FROM CREATIVITY: The Production Company of the Future

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Industry production and creative players offer their thoughts on new production models for the next generation of advertising.

Jeff Goodby, Co-Founder, Goodby, Silverstein & Partners; Bob Greenberg, Founder, R/GA; Dave Rolfe, Director of Branded Production, DDB/Chicago; Grant Hill, Executive Director of Production, DDB/Chicago; Matt Bijarchi, Head of Broadcast Production, Y&R,Chicago; Frank Scherma, President,; Justin Wilkes, Head of Content/EP,; Jordan Weisman, CCO, 42 Entertainment; Susan Bonds, Chief Production Executive/EP, 42 Entertainment; Brian Carmody and Patrick Milling Smith, co-founders/EPs, Smuggler; Kerstin Emhoff, VP/EP, HSI; Steve Wax, Co-founder/Partner, Campfire

The Set-Up: Who Does What and Where

Agencies and clients will have a one-stop shopping opportunity for commercials, viral ads, downloadable ads, television shows, movies, etc., several divisions all working in conjunction with each other to be able to produce whatever content is needed for the clients. –Frank Scherma,

Fundamentally, I doubt that our best companies and industry leaders will still consider their core business to be that of a "production company." And agencies will start to see their biz shifting to the point that it will challenge the moniker "ad agency." Meanwhile the industry at large will begin to see agencies and production companies start to move toward one another even faster than its appearing now. Many large agencies will be smaller. Production companies will take on more client-direct work and their disciplines will expand. –Dave Rolfe, DDB/Chicago

Production companies are going to need really strong reasons to exist. There are two different schools of thought. One school says all production will go outside of agencies into big Wal-Marts of production that can do anything. And agencies will just be idea factories. That's possible. The other model is that production will little by little start going into agencies. The reason I believe the latter is what's going to happen is that outside production companies are going to want the kind of margins they currently get and clients are just not conditioned to pay them. I think that outside production companies are more and more going to have to offer something really unique that you can only get there. The model of a production company having five or six ok directors being able to exist in the world, that's done I think. It's Spike Jonze, it's having particular personalities, or being able to do something that no one else at this particular time can do, editing-wise, finishing-wise, internet production-wise. –Jeff Goodby, Goodby, Silverstein & Partners

Big production companies, in addition to working for agencies, will be competing with them for certain clients who want less service, more non-traditional media direction and innovation in execution. While they will have the burden of being big, they will use it to their advantage by offering new services to agencies and well as directly to clients. This will result in more overhead, more financial demands to fulfill, and more risk to keep it all together as a vital and thriving entity. Small production companies will be smaller and have as little overhead as possible in order to deliver value in an even more competitive environment. Some will continue to produce film. Others will offer other production specialties. All will continue to be squeezed as small production services struggle to establish their position and relevance. –Grant Hill, DDB/Chicago

Doing more. . . for less

I think that a few of the production companies—not all—that have forays into disciplines that involve gaming, events, talent relationships, etc., will have a huge opportunity. Because these connections will create more opportunity for clients to link to a pop culture tie-in (music, entertainment) at a time when both parties (clients and the entertainment industry) will be seeking to come closer together. So companies like HSI, or for instance an event and talent-based company like Giant (in Austin) have a unique position. –Dave Rolfe, DDB/Chicago

There's going to be more and more pressure and a big thinning out of outside providers. Outside services are going to see a lot of pressure on them to be demonstrably unique and people that can do that will command terrific margins and stay in business, people that can't, won't. Be demonstrably different and better. If somebody's coming in from the outside as a consultant, lending the agency some kind of advice about expanding their mix of media or thinking, I think they're valuable only insofar as they provide a unique service. If that service can be provided on the inside, if we can hire somebody and find a way to bill them to the client, there's a big pressure for that service to come inside. -Jeff Goodby, Goodby, Silverstein & Partners

Production companies will continue to be full of creative talent and producers that can help execute ideas. The main difference is the production company will be more active in packaging the projects.Talent, distribution, idea will all be something that the production company is more involved with. Staff need to be more hands on and involved. Producers that are not stuck in an old way of doing things state of mind. There is more hustle now and to stay relevant production companies have to find new ways to make things happen and quickly. That being said a large amount of work whether 30 seconds or 30 minutes requires a director and producer to work in a very similar way to now. Advertising is just being redefined and has no set time for a piece and no set destination. This is the birth of truly necessary creative advertising. If it's not creative, engaging, well executed and provocative then it has little chance of guaranteeing an audience. That should ring as good news for directors and creatives. –Brian Carmody & Patrick Milling Smith, Smuggler

This new medium and schedule demands may ultimately require vertical integration between agency and production company. Merger of production with post, video compression and encoding at one central place is essential to making delivery deadlines. Going across town to a post house, back to the production house, then back to the agency is just too many steps and too many layers. –Susan Bonds, 42 Entertainment

