Production Companies

Marketers Try In-House Production Studios

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Some big marketers in the last two years have been trying a new model for ad production, setting up in-house shops of their own.

Most recently, Unilever has launched Real Beauty Productions and hired Shonda Rhimes, the creator behind ABC hits "Grey's Anatomy" and "Scandal," as its first big-name producer. The brand's production house – part of a growing in-house production effort by Unilever – is one of a number of efforts behind Dove's 60th anniversary. Real Beauty Productions dovetails with Dove's recent pledge to only use "real women," not models in ads, to name them in the ads wherever possible, to eschew digital retouching of their images, and to give them review rights on their images before they are distributed. The project began in March by soliciting stories from women around beauty and self-esteem. The first video features Catherine Meredith, who last year started "Fat Girls Dance," which produces weekly videos distributed via social media.

Pepsico last year started a unit known as Creators League, which serves as an internal production arm for ads and branded content as well as unbranded scripted series, films, music, recordings, reality shows and other content distributed for TV, online viewing and streaming services. PepsiCo envisions selling enough unbranded content to cover the costs of creating ad content that does fuel product sales. It is an ambitious venture considering that marketing is typically viewed as an expense, not a profit center.

Sprint started its own in house production unit called YellowFan Studios last year as well. It started with 30 employees, and had plans to hire 30 more. At its launch, the unit's director, Christopher Ian Bennett, planned to pursue "a bold new creative strategy", including a "re-imagination" of social media, branded content, experiential marketing "and an exciting new focus on consumer storytelling," Sprint said. The agency "has full creative responsibility for the Overland Park, Kan.-based mobile carrier providing film and print production, design and all other creative services," it said.

However, it hasn't been all smooth sailing for these ventures. Pepsi was widely criticized for a recent ad featuring Kendall Jenner at a protest that was criticized as tone deaf and trivializing. Sprint ran into some blowback after its CEO posted an internally produced video of a woman from a listening tour calling a rival brand "ghetto." In both cases, industry voices were quick to note that an outside partner can help brands avoid these tonal errors.

If you are not yet ready to shoulder the full cost of your own in-house production team but still want to find a great partner to help you bring your ideas to life, turn to LookBook.

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