Friday, 18 February 2011

The Future of Creative Services Debate. Thursday 17th February, 2011

Last night the IPA Creative Services Group hosted a debate on the future of Creative Services departments within advertising agencies. It certainly was a very interesting night, a really great turn out from many London agencies, from large ones like Publicis to smaller ones like VCCP Blue.

Melissa Smith, co-chair of the IPA Creative Services Group opened and chaired the night, introducing the panel and telling us about what each panelist would be talking about.

Phil Nunn (Executive Media Director,
TBWA\London) was the first speaker and he told us that he believed all agencies need to be Media neutral, that TV and print are not dead. It's now all about using all channels available to us and involving media planning bridging the gap between creative and media. We need to use more media, different media. There is so much opportunity out there

Andy Fowler (Executive Creative Director
Brothers & Sisters) spoke about his favorite campaigns of the past couple of years, these included the Wranger site, Levis go forth and Nike+, and how it is interesting that their Marketing department is now called ‘Digital Sport’.
He said we need have access to loads of media for our campaigns and that Creatives should feel like ‘a kid in a sweet shop’ having access to so many channels in which to let their Big Idea grow.
It’s all about craft Andy says and that there can be as much craft in creating new media as we believe TV and print as used to be. Creatives have the opportunity to get their Idea out in more interesting ways.
He spoke of the Brothers & Sisters Museum of London app, and how we now have access to technology you used to only dream about.

After the talks from Phil and Andy there was a group panel discussion, with questions afterwards.

The panel was Melissa Smith (Creative Services Director and Co Chair of IPA Creative Services Group), Andrew Dobbs (Recruitment Consultant, Talent Business), Tim Bath (CSD of AMV BBDO and Co Chair of IPA Creative Services Group), and Olivia Chalk (Head of Integrated Production, BBH)
There was much discussion on structure. Melissa discussed how TBWA are disbanding Project Management and their account handlers are now doing their clients production and that they are unskilled, but some Project Managers are becoming account handlers. She also said that there is a trend for agencies to bring in Content Producers.

Tim Bath said how at AMV they have a Project Manager who has entered via the Graduate scheme and how this is the same scheme as account management and planning. He said how this is introducing the role to grads who may never have considered Project Management as a career progression from university. He said how AMV now have content producers, that they have merged the TV and digital departments, and while you can't separate just yet as there are specific skills for ‘heavy lifting’ digital work like back end website builds that agencies still need specialised people for. The panel agreed this. Tim says the PM role at AMV is media non-specific role, facilitating the development and production.

BBH no longer have Project Management, Olivia told us, they are now producers. All departments take responsibility for delivering projects. Everyone is client facing. BBH Producers cover TV, print interactive, mobile and integrated. Each Producer has core strengths in one field, and their skills are pulled in and out on projects as needed.

Andrew Dobbs from The Talent Business talked of there being different routes to integrate departments. A good Project Manager asks the right questions pull the right people together. A good pm knows how to manage the project.
What about client liaison on production and strategy? Melissa asks.
Tim replied that the PM role is to have an understanding of roughly how it's done. 'Get the right people in the right place at the right time'. It's an untaught skill-set. He suggested that there is a 'big demand, but a small pool of good project managers'. He hopes the Grad scheme, which AMV are involved in, will be a good way of getting them.

Brothers & Sisters do not have Project Management, they have Producers. They have two processes, and Internal and External process. Producers produce their own TV commercials as well as use external production companies. Andy believes in Super Producers. He likes the idea of producers who have specialty in one area but running the project with other producers feeding into them.

The panel discussed the interesting point that you need to have specialists otherwise you end up with mediocrity, you end up with a jack of all trades and master of none – as Tim put it, 'one person might have a rolodex of contacts to get the job done, but that person is only as good as that rolodex of contacts'. There are hundreds of production companies doing amazing things out there and to limit yourself affects the creative output.

Melissa suggested that Creative agencies are not so much worried about costs they spend as it is all about the creativity, and what is needed to produce this, and this can mean roles are duplicated, and how in more account management based agencies care more about the bottom line, and are very concerned about.

Tim said that he believes there should be more duplication of roles and that everyone should be media neutral.

When asked by Melissa ‘How many briefs are you getting in for super producer?’ Andrew replied that the 'requests tend to come from smaller agencies, because in these smaller agencies you work in all aspects of the campaign and it’s all hands on deck'. He said 60-70 percent plus of the briefs he gets are for this Super Producer role, but that most of the candidates he is finding are in the US.

Tim suggested that these smaller agencies are the breeding ground for these super producers, places like Adam & Eve and Brothers & Sisters.

From this debate, Melissa said that there was hope that the IPA can draw some consistency for the roles, create a standard job description as Project Management is such a varied role from agency to agency and everyone agreed that the size of the agency dictates the role, that every agency is inherently different.

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