Who are production consultants?

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.