Agency production staff should and will be moving quickly beyond conventional production protocol and be inventing new, more cost effective and yet even more creative executions. The immediate future is going to be a time of the greatest achievement in the history of our business as we shake off what has been and create a new order of production, an expansion of what production means to the advertising industry. There will be less of a segmentation of roles. There will be more people who can do more things. More thinking. More risk. Lower costs. Fewer stars. Perhaps it might be called creative utilitarian production. –Grant Hill, DDB/Chicago

Learn How to Stretch

The production company of the future will have to be more nimble, be able to produce for multiple mediums simultaneously. Smuggler does this well.–Matt Bijarchi, Y&R/Chicago

In migrating from the offline to the online world, today's advertising campaigns are unique in their diversity, tactics and use (or non-use) of traditional media. The production process has been, to a degree, demystified, as new digital technologies allow for a revolution in how to generate and use media. With the use of digital cameras comes increased flexibility of shooting and the ability to reduce scope, crew and production complexity. Today's production process requires innovation, adaptability, diversity of skills, understanding of an ever-changing and advertising-adverse audience, and a lean and mean process—what we at 42 Entertainment call "scrappy." –Susan Bonds, 42 Entertainment

Production companies are already molding themselves for the future. Many successful ones will not see themselves as terribly dissimilar to what their blueprint is now. Multi-disciplinary, flexibly client-direct or not, enabled to produce amorphous, multi-platform content. But opportunities for all types of branded and media-agnostic work will yield new forms. It could be a sort of theater, outdoor, events and promotions as well as filmic, design, gaming and electronic projects.–Dave Rolfe, DDB/Chicago

The production company evolution/revolution is and will continue to be an official transformation from "commercial production company" or "music video production company" to simply creative content production. As all of the lines of traditional media are blurring at a dazzling speed, we will evolve into a stronger and leaner structure that attracts and supports creative communication of all forms. The creative content production company supports and brings together people who say, "let's try something else." It is a place that can react quickly and efficiently and support the collaboration and evolution of ideas without the restrictions. –Kerstin Emhoff, HSI


The next generation of director will be knowledgable about producing both linear and non-linear content. He or she will understand desktop, interactive, dynamic signage, retail, things that work on a cellphone. –Bob Greenberg, Founder, RGA

Gamers Rule: Given the increasing levels of interactivity and immersive entertainment that advertising is moving towards, commercial production companies may well end up looking more like a current videogame studio than a current video only production company. Current top level videogames blend almost all forms of media, from 3D real-time graphics to audio, live action video, and animation into interactive entertainment experiences. Directors will need to become more versed in interactive design because the linear filmed aspects of campaigns will become elements within the larger context of a multi-media interactive immersive experience. The intricate design and multi-media execution of these interactive campaigns may well cause production to become more integrated into the agencies themselves as to allow tighter coordination between creation and execution. –Jordan Weisman, 42 Entertainment

Companies will change in large part because of the new role of a "director." The core need of clients and agencies will less so be film-centered, and move more toward interactivity, gaming and community building. So the emerging production creative leaders will be a sort of hybrid: skills such as design, gaming, interactive and less so film. I would guess that this new skill set could create a sort of role called "interactivity specialist." Gaming and mobile-based interactivity will be at the core of this. The new uber-director will be this sort of hybrid of Benjamin Palmer, Jeff Benjamin, Randy Krallman and Michel Gondry. –Dave Rolfe, DDB/Chicago

Talent will have to be adept at working in a variety of mediums, be it broadcast, online, mobile, print, iPod and whatever comes down the pipeline next. You look at the current breed of young talent walking in our doors right now and they are able to write, shoot, edit, design, and produce their own work. Realizing, developing and incubating this incredible wealth of creative talent in an environment where they have access to the necessary tools and can be challenged by the assignments will be the job of any successful media company of the future. –Justin Wilkes,

New Competiton

We will also see new homegrown companies that will emerge and compete. For instance, Dave Kinsey started a design company through graffiti years ago, and we'll see some skateboarding kid in Modesto start her own production company based on a spate of user-generated stuff she conceived. Clients will be attracted to this. It's whoever is best suited for capturing attention. – Dave Rolfe, DDB/Chicago

The Jobs of the Future

Film, viral, mobile video. –Matt Bijarchi, Y&R/Chicago

Nothing will be typical. –Frank Scherma,

There will be a faster pace. Less attention to extreme detail as work will be more quickly cycled in and out of various media platforms. And more reliance on the internet for solutions of time, budget and, of course, as a media platform as well, perhaps the defining one for the future. –Grant Hill, DDB/Chicago

