If you’ve been in marketing a little while, you know there’s an industry-wide mindset that producing content is of low-value, and that the best value an agency can provide is insight, strategy and good ideas. Production is a ‘commodity’ people say. Or, ‘brands will only pay for strategy and creative, not content.’
And I agree: The most valuable thing for any business is insight, strategy and good ideas.
But what if producing a brand’s content provided access to some of the best qualitative insight there is? I recently spoke with a friend of mine who works at a multinational hotel company. She said, “I won’t even listen to an agency if they haven’t been out there in the field. If they haven’t actually done it.” What she meant by that is that anyone who thinks they can create compelling marketing without having experienced the commercial environment and the people they’re marketing to is just wrong. They can’t. While research, data and quant analysis can offer part of a story, to really know what's going on in the market, you need to actually be out there ‘night after night’ experiencing the culture. So much of the content we see coming from brands these days (rightly) features their audience in the content (or their influencers, or super consumers, or trade partners). So, by creating content for a brand, an agency actually gets the opportunity to spend time with the consumer and glean insights from them while they do. Being on the front lines gives you a space to explore your curiosity (the mark of any great strategic thinker). There, they can see what’s working, and just as importantly, what isn’t. Those lessons are priceless.
When I started our agency fifteen years ago, we were actually a production company (also how many other great agencies started). We made TV shows for young people. We had to know what kind of idea would connect with a young mind, otherwise our content wasn’t very good. And the better ratings we got, the better the ad sales. So, we paid attention, we spent a lot of time out, absorbing everything we could. Occasionally we’d work with agencies, who always turned us off. They often felt stiff, like they spent too much time in conference rooms, and not enough time in the market. They were thinking too much about their brand, and not enough about their consumer. I knew we knew more than those agencies then, and I still do. We hired a strategist seven years ago so that our team could learn the craft, but the important part of strategy – the instincts and the insights – were always there. And after all our years in the business, I still think that having a savvy production team out in the market can be the very thing that leads to your next big idea.
But, it’s not just the front row seat to insights that qualifies your producers as people who should be involved in your strategy. In our experience producers are often just as valuable when bringing the strategy to life. Because good content producers are out in the field, and they understand the sensibility of the demographic, they know how to create the perfect video to capture the spirit of the campaign. Call it a sizzle reel, call it a campaign video, call it what you want, but admit it: When it’s crunch time, and you’ve gotta make a big pitch to your board, or your boss or whomever, you don’t want some boring old deck to show them, what you want is…. A sizzle reel (or campaign video, or whatever you want to call it). Sizzle reels are the best thing to hit the conference room since the mute button, and they’ve been around for so long, because they work! But the best videos come from a strategic thinker, not a pair of hands. You need someone who gets your market, gets your consumer, even gets the nuanced personalities of your colleagues and superiors, to tell a story that captures the idea and makes it sing. And if it’s truly a great video – because it tells a great story, it can go viral in your organization – stoking enthusiasm from shareholders far and wide - the shorthand for your genius for months to come. Is there anything more valuable than that?
Those are just a few reasons I think production is the sh*t (and why it will never leave our shop). Call me for more.
The best agencies have great ideas partly because they’re out in the market, doing it. Living it. Getting curious, making great content and connecting with people in real life. And if they’re not - if your agency isn’t capable of making some badass content on their own, then I question if their ideas are worth the Powerpoint slides they’re on anyway.