has helped us build ours. In Europe alone we now have 8 offices with a team of 400+ people. We’re proud of our work, the hundreds of awards we have won, the client roaster we have built, our process, our culture and most of all our growth as individuals. And when we say goodbye to our people – as in this industry we invariably do – we send them off proudly to Netflix, BBC and Amazon – knowing we have done something right.
The next few years will continue to be years of change. The world will become smaller, technology ever more engrained in our lives, data will flow around us like water and storytelling will become less linear and communicated in new ways. In all that ever changing universe we will continue to help clients produce meaningful executions and one thing won’t change for us because it’s in our name: Craft.
Sergio Lopez is chief production officer at McCann Europe