Mention the challenges and opportunities faced by production agencies these days, and the conversation is likely to quickly turn either to the fast-expanding world of digital content channels or the complexity of providing global services efficiently.
But today’s core challenge may be more basic: Evolve to meet these complex production demands while maintaining the quality of the creative product and saving costs.
This is not as obvious as it might seem, given recent industry trends in decoupling creative production. During a recent discussion I had on this topic with a client, it became clear that a reconnection of the creative and production function is imperative to achieving quality, cost effectiveness and control over the proliferation of marketing assets.
To be clear, this is not a statement about the old way of doing business. To maintain the essence of the brand message efficiently without sacrificing quality, it’s imperative that there is an end-to-end connection rather than disconnection to the meaning or essence of the brand. Decoupling, in other words, is inefficient as a means to an end.
The substantive issue for major marketers who are investing, in many cases, in excess of a billion dollars a year in advertising and promotion: the difficulty of maintaining the effectiveness of their marketing programs and control over the proliferation of marketing assets — from ideation to creation of master assets, to adaptation through to delivery to media outlets.
Marketers need business partners that understand both their marketing and financial goals. To this end, they need a more efficient and less time-consuming process that maintains the integrity of the brand message and results in higher ROI. This means across all of the media and materials developed.
For example, working with The Martin Agency recently, we took the master brand idea they developed and adapted it into literally hundreds of different formats from sales materials, digital content, emails, direct mail, flyers and out-of-home executions.
Moreover, the production process does not operate in a silo. In order to be effective, it requires seamless and flawless communication among creative, media and client partners. And importantly, it also means recognizing that our agency or client collaborators may want to involve other production-related partners in the mix as well.
Given the global needs of many of our clients, enacting their vision and delivering the highest-quality work can be complex. The more variables that exist, whether in number of formats or number of markets, the greater the risks of losing control over costs and quality.
Critically, at the core of any production operation is talent. People drive business. While technology and process are important, successfully harnessing these tools requires the capabilities of our teams. In a global organization such as ours, with more than 800 employees, consistency of processes across our worldwide operations is an imperative. Our teams, no matter in which market they operate, must be connected in how they think, work and perform.
Timing is everything, and adherence to standardized work flow is an imperative. For one worldwide client, we often start versioning from a non-completed or approved master provided by the creative agency so that we can meet tight delivery timelines. We build the assets so that we can easily adapt to the final version once approved by the client.
Marketers need production to run at the highest of standards. This should be seen as a call to action for the industry to professionalize and up its game through improved value creation. Whether operating as a standalone unit or not, this requires an end to end connection of all players in the creative production process all to the benefit of the brands we work so hard for.
Ed Powers is CEO of McCann Worldgroup’s Craft Worldwide and McCann Worldgroup’s exec VP — head of operations.