Redefining Production

The latest issue of our Joined-up Thinking magazine has arrived, looking at how the marketing industry is dealing with a period of such radical transformation. In the article below, Morgan Cox looks at how forward-thinking businesses are redefining production in 2021 and beyond…

The endless appeal of working in production is that it strikes that wonderful balance between a deep routed passion for craft skills and a willingness to embrace and celebrate new innovation and competitor start-ups almost daily.

Indeed, the redefinition of what is possible is a permanent thread that connects the future of production with its past. From the Luminere brothers’ cinematograph and Molliers moon Landing through Disney, Pixar, Avatar to Half-Life: Alyx and fellow VR sensations that will have “head-setted” families around the country entertained this Christmas.

Like the car industry, where our family run-a-rounds are the benefactors of Formula One innovations that rapidly get handed down, brands have always been able to access the best innovation and talent from production innovations in entertainment, arts and publishing worlds. Clients now have an incredible range of possibilities to create and produce great content and the expectations for what a production partner should offer and how they deliver it has changed in a way that – we believe – is better for all.

There have been two fundamental shifts that have driven this, which are still evolving.

1. Decoupling

“Decoupling” led by canny clients and production independents has brought much needed change to the industry, exposing outmoded and opaque commercial practices and processes. It’s made for closer and deeper relationships between clients and production companies and led to the formation of production “agencies” (where once there were only “companies”) who offer a wider range of creative, tech and strategic services.

Driving production efficiency became the domain of scaled production agency businesses able to dedicate large teams, often offshore, to drive cost down and provide a one-stop-solution for all the formats clients needed across digital, print and video, with less steps and handoffs supported by solid workflow technologies.

Many would argue – fairly – that this came at the expense of creativity (and certainly some of the joy!), with some of the best independent talent excluded by the ring-fenced deals that larger production and holding company entities struck. A schism between creative teams and production teams often formed as the processes and teams split. Savings for clients came at the expense of having to manage a new type of relationship, in addition to and often in tension with creative and media.

But the industrial style practices of these companies delivered annual savings of 20-40% on clients’ “non-working capital” investments. For many it was a necessary step towards a better understanding and realisation of production value, not to mention the formation of new relationships between the production industry and clients taking a more proactive role in finding new ways of creating effective high-quality work…

2. Technology

…But of course, then technology did what it does best and made many of the newly evolved set-ups look, shall we say, rather quaint. Tech capabilities have advanced beyond “supporting” the workflow of scaled teams and have brought smart automation into assembling, editing, formatting and templating content. Cloud sourcing has democratised the opportunity for the world’s best and most diverse talent to be accessed, whilst cloud and collaboration technologies that are the new norm for us all expose that there is no need to have big teams in expensive production studio environments.

The radical shift in clients’ investments from the well-trodden practice of just applying the big idea into channel marketing streams to providing more personalised forms of digital comms has led to the development of an increasingly wide array of dynamic production technologies, that can deliver programmatic campaigns to ever more addressable media opportunities.

The potential benefits to the clients from these innovations are huge, but it would be fair to say that, at times, the tech has leapt ahead of the craft, leaving a creativity gap and some Frankenstein campaigns. And as the innovations and technologies keep coming thick and fast, there’s a further level of complexity and cost in navigating, connecting and deploying the right set of services and tools with clients’ own teams and their wider data, media, creative and technology ecosystems.  

Establishing the products of tomorrow

So what does that mean for production in 2021? It’s a chance to build on the clear benefits; being able to forge partnerships direct with clients to build mutual understanding to co-create, bring absolute transparency to processes and costs and deeper and wider use of technology is not to be sniffed at! But with more potential than ever, there is also more to do than ever.

Production has shifted itself from being the team you go to when all the smart thinking and creative is done, to rightly sitting at the heart of how clients can create highly creative and more relevant experiences around their customers. Production has now become totally interdependent with creative, data, planning and media skills and their associated teams and wide array of technologies.

That says to me that, for production to redefine what is possible for clients, we must do two things:

  • Be the best collaborators.

Snap together around our clients’ needs with diverse talents to form new teams which accelerate and simplify how data, creative and tech connect with production talent to realise the sum of clients’ investments in the generation of intelligent creative content frameworks that can move with their customers and prospects. 

Ensure the tightest possible integration of clients working with data strategists, technologists, writers, planners and film directors. That’s how MSQ has always been set up, and adding more production capabilities to the melting pot can only be more beneficial (and of course, the production guys have always been the most fun to work with!)

  • Realise the possible today.

We recognise that perfect plans don’t exist – and that was perhaps shown more clearly than ever in 2020. So finding a place to start can often be the most important thing when it comes to realising the potential a brand has to connect with customers in new, innovative ways.

That is why at MSQ we have developed a proprietary technology that enables clients of any budget, scale or existing capability to create dynamic personalised content across all Paid Owned and Earned formats.

Redefining production is about democratising potential.

In a production world with endless possibility our role in partnering clients is to democratise the access and benefits of new technologies, new interdependent collaboration working methods and access to great independent talent.

Our responsibility is to use the breadth of our experience to navigate through the complexities and prohibitive cost barriers to ensure all our clients are able to realise the full creative impact potential of their production investments.

Expectations should be higher than ever as to what can be achieved and that makes productions next chapter more exciting than ever.

Morgan Cox is MSQ’s new Head of Dynamic Content & Production

This article appears in the latest edition of Joined-up Thinking Magazine. Click here to read and download the full issue