What Should We Look Forward To In 2018?

Posted on   |  by Patrick Murphy

re-blogged from Little Black Book Online

At the turn of every New Year, there seems to be a procession of doomy articles about the future of our business. But this year, for once, I am not sure that’s how we should be feeling.

I think we are in the most exciting time in the development of advertising – ever. The client has a huge number of tools and ways to reach the customer. It makes the job of a marketing director incredibly interesting, if challenging, but when you get it right, magical things happen. We also had some amazing work win through in 2017: just take a look at one of the Grand Prix in Cannes. Channel 4’s ‘We’re the Superhumans’ was a deserved winner and not from a traditional agency. How can one not be inspired by this work?

Although the budgets don’t seem to go up, they are being required to stretch further and make a lot more stuff. This forces the agencies and clients to think differently, and we’re seeing an increasing number of different models that allow the clients to focus spend on the things that really make the difference, such as talent, music, and using the best craftspeople – the things that are proven to enhance the effectiveness of the work. This means, of course, a greater questioning of mark-ups, wasted resource and overheads, and hidden contingencies.

While this seems to strike at the heart of the old financial models of the production industry, I think it’s great news for production suppliers who embrace these new approaches, as they will get the chance to work more directly with advertisers.

Conversely, I have noticed certain behaviours from some production companies that makes me understand just why some clients have chosen to engage more directly with production companies to help them deliver content at better value and with greater transparency.

If clients are increasingly looking to work directly with production talent, (and be under no illusion, the directors and photographers definitely want this too) the industry as a whole must embrace the trend and all it brings – the need for clients to feel they are getting flexibility, a can-do attitude and full transparency on the bidding process. It’s no longer an excuse at attempting to make a bucket load of cash, this will destroy things for everyone else who are just as excited about the opportunity.

In my experience, production agencies (since my last article just over a year ago) are starting to change their tune. The creative approach has to meet client expectation, and I see a big shift toward a better, more collaborative approach with these companies. I believe this will continue and the growth of the enlightened ones will keep on at full steam ahead. However, they are moneymaking machines, so the right benchmarks, processes and agreements need to be in place for clients to truly benefit from these engagements.

The last year has proven to me that a client does not need to spend huge sums to make outstandingly creative advertising. Great, simple ideas can be made incredibly cost-effectively. There is amazing talent out there, all of whom would kill for the chance to work on a great script. The world is a huge treasure chest of resources, including locations, casting, studios, post production and music. I found this out last year on my global travels. One of the places that struck me last year as such a resource was Nu Boyana Studios in Bulgaria. The one thing that helps a client get the best value, though, is TIME. Time for researching locations, directors and production companies, time for casting, time for bidding, time for negotiating, time for sourcing the right music, time for post, and time for editing….

When you spend all that ‘time’ on ad development and research, why is it that the production schedule is the one that has to suffer? It just doesn’t make sense.

Yes, technology can help to speed things up but if the intention is to use the globe as your talent resource, then allowances have to be made for that. I would encourage all clients to park that firmly top of mind if they want to achieve great work at the best price.

In some sense, 2017 proved revelatory in that a big question mark was put over the value and effectiveness of digital advertising and also over the buying processes of media and production. There has been a swing back to traditional TV advertising as the most credible medium to reach customers. This doesn’t mean that clients are ignoring the rest. In my experience clients are asking all the right questions and (rightly) challenging what their agencies are telling them. I think in 2018 we’ll see better client agency partnerships forged that will move away from the distrust that has been felt over the last few years. However, the winners will be those agencies that can prove their worth, their flexibility, their speed, their experience and their ability to separate creative from execution. Clients want to pay for great ideas and their agencies aren’t always the best place to manage the production.

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