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Integrated producer at an advertising agency isn’t one of those jobs that kids dream of growing up to have, but for Kendal Drake and Hayley Carter at adam&eveDDB, they’re glad they found their way into the role. And having come up through the agency together, they’ve got a lot to say about it.
Their production future would have been a surprise to either of them in their childhoods. Kendal wanted to be a professional tennis or football player and Hayley was so shy and quiet she never would have believed she’d end up in a job that involved coordinating and communicating with so many different people.
She grew up in the UK with a passion for horses, working for many years at a stable yard. “I’d sometimes start work there at 4am, and work right through till dark but I loved it,” she says.
Kendal’s childhood was spent in Singapore with an English father and American mother and in contrast she only rode a horse once (it had diarrhoea the whole time and kept squatting to do its business - not a fun experience). But she was an active youngster, eventually leaving home by herself at the age of 13 to move to the US to pursue a professional tennis career. She attended a tennis academy until she graduated at 17.
Both like to think of themselves as open to the world, much like the ad industry they now work in. Kendal says her international background has the biggest impact on the type of person she is today. “It opened my eyes to a world around me and gave me perspective on how others live. It’s enabled me to get along with many different kinds of people and personalities, and always see both sides to every story.”
Hayley loves Kendal’s “beautiful accent”, but her own family are British and she grew up entirely in the UK. “But there has been a lot of history of travel through the generations, right down to my mum and dad, and that has always inspired me to do work that will allow me to see the world. The stories my dad can tell from his adventures around the globe are such an inspiration to me.”
There’s no single straightforward route to becoming an integrated producer at a creative agency and Kendal and Hayley’s experiences speak to that. Kendal went to Boston University and ironically started majoring in Advertising, but dropped that because she found she was “wasting my time learning something that was ‘common sense’. HA. I was naïve.” She moved to a degree in Film & Television which entailed things like media business, screenwriting, producing your own TV show, filmography or photography classes. “I loved all those experiences,” says Kendal. “The thrill of being a producer inside a control room during a live news show was something that has always stuck with me – I quite liked that pressure.”
But despite that experience, she graduated not knowing what she wanted to do. ”I just knew I wanted to move to London.” A few summer jobs later (mostly tennis related), Kendal landed at the production company Partizan as a runner.
Hayley had a similar meander on her way into the industry. After an art foundation year in Brighton she studied Graphic Arts and Design in Leeds. “My course was great, but I ended up controversially bending the syllabus when I realised I didn’t want to specialise in a particular field, but instead found myself orchestrating larger multimedia work by producing projects with other students who had chosen specialised areas. I was finding myself producing before I even knew this was a thing. I loved collaborating with other people to make bigger and better things come to life.”
Like Kendal, Hayley was more set on moving to London than any specific career direction. She loved to work in a collaborative way but had no idea how that could apply to the real world. Until someone came to her university to talk to us about an awards programme. While all the other students planned to enter their work into the award, Hayley found herself more interested in the job description of the person giving the talk, the coordinator of the programme. She asked to speak to her at the end and landed herself a project management internship at the design studio where the speaker worked, which was just the gateway into the creative industry Hayley needed. She later worked for a photographers agency, where she was “thrown in at the deep end, producing all kinds of shoots for a great roster of photographers”.
But it was at adam&eveDDB where the pair really honed their craft and became full-blown producers. “Surrounded by the best producers and creatives, it was easy to become good because I had so many role models around me,” says Kendal. “I just remember having so much fun when I first joined, the company culture was great and therefore made me want to be great at what I did so I kept asking questions and being curious and ultimately that paid off.”
Similarly to Kendal, adam&eveDDB allowed Hayley to take her skills to another level. “There is always a new challenge and everyone I’ve worked with has taught me something new,” she says.
One that was particularly formative was Hayley’s first solo project as an agency producer - a print product shoot for John Lewis. “It was a simple idea that was beautifully executed by the creatives and photographer,” she says. “I moved agency side because I wanted to be closer to the creative, and I vividly remember how great it felt to be part of turning the work from a scamp into a press ad or billboard poster for the first time. I also remember how hot it was over the shoot days! The sun was pouring through the big studio doors as we prepped each shot, I always feel so lucky to be able to get away from my desk and see the work come to life.”
Kendal’s first solo project was a little different. “Well that sounds glorious,” she says, envious. “Mine was wet and rainy.” It was a Volkswagen ad and the director called her one day during the edit and told her he’d shot over a day’s footage. “So that was fun,” she jokes. “I was always waiting for that moment when I became a producer with no one to fall back on, and thought I would be majorly stressed, but I remember feeling really calm as there was nothing I could do about it, and I knew the director was already feeling awful. It became a turning point for me that no matter what, if you can react positively and if you can be kind to others, things will work out. They always do. I’ve tried to carry that through my career in staying positive and putting everything into perspective when something goes wrong.”
FIFA 19 ‘Champions Rise’ was another learning curve for Kendal. “It was just madness. I had never seen so many people within a project endure so much stress, over such a long period of time yet somehow keeping good humoured throughout it. I gave everything to that project and it just ticked every box within a TV ad; multiple country shoot, celebrity talent, combo of live action and video game footage, loads of versioning for different markets, etc. I knew if I could get through that, I’d get through anything advertising threw my way.”
Christmas campaigns take a lot of producing and one for H&M that Hayley worked on as an assistant producer sticks out as a turning point in her career. “It was the first time I was able to really utilise the knowledge I had built up in film, stills and digital together across a large campaign. There were hundreds of deliverables across TV, print and social and we were shooting everything in the same place at the same time, with lots of celebrity talent on strict hours, it was a logistical nightmare. We were on set for weeks and I had to live and breathe the project for months but in doing so I learnt so much about being the glue between these disciplines and how influential that could be to a project. It was incredibly stressful, but a lot of fun.”
