From Windmills to West Coast

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Tom Dunlap
Tom Dunlap
When the official announcement came out late last week that Tom Dunlap, former director of integrated production at Wieden + Kennedy, Amsterdam, was now Deutsch L.A.'s senior vice president, director of integrated production, it wasn't really a surprise. Dunlap had accepted the job just before Cannes, but the question remains, why the move? Why leave a highly rewarding (and awarded) position at Wieden in Amsterdam for Deutsch on the California coast? For its part, Deutsch L.A. considers the move a big score and one that will play a major role in its continued development. "Tom fits the vision for what we were trying to do with this position exactly," said Deutsch, L.A.'s president and CCO Eric Hirschberg. "He's much more than a broadcast producer. I think that the term broadcast production is antiquated now when you think about how much content is distributed in ways other than broadcast. Now it's about production in all its facets and Tom's the kind of guy I feel we can build the production department of the future around." We spoke with Dunlap about the reasons behind the move, the lessons he'll take from Amsterdam back to his native L.A. and his goals at Deutsch.

Why the move to Deutsch in L.A. after all the success you've had at Wieden in Amsterdam?
Amsterdam was a great thing for me. It was a great situation for me and my family. We moved there at a time when it really made sense for us. My wife was looking to have another child and wasn't in a hurry to get back to her career, and we were looking to do something really unique and fun, so the whole Amsterdam move was really in response to that. It was never meant to be a long-term solution or arrangement. We always knew we'd be coming back. But when we were there we really fell in love with Amsterdam and Wieden was a really good place. But after a couple years, we had a second child and then my wife was getting antsy to get back to work. She's in occupational therapy and it's difficult to start doing that in a foreign country if you're not completely fluent in the language. So that's when I started poking around and came across this opportunity. Wieden Amsterdam is in such a good place that they really needed someone to come in and commit to their future and with my goals in life I couldn't give that to them. I've got such a fondness in my heart for them I wanted to be fair to them in the long term, so that was another consideration in making the decision to leave now.

What attracted you to Deutsch L.A., specifically?
I worked at Chiat L.A. before going to Amsterdam, Deutsch was always just down the road and I had always been impressed by their work. Their Mitsubishi stuff especially was held up at the time as a benchmark in the automotive world when I was working on Nissan and Infiniti. So I always held them in a high regard. So when the opportunity came, I wasn't sure if my time in Amsterdam was up but I knew I wanted to get back to L.A. After I met with the people here I was impressed. They've gone through some changes in the last few years and I think they're on the right track in terms of attacking the changing attitude of advertising and really putting the right people into play. They hired a lot of interesting planning people, who I like to really work close with, along with interesting creative and account people.

The agency's creative department seems to be very integrated. How would you like the production department set up?
That's what I'm working on right now. Every agency has a different way of working, especially when it comes to the interactive side and digital production. There's no one model for that right now, which is really exciting. One thing I'd like to do is really bring that interactive production side into my department and that's something I've been talking to the guys a lot about. I'm not exactly sure how I'll do that but what I'm thinking about is teaming interactive producers with traditional film producers. One thing I'm really looking to do is apply that fit and finish of the TV commercial into the interactive space. There are guys that have amazing technical skills and there's guys that can add a level of finesse and film to that technical side and that's what I'd like to try and do. That's the type of collaboration and integration I'd like to achieve at Deutsch.

How will your experience at Wieden in Amsterdam help inform what you do at Deutsch?
I learned a lot in Amsterdam about this, we tried a lot of different ways where I was successful in some and not as much in others. One of the projects that was the most successful in that respect and that I learned the most on and felt was a true example of how integrated production can work was the EA campaign we did for the game Burnout Dominator called "Ka Rah Shin." We really combined the skills of the traditional TV producer by populating the space with content that was beautifully produced with a technical and animation side that was amazing and those two worlds came together really well and actually won a Cyber Lion at Cannes this year. One thing I learned from that was you really need to surround yourself with people who know what they're doing. I'm looking forward to bringing someone into Deutsch who can be my right hand man or woman in that process and help me with that technical side. I can add film and content expertise but I still need help and a partner with the technical abilities, which is a key hire I hope to make while I'm here. There's nobody in play yet—I've only been here two weeks, so it's an ongoing process.

What are some of your early impressions of Deutsch LA?
I've been really impressed with the overall knowledge and willingness of all the departments to embrace integrated production and marketing. I was in a meeting yesterday listening to our president Mike Sheldon and I felt he really had the pulse of what was happening in the community in terms of technology, opportunity and our clients' needs. So I was quite impressed by that. As we talk about our potential business opportunities, the clients we'll be going after are those that want to take advantage of that space as well. The type of clients looking for this kind of business are clients who traditionally have embraced nontraditional forms of media so I think that's really exciting.
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