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The Tortured Soul And The Eager Beaver

Impact BBDO’s chief creative officer Paul Shearer says a good relationship between agency and production house can produce magic

by Impact BBDO’s chief creative officer Paul Shearer.

Production houses.
Why are they so important to us?
Well, I’ll tell you.
The best thing about being a creative is that you get to bring your ideas to life. That is if you work hard and are  lucky enough. And when you are in the process of giving an idea life, a production house is the hospital.
That’s the power of a production house. They really are that important. So, I’d like to lend you my many years of experience by talking about the relationship a production company should have with creatives and agencies – how that works, how it should work and how it’s changing.

For me it’s all about relationships. Like all relationships, you have to work on it.  But the core pillars of openness, collaboration and good old friendliness are what’s key. I have always felt a great deal of gratitude
towards production houses. They do the impossible and always have a positive outlook on agency problems.
We owe them so much. I encourage all my fellow creatives to pick up the phone to our production partners who have made sacrifices for our ideas and say some big thanks. It’s the least we can do.
They are amazing people with hearts of gold. Always finding a way and always getting it done. Time and time again.

Let’s look at the relationship with creatives. Here we have a relationship of the tortured soul and the eager beaver. As a creative you always feel you have been on a tumultuous journey to get to this point.
Rounds of briefings, reviews, tissue sessions and presentations. And, if you are really lucky, rounds of research.
Finally, you are at the edge of the production cliff.
Should you fall or dive gracefully in case someone is watching? Most just hover and wonder if they
have vertigo. This is where the production company comes in.
To the rescue!

But, on the edge of the aforementioned cliff, the creative has been through so many rounds they don’t really want to trust anyone with their idea. This idea is more than words on a page. It’s a bullet-proof miracle.
A good production company knows this and handles everyone with care.
A good production company reassures the creative, making them feel that only better things are to come.
That the idea will be respected and given all the expertise that is needed. But collaboration is vital. A not-so-good production company will blow smoke. Leading the creative to believe that this idea will soon be an Oscar-winning triumph.

So, that’s my take on the creative/production house relationship. Don’t blow smoke; it’s bad for you.
The relationship with the agency on the other hand is very different. It’s fraught with difficulties.
Money comes into play – the other thing that can suck the life out of an idea.
For me, it’s super important that all parties are honest with each other. If the budget is x then say it’s x.
Don’t spend time trying to squeeze. A good production company gets this and asks the right questions.
A not-so-good one gets sidetracked with stuff that will only take it away from the creative idea.
So, my advice: Say it how it is. Be nice and be honest. I’m sure your mum taught you that anyway. I find a lot of the time creatives actually get in the way of this production house/agency relationship.
So, another good tip… Leave them out.

For the record, there are no bad production houses. Just bad relationships. Lastly, the change that is happening in the world of production. As in agencies, there are seismic changes afoot. To make the creatives’ ideas awardwinning and still turn a profit is becoming near impossible. I honestly don’t know how some production houses manage. Be nimble, flexible and agile, they are told.
Bend over backwards, more like!
We as agency people need to start to support our great partners who have helped us out of sticky situations time and time again.
We should be collaborating with them during the creative process and not just when the production starts. They have so much to add and we don’t take advantage of their vast knowledge.
I often call a director or producer and seek out their advice at the concept stage. These amazing people have amazing ideas and solutions. They are the one part of our business that still has 100 per cent passion for what they do. Yes, they have to make a living, but their living is based around their ability to create magic out of words on a page.

It’s time for creatives to reevaluate how important the production house is.
Start putting them exactly where they should be. In the heart of our ideas.