Learning production’s no easy plod along though. It’s a profession built on problem solving and sometimes those problems can feel insurmountable. Kendal remembers once working as an assistant on a “relentless campaign” and her to-do list was growing longer and longer. “I felt really overwhelmed,” she says. The senior producer, Celestine Hall, said to her: ‘There is so much to do and you are never going to be able to do it all. You just have to start somewhere... Just do what you can, and the rest you’ll do later. That’s all you can do.’ “It just stuck with me,” says Kendal. “We are only human.”
“I love that advice!” agress Hayley. For her, the most helpful lesson has been about being comfortable to ask questions. “Talk to people and ask lots of questions – you don’t know where it could lead or what you might learn.”
But while Kendal and Hayley love it, there's a lot that’s not perfect about production today. “At the risk of sounding boring,” Hayley ventures the popular production opinion that great work needs more time dedicated to it. “These days we are given less and less time to do what we do and craft the work to be the best it can be, that’s frustrating. I believe Covid has accelerated this, and so it’s going to be interesting when we return to some sort of normal, are we ever going to be given back the production time we once had?”
The environmental impact of production plays on Kendal’s mind a lot. She knows that the industry is “taking a stride toward greener initiatives... Until it costs more money. If we are struggling to hit the budget, it’s the first thing we are asked to strip out and have to change the approach to a less sustainable method because it’s cheaper.”
Hayley agrees: “The industry could be doing so much more to be more sustainable. It’s not easy when we’re constantly having to move at a million miles an hour and it’s going to take every one of us to make changes in our lives, but I hope that this last year, whilst we’ve all had more time to reflect, that these more environmental ways of working will become more naturally embedded in our day to day and not just feel like an added bonus if we can achieve them. It has to become a given, not a nice to have.”
Another frustration with the industry is the divisions that surface quickly on a stressful job. “People lose sight that we are all on the same team, says Kendal. “Of course differences of opinions will come into play, and often challenging others is what will make the ad better, so as long as we don’t lose sight of the overall goal and that it’s a team effort. But we are quick to judge. There seems to be a lot of blame in our day to day jobs.”
Then there’s the ever-present (and rightfully so) issue of diversity, equity and inclusion. Although it’s advancing, Kendal would still like to see more DE&I active changes. She applauds schemes like Free the Work and Fresh Takes. “It’s the first time I can actually feel a shift in the industry because of the amount of people that are willing to make a change and deviate from what was considered the norm until they see some advancements.”
Hayley’s been encouraged to see in the last year the momentum some of these changes have started to gain. “We can all be doing more, much more, and there is a long way to go, but we as producers have the platform to help drive this and make a difference, and that’s really exciting.”
Blind bidding is one tactic that adam&eveDDB has tried to introduce to combat iniquities, but Kendal would like to see more. “I don’t think that is necessarily the answer, nor do I have it myself right now but I’d like to see changes that the industry try to implement to ensure we are more aware of our prejudices and helping change that behaviour. More data, more stats on where we were and where we want to be. What are our targets and who’s responsible for upholding whom to what standard?”
When Kendal and Hayley want to feel they’re helping humanity make progress, they’re both part of the charity team. “Being in the position we are in, with the contacts we have, enables us to bring people together and do a great thing for those who need it more than us,” they say. They’ve supported charities throughout the years such as The Alzheimer’s Society, Cancer Research, Children of St Mary’s Intensive Care, The Avenues Youth Project – and seeing the impact they can have by either raising money, or inviting them to events “is a feeling like no other”.
Another antidote to the stress of endless problem solving that production brings is being surrounded by people who brighten your day. Kendal salutes “the people who make your day just a little bit better, who make things happen seamlessly without you realising, and seldom receiving credit. I’ll never forget my experiences as a runner, and how it makes a difference when people treat you kindly.”
Unfortunately lockdown work life doesn’t allow us to run into those rays of sunshine so often. Hayley’s working from home just outside of London and while she used to need the “security blanket” of an agency to work in, Covid has helped her find a confidence she didn’t have before. She’s product produced shoots all over the UK in the last year but done it all from home. “I don’t miss the commute at all, but I definitely miss the energy of the agency, good take away coffee, and the yummy shoot food!”
“You’ve clearly forgotten what Budapest shoot food was like,” quips Kendal. “Or maybe it was just mine?!” The pandemic has given her ups and downs like everyone else. “I miss the energy too, but cannot comprehend a full five-day office work week anymore though – so I’m fully holding out for a couple WFH days being incorporated in the near future when things resume. Must be the introvert in me.” Kendal’s currently in Zurich working with her boyfriend. “It’s a similar experience minus the luxury of having all my clothes. It’s a ‘boxers and large shirts that go to my knees’ kind of day on the reg. Can’t complain.”
Even when stuck at home, life as an integrated producer for an agency like adam&eveDDB ensures that every day is different. Hayley recognises that it’s not always easy. “I find myself challenged by the unknown, never knowing what’s around the corner, what problem you’re going to be faced with next. But at the same time, that’s what keeps me on my toes and the adrenaline pumping, and keeps the job exciting. I wouldn’t change that.”
Kendal’s on the same page: “Yeah I get that completely. Sometimes I just want to know exactly what I’m doing rather than having a curveball, but then I remember I had a job like that and it was DULL. For me, it’s believing that what I’m doing makes a difference. Jobs that are particularly challenging for me are those I may not believe in, or think aren’t beneficial to the world. I struggle to get inspired if they are not doing some greater good and of course not every campaign is, so it’s finding that will power to produce something equally as great.”
Ultimately the joy of production is simple. As Hayley puts it, she’s most grateful for “the opportunity to work with people who have great ideas and want to make things happen.”