Creative vs The Hidden Hand
Bring the production company in early as a consultant, dammit.
by Bobby Hougham | January 16, 2020
as recently published in LBB Online
I found myself on a tear about this subject. Originally this column was a much longer piece but pleas to consider those stricken with short attention spans overwhelmed and alas it was cleaved in two. If you are reading this but haven’t slogged through the first half, check it out here. Or don’t, just how curious are you?
Creative teams should work with production and design teams to apply specific knowledge and develop frames as appropriate for concept sell-through while simultaneously developing a production plan that utilizes efficiencies gained from the creative approach. Once the direction is sold through, the creative teams can get to work developing directorial treatments and tightening creative based on feedback in a collaborative process with the agency and client. If more people applied this approach, money would be better spent, productions would be more efficient, and end clients would be happier.
But it shouldn’t begin and end there. All stages of post — animation, 3D, VFX, editorial, or even color — should weigh in on every shot. By asking all the teams to examine the vision critically they are going to be executing, you’ll know going in what’s possible, what’s not, where we can gain efficiencies and how. This is a process inspired by the German corporate model, codetermination, in which seats on the boards of German corporations go to shareholders and labor. Corporate shareholders retain leadership and majority control in the direction of the company, but the bottom line of an accounting sheet doesn’t dictate decisions made. Labor can inform the argument about conditions where the rubber hits the road, offering up efficiencies and giving the labor force a sense of ownership and control. The two operate as different perspectives looking toward the same goal — in collaboration, not combat. Germany has seen an increase in the quality of products, stronger corporations, better profits, and happier employees in the years since implementation. We should have as much.
We can change the process.
The traditional siloed workflow exacerbates all of the problems of the first process: An agency hires a director who rolls in through production and is cut loose from the project afterward. There is no continued oversight and no investment in, or accountability for the project after they deliver footage to the edit house. The project is then opened up to the potential of hiccups, bumps, and pitfalls. All easily avoidable if the project was set up to encourage ownership and accountability. The same happens with edit, VFX, design, color, and finishing — everyone wants to do the best job possible, but their scope of work is simultaneously so grandiose with such limited point of view or ownership with a typically overworked budget, they focus only on the task at hand and not the big picture.
Switching to this approach requires education and commitment, as well as restructuring process and client relationships. A way to help mitigate issues found in the siloed workflow while executing the change is to work with holistic creative shops keeping the creative, producing and execution circle small. My company, for example, approaches every project collaboratively with the agency and applies for accountability and ownership across the whole team. We look at efficiencies across all teams, which in turn benefits the project as a whole. We enter our projects knowing the bottom line for the whole project and develop creative that works in support of and in conjunction with the bounds of the project. We use the realities of time and money as creative constraints and catapults.
Shifting the paradigm.
Creative work can be lonely, but it doesn’t have to be. Opening the process to the broader team and designing for budgets and timeline makes for an integrated team experience while developing smarter projects.
The finished work will look thoughtful and purposeful rather than a poorly executed fantastic idea at odds against time and budget. The bottom line may be precisely the same with this process, but the output will see marked improvements that should relate directly to better KPIs and happier clients.
The partnership between agency creative and production, and vendor will draw tighter, and the finished product will celebrate the absence of an uncooperative hidden hand.
Bobby Hougham is Executive Creative Director, Director and a Founder of The New Blank. Views are those of Bobby and quite frequently cause gnashing of teeth and bleeding of ears by anyone within earshot and definitely do not reflect the views of The New Blank.