Silver Hammer uses Internet to speed creative

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Silver Hammer, a design and commercial production company, is using the Internet to improve collaboration with its ad agency and network TV clients--a strategy that is helping it gain new business.

With its staff of 16 designers and producers increasingly working on projects for clients as distant as London and New York, Silver Hammer needed a way to improve communications and expedite the creative process.

So the Santa Monica, Calif.-based shop, which produces graphic elements and sometimes full commercial shoots for clients, created what it calls "cyber bins." As Silver Hammer's designers complete preliminary work or revise their ideas, they put the digital images in the client's bin, an area attached to Silver Hammer's Web site and accessible through a password unique to each client.


Some stock photo houses and ad agencies are making similar use of the Internet. For example, Picture Network International's Publishers Depot has a "Lightbox" feature on its site where creatives can set aside photos on Picture Network's servers for their clients or co-workers to reference. Similarly, clients can get a sneak preview of ad campaigns by tapping into their ad agency's server, where various creative executions can be stored.

Silver Hammer's clients are able to access images and review them on-screen at any time and either e-mail or call Silver Hammer with comments.

Lora Schulson, a producer at Messner Vetere Berger McNamee Schmetterer/Euro RSCG, New York, said the cyber bin was vital to the agency's choice of Silver Hammer for work on MCI and other accounts.


"To a certain extent, if it wasn't for that technology there are a lot of projects that I probably wouldn't be able to work on the West Coast with," Ms. Schulson said. "It's just convenience. You tend to pick the guys who are down the street or in SoHo, because Messner's right near SoHo."

Ms. Schulson said the bins help erase the distance factor by allowing easy day-to-day contact and collaboration, and this means she can choose a designer based on talent rather than proximity.

"We can work with the designers that we like who are at [Silver Hammer] and not have to fly them into New York," Ms. Schulson said.

Even clients not facing a time difference or coast-to-coast distances may find using the cyber bin convenient. Robyn Boardman, an executive producer at Colby Effler & Partners, Santa Monica, worked with Silver Hammer on a project for Colby Effler client Countrywide Home Loans where she made use of the cyber bins.


While Colby met with Silver Hammer on a fairly regular basis, Ms. Boardman said the cyber bin was a time-saver since it cut down on the number of meetings necessary and was a quicker way to keep an eye on a work in progress.

"It's almost like being with them but not having to sit there while they're doing all their things," Ms. Boardman said. "You can do your own things and they can be working on their stuff and then just keep you abreast of the changes they're making as they make them."

Holly Diefenderfer, CEO and executive producer at Silver Hammer, said the cyber bin approach was especially helpful during a recent assignment for Channel 5, a TV channel in London owned by three conglomerates.

"It was of great advantage to us to have virtually no time spent FedExing information back and forth. We were able to actually communicate at all hours," Ms. Diefenderfer said. "When we were asleep they were awake, and they were responding to what we'd sent them and vice versa."

Peter Remmers, designer-director at Silver Hammer, said the bins make life easier for the designers, too. Mr. Remmers is able to do a lot of work from home and put it in the bin as he finishes, rather than only working during office hours.

"If I'm on the 405 [freeway] trying to go to Silver Hammer, which sometimes takes me an hour and a half, I could have done a storyboard. Even though that's very basic, it's very important."

Copyright August 1997, Crain Communications Inc.

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