Strategy and production: No longer ships in the night

In the maker era, it's more vital than ever that strategy and production buddy up, says Deutsch LA's group strategy director

Production and strategy people are all too often strangers in a room. Sometimes, they’ll encounter each other in a big briefing. Other times, they’re loosely connected but don’t really know what the other does.

I’m happy to say that really smart thinking on this from Adrian Ho and Zeus Jones years ago helped shape a perspective (and relationship!) early on with producers and makers of ideas.

This may sound obvious, but brands that do stuff in the world (rather than just say stuff) must connect the making to the thinking behind it. We need each other to really get a full solution based on realities, not just theory.

If you firmly believe strategy isn’t solely an input of the process, but rather a philosophy baked into how you want to solve your brand’s problems, this thinking should be painfully clear. It has direct application in making all kinds of things. Digital things in particular require a tight relationship.

As anyone who has worked in the digital and traditional advertising world knows, KPIs are a bit of a different story in the digital world. Unlike television or other traditional mass media, the way you measure something is directly linked in the work you create. It’s not an outside body that will come and measure your effectiveness on later — it’s all right there. There is a tactile, direct nature of digital that forces you to be in the weeds — a place some strategists don’t enjoy venturing into, but it’s a reality we all must face.

There are some super-cool things that happen when you get closer to the actual making of things as a strategist. First, you make new friends who offer up interesting, different perspectives. Talking to creators, directors, photographers and makers of all kinds can help you develop better strategic thinking.

I was on set recently for a project and made fast friends with our incredible photography/director team, JUCO. They’d never met a "me" before, and honestly, I haven’t spent a ton of time with "them" before. It was awesomely eye-opening to understand the production intricacies and implications of a strategy that I’d help set months earlier. And hopefully helpful for them to get to understand the "whys" behind the decisions we had made.

I believe it’s a testament to the next generation of makers: At the core of the creative process is collaboration. Regardless if your title has "creative" in it or not.

Secondly, great strategy depends on you knowing how it actually works, rather than imagining a magic fairy will wave a wand and *poof* it will all be done. 

The realness is in the making. The optimization in market. The strategic turns that sometimes a project has to take because the world around it has changed from the time it was briefed in. It’s not a one and done at briefing.

Finally, learning new shit is cool. You’re a strategist, you’re curious about the world, so be curious about how things are made too. Years ago, I got interested in the world of code and I realized soon thereafter that my brain was ill-wired for such things. But my super rudimentary understanding of the basics around Python and JavaScript after six months of CodeAcademy has helped me have more fruitful conversations with coworkers and collaborators.

It’s not necessarily about expertise or mastery, but learning to speak the languages of the media we create in, so we better understand what the heck we’re making.

Thas Naseemuddeen is vice president and group strategy director with Deutsch LA. Read more from Thas on Campaign US.

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