We produce campaigns with various mixtures of media, narrative, puzzles, online websites, real world participation and technology to capture the consumer's attention through a memorable entertainment experience. We feel this is the product of the future. Media (or assets) include custom photography, short and long form video, webcams, audio, sound/effects, graphics, animation, cell phone image captures, voicemails, etc. What has been important at our company has been the seamless integration of these elements—no one element or piece holds the whole story or message, but all reinforce and ultimately deliver the brand message to the target demographic. This has led us to re-think value, implementation strategy and production costs very carefully. –Susan Bonds, 42 Entertainment

It's hard to comprehend how content will be made when so much of it will have shifted to the mobile platform. That's the biggest question facing us. Because of mobile, we'll have production companies drift more toward text and graphics capabilities, gaming and branded shortform. They will expand their own partners and capabilities to help agencies and clients in this new territory. The production companies that most quickly and functionally extend these new services to agencies/clients will gain prominence.–Dave Rolfe, DDB/Chicago


Agencies will begin to earn fees on conception and execution. Production companies will produce more direct to client work. –Matt Bijarchi, Y&R/Chicago

Hopefully everyone will own a piece of the creative work they generate. –Frank Scherma,

Production companies will find they can't survive unless they stop giving their creative and logistical services away for free. Bidding will be a thing of the past. Clients will have ongoing relationships with agencies, agencies will have ongoing relationships with production companies in the future. And everybody, agency, production company, will be paid for everything they do. (I can dream, can't I?) The AICP form will be as familar to people as Beowulf or the Dead Sea Scrolls. –Steve Wax, Campfire

We have two projects going on right now that have back-end pay structures. I think this will be decided job by job and will be a while until there is a norm. It's similar to the landscape of television and film. How much is the talent and idea really worth? –Brian Carmody & Patrick Milling Smith, Smuggler

Agency/Production Company Relations: Friends or Competitors? Or Both?

On the typical production job, we'll have less time, less money, and we'll be producing mobile video, viral and TV campaigns simultaneously. Agencies will have more production and post facilities in-house and be adept at producing finished work across multiple platforms with an ever decreasing budget. Agencies will be producing with production companies across multiple platforms, so there will be more collaboration, sharing of ideas. We'll be collaborating—and competing against each other—for marketing dollars..–Matt Bijarchi, Y&R/Chicago

Production companies' biggest competitors in some regard will be agencies. Agencies will learn to make the jump toward production themselves, because of a shrinking demand for big picture thinking due to media-proliferation and user-controlled content consumption. The agencies that most quickly broaden their resource pool with regard to "idea actualization" will be the most successful; responsive vendors or in-house production abilities, whatever makes work more turnkey, presentable and produceable for a client. Agencies, in a time where we could be the most worried, could actually see these changes opportunistically. We have branding know-how, client relations, healthy dollars under our guidance and a strong feel for what is good material or not. As in, agency people can direct, or they can design or they can creatively steer content as a borne-in discipline. So self-production will likely expand. –Dave Rolfe, DDB/Chicago

We imagine that agency and production company will work closer together for the entire process. That seems to help creative advertising. Nothing new though in this way of working. It just requires more time and focus. That is going to be necessary now that you are only going to have the audience depending really on how good the work is. –Brian Carmody & Patrick Milling Smith, Smuggler

We will work early on in the process as distribution will play a part in everything as well. –Frank Scherma,

The Agency of the Future = The Production Company of the Future?

The agencies have already been changing. There is increasing integration at larger agencies as they attempt to follow the lead of the most agile smaller agencies. Certainly producers will be executing spots even more quickly in addition to producing websites, branded short and long format work and everything else. In addition, they will creatively lead in identifying solutions in existing media and to-be invented media as producers emerge as an even greater force at every agency. Gone will be the day of a producer who just produces the work. Producers will and must become thought leaders of our business and be an increasing force for media and production solutions required by their clients. -Grant Hill, DDB/Chicago

I think we'll see more in-house production. Agencies will have to have that viable option available, but the top tiered production companies will always do well. Whoever has the talent and is the most nimble at producing quality, multi-platformed content will succeed. -Matt Bijarchi, Y&R/Chicago

We don't see production going in-house. Quality directing talent would not be able to survive only working on two accounts. If the partnership is good between agency and director then they can choose to continually work together right now. No change there. -Brian Carmody & Patrick Milling Smith, Smuggler

And Finally. . . Making Sure There Is a Future

In order for production companies to stay strong, we need to "go green." We need to eliminate the waste in productions. We also need to embrace technology and set an example in the virtual world. The paper, the copying, the shipping, the stock and more stock – and that's just to get the job. We need to look at all of our excess and make changes. I can't wait for the day when I can skip the red-eye to New York for a pre-pro that 10 people are flying in for, and 20 people have worked all night just to create a book for it that immediately gets thrown away. Then everything changes anyway and that's the magic. –Kerstin Emhoff, HSI

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