Crispin's big-idea tack works: The proof is in production

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What happens when an idea that starts as a 30-second TV commercial blossoms into two :30s and a :60, a DVD, an interactive campaign and a booklet inserted into magazines? Silly. It's a trick question. What happens at most agencies is that it doesn't happen. And at one of the agencies where it does, Ad Age's Agency of the Year, Crispin Porter & Bogusky, the idea doesn't start as a 30-second TV commercial.

You've heard plenty about Crispin and its media-whatever ways. But for an interesting angle on how the agency approaches marketing ideas, look at its production department. The agency is, possibly, unique in actually structuring itself around realizing big ideas. The shop's co-heads of production, Rupert Samuel and Dave Rolfe, the people charged with turning ideas into consumable media product of every nature, have brought the disciplines of TV, interactive and art buying under one umbrella, called the Integrated Production Department. This sounds fairly simple, but it's actually a somewhat big deal. No "broadcast" department!

The merging of these disciplines is the logical extension of an overall agency approach that centers on marketing ideas, not TV-script ideas. The aim is to create a more seamless internal process of exploiting creative and production opportunities, allowing ideas to develop in different media directions. It means the skills of producers will merge, with TV and interactive producers-already versed in each other's skills due to the nature of the agency's work-learning even more about the complimentary discipline.

"We like to think of the overall motion of this as being broadcast and art-buying adapting and moving toward interactive, rather than interactive moving toward them," says Rolfe. Perhaps more importantly, the restructuring communicates an unequivocal culture, internally and externally.

The Crispin team repeatedly referred to agency culture (and, tellingly, to their boss Bogusky) at a recent Creativity Heads of Production Roundtable in New York (the juicy details of which will appear in the January issue of Ad Age sibling Creativity). If you want to observe where the invisible hand of Big Marketing Thinking slaps against the tender cheeks of reality, sit down with these experts who manage the production of commercials and content at agencies of every stripe.

It's a valuable vantage point for any industry observer. Nowhere is the gulf between so-called creatively driven shops and network giants more apparent (after all, anyone can talk about an idea or principle, but production is the end of the talk line-there is only action in this world where words become pixels). The eternal struggle with shrinking staffs and budgets and schedules is etched in the faces of all production heads, but the trickle-down effect of dis-integration and distrust (of agency by client) plagues some more than others-and it shows in the creative product.

Embodying an integrated approach, and having the top person at the agency pushing every idea and maintaining a stance, also shows in the work. For Crispin, putting its money where its Integrated Production Department is represents yet another way of projecting that stance.

Teressa Iezzi is editor of Ad Age Group's Creativity. Randall Rothenberg is on vacation.

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