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Linda Tinoly: Why Saying “Yes” More to the Creative Can Improve The Bottom Line

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US client services director at Murphy Cobb Associates, Linda Tinoly is using her love and understanding of all things creative to clear the path for great ideas and making the impossible happen

Linda Tinoly: Why Saying “Yes” More to the Creative Can Improve The Bottom Line

During her prolific career, Linda has had her fingers in a lot of pies. That’s metaphorically and literally as she managed a gourmet wholesale bakery for two years after taking a much needed sabbatical from the Hal Riney agency, during which she learnt to never ruin a perfectly good hobby by turning it into a job. Besides knowing a thing or two about baked goods, Linda spent the majority of her career at agencies, in production, and production operations, where she learnt all about the tension that’s so often present between the people with ideas and the people with money. This taught her an important lesson, creating a personal philosophy she enacts to this day – “hands on, multiple hats, no silos.” 

A Chicago native, Linda praises the city’s industry legacy and strong work ethic, calling it “America’s heartland.” Her first agency (“very small and scrappy”) role was a kind of three-headed chimera: simultaneously assistant to the creative director, assistant to the media director and traffic/talent manager. Was this the ‘glamour of advertising’? “Yes, but I think some people forget there’s also overalls and shovels,” says Linda, adding that “the creative work that results from all the hard work is worth it, but most times, getting there is anything but easy. You really do need to be passionate about this work and I have always truly loved what I do.”

Driven by her desire to make the impossible happen, Linda’s role at MCA sees her championing creative ideas, finding ways to say ‘Yes!’ and working out how to do it – “ I often think of my job as the brusher on a curling team.”

Linda spoke to LBB about the need to always balance business and creative, why Covid wasn’t a death sentence for the industry, and why, despite 1200 messages in her inbox, she still loves what she does. 


LBB> During your career, what do you think has been the most transformative and valuable piece of technology, ideas or thinking for advertising production?

Linda> If you ever want to know how old someone is, ask them what format the commercial masters were when they started. For me, it was 2" tapes – yikes! From then to now, I've seen it all....I remember when the first fax machine was brought into Leo Burnett. It seemed transformative at the time (who the hell were we going to fax?!), then for years we couldn't imagine life without it. Overnight couriers, electronic delivery, etc. soon followed. The point is, there are always new ways to get the job done. Smart people use the best tools available.

During Covid, production learned fast that you could still produce content despite a global pandemic by working and shooting remotely from anywhere in the world. There is no community more agile and solution oriented than production. Necessity was truly the mother of invention, and we found a way to make it happen. Technology is always changing. At its essence, this business is about people – working, creating together to exceed your clients' needs and reach your consumer. That's it. I've been very fortunate to work with some of the most talented people in this business and I've learned from all of them.


LBB> The marketing and communications world continues to become increasingly complex for brands. How do you keep abreast of the ceaseless changes and how do you prepare brands to do the same?

Linda> Having a learner’s mentality is essential. At MCA, we used the pandemic ‘downtime’ to invite people in and help us expand our thinking and stay on top of new technology. I’m very curious, always asking questions, and seeking out what’s new. It can absolutely feel overwhelming to stay on top of all the new tech developments, but you just have to do it! At MCA, we don’t recommend new technology to clients lightly; we thoroughly vet any recommendations we make. 

There’s currently so much out there that sometimes we’re met with resistance to being open to what’s new. People like sticking with the tried and tested. But looking at new ways of doing things is really exciting. We try to expose our clients to the new by having these conversations beforehand and putting the vendors through their paces, and looking at their work and making sure they're well qualified. The challenge isn’t always how to do things cheaper, but how to do it better, how to be faster, how to get ahead of the competition, how to get more for the same strapped budget. The last year and a half has taught us that there are a lot of ways to get things done. For example, we created some instructions for clients on how to best use green screens remotely with talent, which worked great through Covid. Why stop now? We want to give our clients all the possible options to choose from. 


LBB> Do you think this industry has a tendency to apply old thinking to new technologies and media channels? How can brands ensure they don’t fall into this trap?

Linda> Unfortunately, yes, it still happens. Now that I'm on the consultant side of the business, it's been surprising to see some agencies actively resist new ways of thinking. Some have been surprisingly slow to adapt, using the same canon no matter what the fly.  Some agency producers are still in a ‘TV first’ mentality. They pick up the phone and call the same roster of A+ production companies and let them take over. They think their job is done if they are on budget. MCA works every day with advertisers to challenge that mentality.  What should it cost? How can we rethink the process? We give our clients the tools and support to take control of their content production. They don't have to turn that power over to their agency partners. 

I should also say that we're fortunate to be working with some really great agency partners. They apply as much creativity to production as they do to the creative process. Those agencies are out there and it makes a big difference. We encourage our clients to add these types of partners to their agency ecosystem.


LBB> MCA is working behind the scenes with some of the biggest brands in the world. How does your extensive agency experience help in your current role?

