The ANA put out a very useful production transparency report this month. If you haven’t had a chance to review it, here it is.
We are working with these issues daily and strongly recommend the guidance ANA suggests. If we can answer any questions or expand on any of these concepts, please contact us.
1) Data Capture
2) Witnessing Their Production Process
3) Understanding Advertising Production Spending
We know that many advertisers are struggling to integrate their procurement departments into their ad production spending. Typically, for marketing, their funding is fiercely defended turf. However, in recent years we’ve seen management becoming more serious and demanding accountability on marketing spending.
We recommend data capture as a first step. This can get granular and the more granular the better but to begin with we recommend focusing on the big picture; budgets, vendors, schedules and final costs. Built up over time this data can become the basis for benchmarking and many other initiatives.
Becoming familiar with the ad production process clarifies roles, the decision-making process and the mechanisms for putting those decisions into action. It allows procurement to compare their current production process to Best Practices and understand the steps that may be required to get there.
Ad production spending has many hidden facets that can take many years to master. But just mapping the individual spend areas and tracking them holistically, project to project, helps clarify cost drivers and build awareness.
A global advertiser asked recently us to review and make recommendations on production workflow issues with an agency (holding company) production group scenario.
The advertiser had an agreement to default to the agency holding company’s production group. When we took a look at the process structure they were following it was easy to see where some of the issues were coming from.
The production group was decoupled from the agency, this was a selling point. There were many potential issues that flowed from that structure.
1. The project’s producer did her best but seemingly worked for the production group first and foremost, second in line was the client brand team and third was the agency creative team.
2. The brand team’s relationship with the agency teams had become fraught as many of the production issues were being negotiated in their full view and with their participation.
3. The production group controlled and minimized the relationship between brands teams and their production consultants. This was the first time I have seen this.
The production consultancy was engaged, but the workflow, sold and managed by the production team, had the consultant operating in a very narrow window of responsibility -- only reviewing costs. The consultants were not present the process from start to finish, which is our preference.
The client ultimately decided to hire an in-house executive producer to ensure that brand's concerns and expectations were met.
We were left scratching our heads with that decision because having spent careers as producers, project and production managers, we normally cover that role. C'est la vie.
I recently met with a prospective client’s head of procurement and described our value proposition to him, in part by juxtaposing our production management experience with a few of our competitors. I summed up the differences by saying “our consultants have all been directly responsible for the work”. This seemed to have no effect on my prospect’s thinking, although to me this one idea is huge, it affects all my relationships.
I produced at BBDO NY for many years managing some large, national and global accounts. I had relationships with many production consultants. Several, including Al Tennyson at Lever Brothers and Jack Walp at Gillette, were especially generous with their time and projects in my early years as a producer. I thought very highly of them. I later found that production consultants come in all different flavors with different backgrounds and different areas of focus.
After agency producing for two decades and owning a post production facility, I have since mostly consulted with smaller consultancies, though I was recently a managing partner at a global consultancy with about 68 consultants around the world.
You can download the ANA’s list of US production consultants at the bottom of the page here.
In general, the larger consultancies seem to favor hiring specific types of expertise which could be broken down into general categories:
- Marketing driven – largely staffed by ex-marketers
- Business manager driven – largely staffed by ex-agency business managers
- Production company driven – largely staffed by ex-production company executive and line producers
I found the marketing types were often big picture folks. Their critique of a project was often that it should cost x and not a penny more. I had many intractable problems dealing with this my-way-or-the-highway approach.
Business manager types often seemed to grab hold of individual costs like a terrier and seek to bring down costs by negotiating individual line items that I thought amounted to the small stuff.
The production company types seemed to me to be the most up to speed on the story the bids and agency estimate was describing about the plans and approach the agency was advocating. However, internal agency machinations and pressures did not seem to be their forte.
Not surprisingly, we recommend a mix with a strong background in production and agency experience for consultants dealing with ad agency projects.