Rebecca (Becks) Montgomery is responsible for the creative output of the production arm at Recipe. She oversees an exceptional team of creatives, shoot/post producers, designers and editors.
With extensive experience in creative direction on brief and on brand, from idea to final delivery, Becks strives to push boundaries with bold and unique ideas.
LBB> What lasting impact has the experience of the pandemic had on how you and your agency think about and approach production?
Becks> Remote working works! And the realisation that we are incredibly adaptable as a team. We transitioned from our office base to working remotely within 24 hours, with remarkable communication internally as well externally. If anything, our processes have become more efficient.
However, I do feel that when it’s possible we will return to the office for key areas of creative production, inspiration, creative development, brainstorms, pitches and on the job learning / training. I do miss that energy in the room whilst bouncing ideas or that spontaneous pint that would lead to the Big Idea.
The office will also provide a space to communicate and catch up with colleagues and clients. It will be so important to our mental health to be able to see each other face to face, have a break from screens and leave the four walls of our homes. In addition to this, I believe that being in the office enables younger talent to learn and grow from the conversations that are being had around our business - being physically available also removes any ‘walls’ and helps those with less experience and confidence to ask questions.
LBB> Aside from Covid-19, what have been the most disruptive forces to hit agency production in the past few years?
Becks> The uncertainty with Brexit, which kept a lot of brand nerves on edge and has an effect on confidence, budgets and exchange rates. But there are always challenges that are out of your hands. As creative producers we need to adapt, be flexible and work with what we can control.
LBB> A good producer should be able to produce for any medium, from film to events to digital. Do you agree or disagree with this statement?
Becks> I agree. As a full service agency, we have a wide ranging spectrum of briefs coming in on a daily basis. Our producers and creative producers are able to work to any budget or brief and this is essential as communication platforms grow. Advertising is ever-changing, therefore we need to be flexible to move with the times. Of course, specialists are necessary but a good producer will bring the right team together.
DCM & BT Flex Partnership Cinema Campaign
LBB> And leading on from that, when it comes to building up your team at the agency, what’s your view on the balance of specialists vs generalists?
Becks> Hire a good mixture of both. Generalists are able to hone in on different skills depending on the task at hand. They are adaptable, flexible and efficient, and can swap hats which is essential to the fast-paced nature of all our productions. However we also need specialists. They have a huge responsibility to use their skills to bring the creative to life.
LBB> What’s your own pathway to production? When you started out, what sort of work were you producing and what lessons have stayed with you in that time?
Becks> I wore many hats, starting out with work experience and running on shoots. In my first year I was a studio runner for live TV, a production assistant for a small agency, a floor manager and camera operator for a live gaming show, and I knocked on many doors. As I built up my CV, I kept in touch with everyone I’d met, which led to more opportunities.
My big break came when I got one month's work experience for the Walt Disney Company. I used this opportunity to meet more people and fight to stay on, which I did. The biggest lesson I’ve learned is to be kind and considerate, give opportunities to others, if you see something special in someone, encourage them in whatever way to help them shine.
LBB> If you compare your role to the role of the heads of TV/heads of production when you first joined the industry, what do you think are the most striking or interesting changes?
Becks> Now we have less of a hierarchical presence and sign off, managers and team members work together in a much more collaborative way. However, due to the rise of digital platforms, we now have many more layers for external sign off, due to the amount of different platforms that we are servicing.
We are working with multiple brands and stakeholders to produce content, which will be seen across multiple platforms. This is considerably different to creating content for just TV.
LBB> There are so many models for the way production is organised in the advertising industry - what set-ups have you found to be the most successful and why?
Becks> I think the best set-ups focus on the people in the agency - kind hearted, amiable people, with a thirst to produce excellent content. Our creative production department has the benefit of having creatives that are also producers, so the budget is always part of the conversation in the ideation phase. Production has to be agile, team members will think outside the box, and pull out all the stops even when a small budget may be working against them.
Maryland Cookies - 'Keep it Kookie'
LBB> When working with a new partner or collaborator, how do you go about establishing trust?
Becks> Having clear communication from the first meeting. If you remain honest about your concerns, but also provide solutions to any problems that you see arising, this creates a good relationship.
