The Pros and Cons of Agency Production Companies
Not a day goes by that a client tells me that they are thinking of using their agency production arm to produce ads, do versioning, in fact all the stuff that an agency would have traditionally outsourced to 3rd party suppliers. They have been fed the story that it’s possible to cut the costs by a significant percentage by bundling it all under one roof, and the process also becomes more streamlined too.
Sounds good eh? Well hold your horses, that’s a bit like a Donald Trump rally speech. Full of promise but is there substance? And how is it going to be measured, both qualitatively and quantitatively? The way they want to work is in a non-competitive environment, with no one looking over their shoulder for checks and balances. Well, why not? if you try it on someone might just bite.
In addition, most of the Creative Directors and producers that I talk to at the creative agencies within those agency groups also have their frustrations with this set up. They want to work with the director they think can do the job to their expectations, and there’s no guarantee the director will allow themselves to be loaned out to an in-house agency unit. That will affect their reputation and standing in the creative community. And who’s to say that video post or audio operators are up to scratch when compared with the other companies in the same space outside of the group? Who’s to know whether they are slow or very junior even though the rates seem to be on a par with the outside (and often more)? And who’s to know whether their offerings are consistent around the globe? Well in my experience all of these things are dubious.
This doesn’t mean that a client shouldn’t follow through with this as a concept, because if you can get the set up and management sorted, it can obviously drive benefit. However there is a very big BUT. And that is the production community is being totally destroyed by this and many companies now are on the brink of closing. Many great creative production companies, post pro houses and sound studios are suffering, but they can’t make a big song and dance of this because they still rely heavily on the agencies for their bread and butter. It’s a slow death. You as the client will be responsible for changing the landscape, and have no idea whether you have the best creative outcomes at the best price.
At least whilst agency TV departments are still independent, allowing the producers to have choice, (that might include their in house production co) then there’s still a bigger chance that you’ll get the right outcome. Incredibly there is a move to bring the agency producers under the roof of the agency production companies. Well what will that do for ensuring you are getting the right vendors, directors and value for money? None, nichts, nada, zilch in my view. Who do you think the producers loyalty will be towards? This is all a programme to increase agency revenue at the expense of the production industry because creative fees and agency resource costs have been reduced, (rightly so in my opinion). Agencies have not adapted for the new world, and this land grab around production is potentially so damaging for the industry I had to write this blog, because no one who relies on the agencies for income will do so themselves.
So what should a client do?
Firstly, don’t be hoodwinked into believing that working with internal agency prod companies is the only solution.
When I ask the clients what they want, it’s always the same answer. We want more stuff, better stuff, more cheaply. Period.
Well you can get more stuff potentially with an in house prod co, but there certainly is no guarantee that you’ll get better stuff, or cheaper. And my summarisation of that is based on having worked across numerous clients across many in-house production companies. There really is not the sophistication at these companies to attract great talent, and design complex productions in the right places to shoot. You want versioning, sure, not a problem. Get the right deal in place and you can be happy bunnies, but not genuine original creative.
What would I do as a Marketing Director??
I would ask where I am going to be able to get the right talent first. It’s frankly all about the creative. That might be a great post house like Framestore or the Mill, or maybe a production company such as Great Guns, Stink or Academy. These companies have already adapted for the new world and if there’s a restricted budget, they will be all ears to finding a solution for you. The same goes for post houses or sound studios. You want and should insist on the best. Get your own model set up and spend the money where it will work hardest, with the execution, not with agencies and big offices and big overheads unless they are prepared to work hard and fight for your business and reduce the ridiculous costs. It’s really easy to hire great freelancers, build your own dream team, and they have no baggage. Just imagine what you could do with the money you have saved. More executions? More in media?
There is another way to achieve your desire goal. Don’t take what seems to be the easy option.