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Studio Sense: What is integrated production anyway?

It’s shaking up the creative industry, prompting probing questions about the structure of ad agencies and the approach to traditional production. Is the creative production model that we all know finally out-dated? Is the industry ready for integrated production? Do we really need it?

It’s a method towards which the industry is increasingly moving, but perhaps we should first ask; what is integrated production anyway?

An integrated production will deliver a campaign across all marketing media channels. It’s an overarching, holistic approach to production that, from the outset, considers all end requirements and possible outputs, allowing production companies to unlock efficiencies in how they shoot and post-produce content by leveraging production crossovers. In turn, the all-encompassing method will lead to natural savings in both cost and time, ensuring efficiency and value for ever-tightening budgets.

Jack Daniels: It Takes Jack to Make Fire. Agency: Arnold Boston. Client: Jack Daniels. Photography/CGI/Post: Taylor James.
Jack Daniels: It Takes Jack to Make Fire. Agency: Arnold Boston. Client: Jack Daniels. Photography/CGI/Post: Taylor James.

Integrated production can be hugely beneficial for creativity but it’s imperative that the industry embraces it. It’s not easy to revolutionise the approach to production. Tradition is so often a barrier to innovation, particularly in agencies whose age-old methodology is to silo the TVC, digital and print departments.

The capabilities to make it happen, however, are already here. Production technology has advanced enormously and the boundaries of production have merged to such an extent that we now apply the same treatment to Hollywood movies that we do to banner ads.

Logically, it’s the next step for production. It’s already being talked about and in some cases utilised, despite not being wholly accepted across the industry. There are only a handful of production facilities like Taylor James that are ready to offer fully integrated production. To be able to offer integrated production it’s imperative to have the right team in place, requiring in-depth structure and organisation, to allow teams to work towards a common goal.

For me, integration is the next evolutionary step in production. It makes sense, it saves money and it improves creativity. Not enough agencies or brands are demanding this approach, but they should. It’s not just up to us to drive change, we’re still waiting for those on the other side of the fence – the agencies – to embrace integrated production. So, how and when will it happen?

For it to become the new normal this method needs the networks to adapt and adopt. The simple notion of focusing on one creative idea and running it through all media channels can meet fierce objections, but it’s the traditional siloed approach, whereby TVC leads the creative campaign, that is often damaging creativity.

Symmons: Smart from the Inside Out. Agency: Full Contact. Client: Symmons.Complete production: Taylor James.
Symmons: Smart from the Inside Out. Agency: Full Contact. Client: Symmons.Complete production: Taylor James.

Bigger network agencies typically employ hundreds of staff working across separate TVC, print and digital departments, whilst some brands will be working across differing agencies for each of these channels, so there are complicated logistical issues. In turn, each media channel brings its own challenges in terms of requir-ements, thinking and technology.

And with media buying often dictating the production schedule, it’s impossible to consider an approach that adds time to our already reduced schedules. Until media planning adopts change, how can consolidated productions be considered?

All these points have legitimate reasoning but I can’t shake the belief that the whole industry needs to wake up and rethink the way it works. Are simple tweaks to our processes enough to adopt the massive advantages we have open to us and that technology affords us? Sitting outside this agency/brand circle, I would be naive to think this hasn’t been debated and change isn’t already taking place.

Fortunately, we are already seeing digital disruption. More brands are building internal marketing capabilities, adopting project based relationships with their advertising partners, and investing in relationships with digital agencies that can reach out to consumers.

If there’s anything that two decades in the industry has taught me, it’s that change isn’t easy but is possible and it can’t be stopped.

I’ve been a part of a digital revolution that put many skilled artists out of work as the art of hand retouching was eradicated. I’ve seen 20 fellow colleagues lose their jobs to a single computer and a single operator in the world of desktop publishing. I’ve seen digital photography wipe out the entire industry of lab processing.

But I’ve also seen the need to evolve and stay relevant. Having run Taylor James for 16 years, I’ve seen us establish ourselves in London and expand to open a New York office, all the while adopting a fully multi-tasking approach to working practices that has totally re-written our workflow model.

With agency pressure to deliver more for less we’ve re-evaluated the whole process, allowing us to see the way we should be working. It wasn’t easy and we had to start from the ground up – but shouldn’t we all be re-visiting our business models to ensure that what we offer the most efficient processes to allow for the widest creative output?

Even with a relatively small staff, encouraging change and adoption is difficult, but the bottom line is that it’s always finance that drives change. It may cost us upfront to adapt the way we work, but with its time and cost saving benefits, I am in no doubt that integrated production is on its way to full adoption; it’s just a matter of time.

Taylor James London: Dan Christie, executive producer, london@taylorjames.com
NYC: Eve Ehrich, executive producer, newyork@taylorjames.com 

Image shown top: Canon: See Impossible. Agency: Grey NY. Client: Canon. Complete production: Taylor James

Studio Sense is CR’s sponsored series of expert opinion pieces. If you would like to contribute, contact emma.underhill@centaurmedia.com

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