Absolutely meet them face-to-face for the first meeting where possible, otherwise a screen call. I’ve found with all our partners, we have built fantastic friendships over the years that are genuine as we strive for the same goal to create unique memorable content.
LBB> What are your thoughts on the involvement of procurement in production?
Becks> It’s often really hard to be added to a particular brand’s roster due to the procurement team being a completely different department to the clients that we have built relationships with. So it’s hard to find a ‘way in’ when you don’t have a relationship with the procurement team. That said, the role of procurement is vital in helping to protect the brand and ensuring brand values are not compromised when an external partner is producing their content.
LBB> When it comes to educating producers, how does your agency like to approach this?
Becks> In some ways, a lot of the best learning mirrors that of an apprenticeship - learn by doing and repetition. We encourage junior members of the team to get fully stuck into projects, often getting them to make decisions (where possible) under the watchful support of the senior members to ensure there are no negative effects on the project.
LBB> What new skills have you had to add to the team as a result of the pandemic?
Becks> Working remotely has meant that teams have needed to be responsible for their own time management. It’s very easy to work 10 hour days without a break, therefore the teams have needed to manage their own workflow, say no to projects when at capacity and adapt so that they get a good work/life balance, which has been hard for all of us to accomplish. Health and safety concerning Covid-19 has also been the single biggest area of education needed to work in the pandemic.
LBB> Should production have a seat in the c-suite - and why?
Becks> It’s been important for this to be the case at Recipe as production has always been at the heart of the agency and the decisions concerning our growth as a business. Ensuring production, creative and planning strategy are aligned from the offset allows us to develop ideas that are actionable within the parameters and budgets that have been set. By having production at the seat in the c-suite, we are aligned across all areas of the delivery process. It provokes healthy debates and diversified thinking which we believe helps deliver the best results for our clients.
CALM/Joe Marler - 'Read Between the Timelines'
LBB> Clients’ thirst for content seems to be unquenchable - and they need content that’s fast and responsive! What’s the key to creating LOTS of stuff at SPEED - without sacrificing production values?
Becks> Recipe’s philosophy of ‘no walls’ means that we have a really agile structure in place for quick communication between teams and departments. At the heart of what we do, everyone is willing to help and work collaboratively. Trust is key to building a great relationship where meaningful and sometimes difficult conversations are encouraged - being able to have honest discussions about why ‘lots of stuff’ is needed to truly understand the request often allows us to provide alternative solutions that are more effective. Equally, if volume is agreed to be essential, these conversations enable us to shortcut conversations to get straight to the crux of the request to respond and react with speed.
For post-based projects our creative producers have multifaceted roles, from the initial ideation to final delivery, they client manage, write the creative, produce the work, oversee the post, edit it and deliver, which definitely nails lots of stuff at speed!
LBB> To what extent is production strategic - traditionally it’s the part that comes at the ‘end’ of the agency process, but it seems in many cases production is a valuable voice to have right up top - what are your thoughts/experiences of this?
Becks> We have many different business streams into the agency, some of them traditional and some less traditional. The producer is given the budget, they will assign the best teams to execute the idea, and will choose how, when and why the budget will be used.
Therefore production is extremely strategic.
If the producer is involved from the briefing stage, a lot of time is saved. They can add invaluable insight into how to execute the creative ideas, in the most affordable, exciting and efficient ways. This is exactly the reason why production has an equal voice on the management board at Recipe.
LBB> What’s the most exciting thing about working in production right now?
Becks> Having the freedom to be anywhere in the world and continue to produce great content with people that aren’t sat next to you. And from the creative point of view, writing creative for such an array of different platforms. As technology develops, we have the opportunity to advertise in unique and engaging ways. We are no longer creating a 30 second advert for TV, we are telling stories through so many different mediums. This is exciting, it keeps you on your toes and makes each day a fresh challenge.
LBB> And what advice would you give to an aspiring agency producer?
Becks> Treat all those that you work with, with respect. Really learn to listen, don’t interrupt. Be calm, even when a deadline is looming.
The producer is in control of the budget, so you are at the heart of the project. Don’t be afraid to give your opinion if you think there is a different way in. Give praise where praise is due. Basically just be kind.