The 2009 Agency Producers: Maggie O'Brien

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Maggie O'Brien
Maggie O'Brien
After three years at San Francisco-based digital agency EVB serving as a producer for projects like Office Max's "Elf Yourself" viral and Adidas' "Step Inside KG" campaign, Maggie O' Brien decided it was time for a career change. Luckily, she didn't need to travel far to join hometown agency Goodby, Silverstein & Partners as an interactive producer this past March. O'Brien, who was quickly attached to the agency's Frito-Lay account, says there's a bit of a difference between her past and present workload. "EVB does a lot more of the production in-house so you're working with Flash developers and motion designers directly. You're computing their time with yours. At Goodby, you're working with another company or agency and you're partnering up."

O'Brien found success this year when Goodby partnered with digital production firm B-Reel on Doritos' horror-themed "Hotel 626" webcam experience. Additionally, she produced other Frito-Lay digital efforts including Doritos' "The Quest" game and a widget.

O'Brien is excited about Goodby's approach even if she does somewhat miss the old grind. "A little bit of my heart lies in the nitty gritty of it all," she says. "One of the shoots at EVB, I actually brought my sewing machine to the set and sewed the costumes there. I miss a lot of that but I have a little more liberty with my time personally so I appreciate that, too. Also, working with a little higher-profile agency is amazing and the ideas are everywhere. It's a little more competitive, but it's exciting."

Doritos 'Hotel 626'

A haunted house of sorts served as the venue for Goodby and B-Reel's Halloween-focused, webcam-driven Doritos "Hotel 626" site. The two parties launched an online experience, only open from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. and adjustable to a given time zone, where visitors used their webcams to take on spooky challenges in 13 different rooms. According to O'Brien, the creative for the effort was hatched very early on. "I wasn't involved with the very first strategic point, but the client wanted to use these thirteen reference videos filmed in Mexico. They were really freaky, horror-esque videos about bringing the Taco and Four Cheese flavors back from the dead."

The production teams used the films as a loose reference point, but O'Brien says that "the project morphed into more." Which meant that she took on multiple roles like managing the collaboration between the creative team and B-Reel on a daily basis, while making sure the project was on schedule and on budget.

"For the shoot, we had three weeks and after that, four weeks of production," O'Brien says. "Getting the work done in that timeframe was tough, but it was also about getting lots of approvals. There were more legal approvals than I'm used to." O'Brien also faced a tech hurdle during the production phase. "Since the site is technologically advanced, I had to help all sides understand the process in the simplest terms. It was challenging at times to convince people what was doable without over-promising or having an example to provide."

And then, there were the real shockers. "We shot at an abandoned mental institution in Stockholm," O'Brien says. "The pictures of it are crazy, no pun intended. We had to shoot a night scene and there are only a couple of hours in the summertime when Stockholm is dark. We had two hours to shoot this scene and then apparently, when we left, the security guard heard someone running through the institution, and he had to go back and make sure no one was there."

Read another 2009 Agency Producer profile, Sam Baerwald from 72andSunny
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