Linda> MCA has experts that come from every side of the business – agency vets, client-side marketers, production company owners, post production specialists, yes, even procurement leads. We use everything we know for our clients' advantage. We know where the pad is in a budget. We know that uncertainty in bid specs and deliverables will raise costs unnecessarily. We know what the most forward thinking brands are doing. We help our clients design a process that works for them and supports their goals. We have the most robust database of global production benchmarks and tech tools that enable confident, data-led decision making 

During the pandemic, our founder Pat Murphy, started weekly webinars and invited vendors and technologists to keep our staff and clients ahead of emerging technology and thought-leadership. Any fool can take a machete to a bid (and many do). MCA views our job as production and performance optimization consultants. It's our goal to balance creative and cash. We ensure that our clients get what they need and are more informed. We partner with the agencies and see ourselves on the same side of the table. We're all working in service of the clients’ goals. It's what distinguishes MCA from the other firms in this space. On the agency side, I worked with all of the production consultants. I knew we could do better.


LBB> Has supporting creative always been something you have been passionate about throughout your career? If so, why do you think that is?

Linda> YES YES YES! That is my mantra. There are a million ways a great creative idea will get killed or watered down. I'm not going to be the one to kill it. I'm going to champion it, find a way, figure out the ‘how’ and move mountains to bring it to life. Agency creatives go through hell just to get their idea presented to a client. I understand how hard it is to create and my job is to clear the path. Deadlines, budgets, pandemics. Bring it on.


LBB> In advertising, creativity and numbers encounter each other daily. Do you think that ‘numbers’ people need to love (or at least like) creativity for best all-around results?

Linda> It’s understandably easy for both parties to act in their own self-interest and not approach the relationship with maybe as much balance as it requires. Sometimes creatives don’t consider the money, legal, and business sides while the business people don’t always think about the impact their activity has on creatives. So if each party tends to operate in their own world and profess results, I think you really need that balance and respect. What I learned a long time ago was that if you want creative people to partner with you, you can’t say “no” all the time – you have to invite them in, to be willing to listen, and let them bounce ideas off you without the fear that every one will be immediately shot down. That’s how creatives end up in a situation where they decide to beg for forgiveness rather than ask for permission. That’s just not an attitude that I have and I vowed to not carry that into any future roles, like what I currently do at MCA. Ultimately, we should all be working together in service of the client’s needs. 


LBB> MCA is often perceived as a production consultancy but you are working on projects that are so much more. Can you tell us about what kind of projects you are being engaged in that have excited you?

Linda> Production and cost consulting are indeed just small parts of what we do at MCA. The relationships we have with our clients are based on trust and the partnerships we end up developing. They’ll often call us asking for advice, information or recommendations, help with preparing a good brief, help with finding a new agency. We do a large amount of work with clients on their activations, social content, influencer management and redesign of their content production system.  The answer to all that is yes! I don’t think other consultancies necessarily approach it that way. At MCA, we’re incredibly focused on the client. It’s never about us. We’re not the big deal in this equation. We take humility very seriously. 


LBB> How have you been evolving the MCA offering in North America?

Linda> Our clients view us as trusted partners. We love that we're their first call, no matter what the question is. We have an incredible network of resources to bring to them. Recently we've been helping clients get their MSAs and SOWs right with their agency partners. Our most valuable work happens far upstream of production.

Another area where we're helping clients is examining the continuum of bringing some or all of their work in-house.  For the last 7 months we've been immersed in helping a client move from a roster of 10+ agencies to a 100% in-house model. At the same time, we are also working with another client that moved their work from in-house to an outside agency. It's two sides of the same coin and both have been a fascinating journey. 

At MCA, we're told we are really good at listening. And asking questions. I'm very proud of that.


LBB> Do you think the pandemic has had any positive effects on the industry?

Linda> Absolutely. At the height of the pandemic, MCA was asked to present the ‘Surprising upside of Covid for Production’ for the ANA (Association of National Advertisers) in the States. The pandemic has confirmed the industry's ability to innovate, while staying safe. It's transformed the entire production process. With all due respect, I use the example that 9/11 changed forever how the world travels. Covid has similarly re-invented production. If we're smart, we won't go back. 


LBB> Tell us about a few of your all time favourite campaigns

Linda> I was a latchkey kid and watched entirely too much tv and commercials growing up. I'm still a sucker for good music and spots that make me cry. Recently our clients Reebok, IKEA, and Pringles have rolled out some really great creative that I'm proud we helped bring to life. I'm thrilled whenever a good idea can stay intact despite all the people putting their two cents in.


LBB> What inspires you outside of work? What keeps you going and what has kept you busy during the last year? 

Linda> I'm the absolute worst example of work/life balance. In the few moments of down time, I'm a voracious non-fiction reader, I love to travel, people watch and dream of the day when I don't have 1200 new messages in my inbox.  


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Murphy Cobb Associates, Mon, 26 Jul 2021 11:45:29 GMT