In the last twelve months we’ve seen a number of top London agencies lose their high-level production staff. BBH, Ogilvy, Saatchi, W+K, JWT and FCB are just a few of the big names who have said goodbye to experienced production talent, heads of TV and heads of production.
Of course, there may be varying reasons for these losses, but one thing is clear: something isn’t working. It’s either not working for agencies who feel the production role is now surplus in today’s advertising landscape or it doesn’t work for experienced producers who feel that they’re restricted in their job role.
Speaking frankly, when we left our agency roles in 2015, we did it because we had, throughout our entire careers, learnt and strove to use the talent in the independent creative market to make the best work possible. But at some point, in the noughties, agency objectives changed. Production had to make profit and fiscal choices started to overrule creative ones. We were restricted in our choice of partners and therefore our creative output suffered. It was time to go and we suspect many other heads of production and experienced agency producers have left their roles recently for the exact same reasons.
Don’t get us wrong, changing budgets are something we must all adapt to and, equally, certain agency models with integrated production have been created specifically to address efficiency and value. However, whilst these set ups are successful for certain brands and types of ads, the companies who implement this approach are haemorrhaging production talent and this in turn is leading to a less effective creative output. Think about it this way, if a quality ad can make a large campaign even 1% more effective, the entire cost of the production can be covered.
"Often the efficient route is synonymous with a cheap rate card - and it does suit some brands - but any good producer can tell you that tapping into the independent creative marketplace, when you know what you’re doing, can be just as cost effective."
Often the efficient route is synonymous with a cheap rate card - and it does suit some brands - but any good producer can tell you that tapping into the independent creative marketplace, when you know what you’re doing, can be just as cost effective. They can do this because they know how to balance the role within projects of the key production disciplines to create the best quality solutions, and rarely can this be achieved by putting everything into one single production resource, whether that be internally or within a network production outfit.
We think what these brands and agencies are overlooking is that the experienced producer is integral for several reasons:
1. They help create the shop window work – the beautifully crafted pieces that win new business.
2. They are the only ones who are equipped with the experience to stop mistakes being made. For example, one slip up with music licensing and you’re looking at millions in fines or litigation. If you have someone who doesn’t know what they are doing (or worse no one) managing this, you’ll be coughing up for mistakes on a regular basis.
3. They know how to balance operation with value. Every agency and client wants this regardless of their structure. It’s not an easy task and only the experienced can do it well.
Everything is pointing towards an agency role that is at odds with output. Some agencies seem to be overlooking key reasons to have experienced production feet at the table, and producers are facing an internal battle of wanting to create the best work but being shackled to choices that may not allow them to get there, and ultimately may not really be much better value.
These are the people you need on your bench, more so now than ever. With a constantly changing production landscape, you need a constant. Producers that can navigate their way through, knowing where to look for fresh thinking and clever solutions, all whilst investing clients’ money to the best effect and maintaining a high creative output have surely got to be supported.
Tim Page & Jody Allison are Former Heads of Integrated Production & TV respectively and remain Producers & Co-Founders of Heads Up Production