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Stop the Madness!



INFLUENCER: Chimney's Henric Larsson says it's time to address the giant elephant in the room and stop patting ourselves on the back

Stop the Madness!

The pitch goes like this: “In these unprecedented times remote production is the order of the day. At Blah Blah, we’ve adapted to a new way of working to deliver for our clients. We set up our entire creative and production teams – staffed with writers, editors, directors, producers, motion designers, and art directors – to work remotely. We got creative, finding ways to produce spots that could be in-market immediately, some in less than 24 hours.” 

You will then be dazzled by their agile process which has been operationalised to react to the Covid-19 crisis. Now, I’m not hating on the way creative studios are marketing themselves to clients during the pandemic – it’s hard out there for a hustler. But the fact is, if you’re in the business of creating commercial content, the above is, to use another word I wish were banned, “the new normal.” 

And if you hope to keep the lights on and business trickling in, your entire business model will have shifted to support this production model. Which means, the CEOs, CMOs, CCOs and ECDs currently at home mainlining antacid-and just about anything else that will lighten the existential dread of being 94% down in April- will need to find a new message to push on their LinkedIn pages.

Instead let’s address the giant elephant in the room and stop patting ourselves on the back for what should have been done a long time ago. The clients are reading our posts and while they’re very happy that we can meet their needs right now with speed and agility, they’re also internalising what this all means for their bottom line. 

Here’s the thing, when all of a sudden you can produce that PSA which pre pandemic took 10 people a week to turn around-in less than 24 hours with a director and a Zoom link, it sort of lays bare the extraordinary amount of waste and inefficiency built into the entire commercial production process. 

Let’s say, pre Covid-19, there was a shoot that needed to be turned around in South Africa. Five from the client and five from the agency fly to Cape Town for a one-day shoot. They check into a fashionable boutique hotel or business class international chain. They have a fantastic team dinner somewhere that’s on all their must-lists. The day of the shoot there’s a set full of people, focused and diligently working. The rest are led to a separate room where they watch with a monitor feed. The shoot is a homerun, the director a genius. 

That night they go out to celebrate their work, all of it captured on Instagram with shots of craft cocktails, omakase platters and the words #agencylife. Sure, the client gets a good spot for their $100,000. But they’re also tapped out until their new budget gets approved. 

Let’s face it, none of those people actually needed to be there with the exception of the director and her crew. The rest could have been literally anywhere in the world watching the shoot on an iPad. Add those shoots up and that cost becomes not just unnecessary but insane. Instead of wasting budget on paid vacations, that money could be reallocated back to production which means more money for the client to pay the agency and better margins for the agency on their productions. 

Long before Covid-19, Chimney recognised that the old way wasn’t just wasteful but destructive to the overall creative process. Where the Blah Blah agency described how it oriented itself for Covid-19 is how we approach our productions across our 12 offices around the world. We understand that when money is re-allocated from T&E and put back onto the screen with better music or titles or FX, the overall result is leagues better.  And when all of a sudden the director is left alone to do her best work, there is a net positive effect on that work.  

And on the flipside, by separating those that safeguard the brand and its message from the  “creative tyranny” that often infects productions, you can prevent the director from hijacking the process – even with the best of intentions. Distance often allows for greater clarity, making everyone involved more objective; allowing brand teams the opportunity to see what works and what doesn’t without the added pressure of being on set. Only, it’s happening in real time which prevents the necessity of costly reshoots for both client and agency.

We call this model “Sustainable Production.” Maybe it comes from the fact that we’re Swedish and we hate waste. But it’s at the heart of everything we do. Instead of travelling for three days, one can invest that time into the campaign or other areas; is that not efficient resource management? Now with Covid-19 limiting our ability to be in the same room with one another, much less travel, our sustainable production model is suddenly de rigueur for the survival of our industry. 

What I’m saying, and I want to shout it from the rooftops, is to use this time to actually change how we do business as an industry now that we’ve been forced to act like responsible adults. We need to fundamentally change how we think about and approach production. We need to embrace speed to market, volume and efficiency. The amount of content needed to feed the vast multi-channel media ecosystem is only increasing. Which means something has to give. 

Embracing Sustainable Production allows agencies and studios to plow forward comfortably knowing that every dollar goes back into production; allowing us to deliver greater volumes of content with a level of quality commensurate to the target group’s expectations. All brands need to produce more and better content and having to be in the same room as the partner throughout the whole process stopped working a long time ago. 

Creativity is not a factory, sometimes it takes time. The time we invest in travelling can instead give us more days to work on the concept, ideation or execution. We lived in a strong world economy until Feb 2020 so money was not the limiting resource, it was time. So, let us use that time in a sustainable way.

Now’s the chance for you to rethink the entirety of your content output and asset production model. Sustainable production means meeting your very specific content needs now and into the future; freeing your budgets to feed the insatiable, multi-channel beast that is today’s media ecosystem.  

Let’s fix this together by refusing to go back to the old model. By embracing the disruption and dislocation caused by Covid-19, we can ensure that there is not only an agency future but one that is thriving and sustainable. 

Henric Larsson is global CEO of Chimney
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Edisen Stockholm, Sun, 10 May 2020 11:00:48 GMT