The head of integrated content at DDB Australia talks about importance of recognising that no two producers are the same and how the agency had one of their busiest periods during the pandemic
As the head of integrated content at DDB Australia, looking after both the Sydney and Melbourne offices, Renata Barbosa knows a thing or two about production. And after two decades in the industry, with roles at Saatchi & Saatchi Australia and Leo Burnett and a stint as a TV producer for JWT when Renata speaks about navigating this pivotal sector of our industry, she’s seen it all.
For our first Production Line from Australia, Renata shares her experience of working in Australia and why the last 12 months have taught her to embrace the new.
LBB> What lasting impact has the experience of the pandemic had on how you and DDB Australia think about and approach production?
Renata> I'll start by saying we have been very lucky in Australia. At the beginning of the pandemic, the production industry implemented and adhered to strict safety protocols throughout the whole production process, which meant we could keep working through most of the pandemic. In fact, DDB had one of our busiest periods right in the middle of it. But perhaps the biggest impact has been on the relationships with our clients and production partners. Transparency and trust have been key, making for stronger partnerships and a better end product.
LBB> Aside from Covid-19, what have been the most disruptive forces to hit agency production in the past few years?
Renata> Tighter budgets, longer list of deliverables and shorter deadlines have certainly kept us on our toes over recent years. But I'd say the increase in the demand for social content has definitely forced us to reinvent ourselves slightly and shape our teams to deliver. While disruptive, I believe the impact has also been positive as it saw a new range of skills come into the department.
LBB> A good producer should be able to produce for any medium, from film to events to digital. Do you agree with this statement?
Renata> I agree that there is certainly more room and need for multi-skilled integrated producers in today's production landscape. But I also believe there will always be room and need for the specialists, the core discipline producers that can offer a level of expertise to a project that only experience can bring.
LBB> And leading on from that, when it comes to building up your team at DDB, what’s your view on the balance of specialists vs generalists?
Renata> You need to have both. At DDB Australia, we have built a team that has a balance of both core and integrated skills. We have line producers that are brilliant agency producers. We have print producers that create amazing experiential projects. We have editors that are passionate photographers, and we also have core broadcast and print producers that excel in their skill. With such a rich team, we can deliver for our clients no matter the project's needs.
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?
Renata> I had quite a few years' experience in advertising when I decided to jump ship from account service to production. The experience I gained during those years helped me see and appreciate production differently. When I started in production, I was lucky enough to work for one of the most experienced female heads of TV in the country and award-winning creative teams for whom craft was king. From those and subsequent years, I learnt to respect and push for the best creative outcome and to always try to have fun along the way.
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 and what have stayed the same?
Renata> The roles were much more defined and the production paths less dynamic back then. Producers had a slightly different role at the creative table. While you certainly played an important role then, I think there is more collaboration now between producers and creatives, and creatives and production partners. While the production process has not changed, the ways of working and the mindset have shifted.
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?
Renata> The models that allow for creative freedom are often the ones I find are most successful. I've seen quite a few models try to be something they are not meant to for the sake of small pieces of revenue. Creatives need the freedom to work with who they think will best deliver their idea. And while we service smaller pieces of work directly with in-house talent, there will always be the need to have the freedom to explore ideas with external partners and collaborators that can bring completely different points of view and experiences to the table.
LBB> When working with a new partner or collaborator, how do you go about establishing trust?
Renata> That first phone call or meeting is probably the most important part of the process when engaging with a new production partner. Honesty and transparency are what we look for. And we have been so lucky to have that with most, if not all, production partners we often work with. Trust and success go hand in hand.
LBB> What are your thoughts on the involvement of procurement in production?
Renata> Procurement done right can be a powerful tool and a producer’s best ally in getting the best outcome for the client. So, collaboration, respect and appreciation for each other’s piece of the puzzle are key.
LBB> When it comes to educating producers how does DDB like to approach this?
Renata> No two producers are the same. And while you can train to become a producer, nothing will really prepare you for what's to come until you actually experience producing an actual job. We make sure we expose our most junior team members to the production process by having them actively shadow senior producers on jobs, as well as being mentored on smaller jobs they produce themselves.
The Omnicom Group offers a number of great training courses available to agency staff. While not focused on production, it exposes more senior producers to other areas such as leadership and management skills, strategy, and creative courses.
We are also lucky to have some of the best industry leaders in their field in our building, so we often run workshops and talks on various topics from Female Leadership to Creative Awards and everything in between. We also have specialized industry experts come to present the latest and greatest in their area, such as weekly best practice sessions with Facebook and TikTok, as well as Creative Breakfast Talks.
LBB> What new skills have you had to add to the team as a result of the pandemic?
Renata> Being flexible and looking for less-traditional ways to move forward are the most prominent. Rigid production milestones and outlooks are a thing of the past when faced with the uncertainties of the recent Covid environment. As we enter some form of normality in the Australian production industry, we intend to keep those skills going, as we have found they make the process more effective.
LBB> Should production have a seat in the c-suite - and why?
Renata> Most definitely. A producer’s job is not to hinder or block creativity but to facilitate it. As such, it should be seen as important as the strategy or creative processes themselves, and therefore have the same amount of voice in the c-suite.
LBB> How have you approached integrating data with production workflows and processes? And, generally, how has data and the fact that we have constant live feedback on content performance changed production?
Renata> Data is definitely part of the production equation, especially around agency resource workflows and, with some clients, the approval process. We are lucky to have client partners that believe in and stand behind the work we do for them. While performance research can often be misunderstood, it can be a powerful tool to maximise results. We are happy to work with our clients to navigate that throughout production.
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? Is it even possible?
Renata> It's possible to produce quantity with quality, but only once the agency and client's expectations and ambitions are aligned. Content no longer means what it used to 10 years ago, so it is essential the intentions are clear upfront. Working together from the very beginning, from the briefing stage, with a clear budget and timings, means all parties can move forward with one intent. Engaging the right production partner also plays a huge role in this equation.
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?
Renata> At DDB, production is at the heart of the process and at the top of the chain, together with the creative process itself. We bring producers to the very beginning of the game, from creative brief to reviews prior to presenting work to clients. We can be as visible or invisible as needed. That way, we can serve as a sounding board and work with the teams to best navigate budget and timings ahead of concept approval, hopefully making the whole journey smoother for all parties.
LBB> What’s the most exciting thing about working in production right now?
Renata> After what our industry has experienced in the last 12 months, the amazing number of 'new' opportunities on the horizon is exciting. New ways of working. New skills. New blood. New tech. New outlook. So much to look forward to, and all with newfound lenses of appreciation.
LBB> And what advice would you give to an aspiring agency producer?
Renata> Be proactive and hungry. Never stop asking the questions and trust your gut. Be flexible and positive. Champion the creative idea. Have fun.