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The S Word After Covid: Selling a Production Company in 2022

Production Company
London, UK
Covid offered a moment of introspection on what it means to “advertise to the advertisers”, writes Charlie Roberson, head of talent and new business at UK production company Rogue

Sales is a dirty word in advertising it seems. Which is ironic.

I guess that’s something to do with the nature of the “art”. Selling something but without quite saying so. That’s at the heart of what I do in new business at a production company.  In some ways what we all do by the very virtue of being in advertising.  “These ‘x’ won’t sell themselves…”

‘Things have changed’ is a well worn mantra. But they always do. We’re a very reactive industry – we give the people what they want, in a way they want. Our job in sales is to react to the reaction whilst trying to get ahead of the curve. No pressure. 

I can only really tell you my experience in what that looks like. 

The job is to advertise to the advertisers, I suppose. I’ve been fortunate to have worked for some of the finest production companies of our day, so the sell might seem easy. But this is a 24/7 job. Always on. Never prepared to miss out. A constant state of FOMO and you take it personally when you miss a trick. What could I have done better? Should I have been at that event or that lunch or that presentation? You have to be a show pony and an agony aunt. Know all the answers, but not a know-all. Everyone’s pal. Even if not everyone’s cup of tea. 
When people asked “are you busy?” the answer was always “always”. At the Awards and in the boardroom, the breakfasts and the bars. The shoots and the showcases. And so on.

Then covid.

Despite everything, the pandemic offered a moment of introspection. Frankly something that was probably necessary. That breath allowed the world to look at itself and ask “WTF are we doing?”

I’m not going to go into all the evils in the world and all the changes it went through. We were all there. But what we all thought in our professional lives I’m sure was “what now?!” Luckily advertising is a particularly savvy and determined industry. Creative people are innovative, so working out the HOW was the biggest puzzle of a brief you could be presented with: 
“How to stay relevant in a pandemic.” Go. Your livelihoods depend on it. 

All of the tools I had previously at my disposal were redundant. No coffee, no breakfasts, no presentations. How to incentivise producers and creatives who for the most part were looking for a moment of respite to engage?

Without an office, in the burgeoning days of Zoom, we were just working out how to stay in touch. But would anyone want to?

Social media really became the most important tool in our arsenal. Or at least the most direct way to engage with our peers, friends, colleagues and clients. It became the most immediate way to communicate our personal and business messages and I think what we realised is the personal is as important as anything. We are all in the same boat. It felt like such a universal reality that it wasn’t about competition, it was about collaboration. If we were to emerge, we’d better stay active. 

We had a number of ‘campaigns’ – ROGUE RECOMMENDS which was essentially things to do when you’re stuck indoors; ROGUES REUNITED, a shout out to all the fantastic crew we work with; and ROGUE RECOLLECTIONS, great moments from some of our favourite shoots. All the things that reminded us why we do what we do and that they would (we hoped) be back.

We came back to the office at the earliest possible opportunity. Culture of a company is key. And that means people. Interaction. 

We knew what we had right - what has made Rogue so enduring a company is backing the right horses.  Proud to say we’ve got quite a stable.  But that breath gave room to make some changes. We started with the basics. New website. New personnel – press, social media management, music video representation. New talent.

We signed some of the most exciting new talent in the biz. Bethan Seller (comedy director extraordinaire), Charlie Watts (doco/sports), Kimberly Stuckwisch (promo, film director), Emily Maye (sports/cinematic), Jake Mavity (observed, charming, authentic British). 

The most important thing is the talent. Prod co’s are part talent agencies, part filmmakers.  One fuels the other.  Want to stay relevant – talent. Want to stay busy – talent. Keep the big dogs fed and reinvest in the grassroots. But this is another story. Another article perhaps.

During the last two years, I attempted the Zoom showcase. It was a nice idea and in theory should have been the future of reel presentations. But it wasn’t. People want to talk to someone without clicking off MUTE, not from their front room, but a board room. With croissants or pizzas.

Interaction seems to be back. Walk down Soho any night of the week, all the faces are back. Awards shows, back.

Most importantly the work seems to be back with a vengeance. Great creative, in some cases even good budgets…

People want to pick up the phone. People want to talk shop. But with a greater appreciation of how fragile it all is. It's an amazing industry full of amazing people doing some amazing work.

It’s a tough job, but someone’s gotta do it.

I'm just happy to be back.

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