The Secret Little Agency’s Steph Lee is a highly energetic, creative producer who enjoys clever marketing, and making stories come alive through producing both live action and animated work. Making ads since 2005, she believes that no production is too ambitious and is experienced at delivering projects on time and on budget. Steph oversees the production department at The Secret Little Agency (TSLA), committed to elevating the quality of work and ensuring that the team uses best-in-class craft to bring TSLA creative ideas to life.
LBB> When it comes to building up your team at the agency, what’s your view on the balance of specialists vs generalists?
Steph> Versatility and adaptability are paramount in everything we do here. We are a team of complementary generalists but with a specialist ambition; the different knowledge and experience that everyone brings to the table is very important and the attitude we all share towards achieving that ambition, ensures a cohesive, smooth workflow – and one that is totally enjoyable too.
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 surprising things have stayed the same?)
Steph> The breadth of Production & the different mediums that our team take on has definitely grown; it’s way more hands-on than it used to be, across aspects of our involvement in the creative process from planning to strategy to creative.
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?
Steph> The most successful model is one based on fluidity and mobility; an open set-up that can flow both ways - remotely or on the ground. In practice this means a small specialist in-house studio that can deliver swiftly to the daily demands of clients, while still allowing us to work with beautiful creative minds & partners across the industry no matter where they are located – that’s the sweet spot.
LBB> When working with a new partner or collaborator, how do you go about establishing trust?
Steph> It sounds obvious but clear, open communication is key. It’s increasingly important to tap on collaborators/partners that share the same values and are aligned in both aesthetics and ideology to execute an idea to perfection.
LBB> What are your thoughts on the involvement of procurement in production?
Steph> We subscribe to the fair practices that procurement or production consultancy bring with them – as long as they are knowledgeable about the end outcome and what it costs to get there. We maintain a highly curated network of partners, and so that enables us to regularly share with our clients for both inspiration & adaptability should we need to open up a negotiation.
LBB> When it comes to educating producers how does your agency like to approach this?
Steph> Besides on-the-job training, it’s pretty necessary for producers to spend time studying global trends – how both aesthetics & technology are changing, so that we can always advise our teams. Production is a busy gig, so it’s very easy to lose sight of what’s happening in the world at large. I ask my team to commit to a sustainable learning approach, carving out time regularly to find new partners, artists, directors or techniques that we might want to collaborate on.
LBB> Should production have a seat in the c-suite - and why?
Steph> Yes! Production is an essential part of brand building – having a seat at the table saves time from the get-go towards creating work that delivers against the vision.
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?
Steph> Involving and interacting with production in the early stages of the creative process and client briefs will allow producers to create a platter of snackable content that can be used for the many varied platforms. Truly, early collaboration is necessary whether you have a short or long timeframe; this is best, as opposed to the traditional way of selling an idea and trying to fit the budget. Also, fast content works when it suits the idea or the objective – it isn’t always the answer!
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?
Steph> In my experience, production is a vital and important voice in thinking through strategy – particularly for launch impact – the best creative work I’ve been a part of always includes producers early on. It’s our role to inspire & shape what’s possible.
LBB> What’s the most exciting thing about working in production right now?
Steph> With everything that’s going on, I feel that the unpredictability of things, has actually pushed us to evolve in the way we work and think – and that is truly exciting. Manoeuvring through these unprecedented times and discovering new possibilities, keeps us on our toes. We’re having a lot of fun most days... in between the stressful parts... and I think after the year the world has had, truly enjoying what you do is such a privilege!