By Colin Webb, MD and Creative Director of Riverhouse Productions
As a marketing and communications professional it is a certainty, as sure as eggs is eggs, that you will be asked to commission/produce/contribute to a piece of Moving Image Communications.
It’s what we used to call Video but, as the sheer variety of media available to producers becomes mind-boggling, “moving image” separates out nicely the elements that are made by using either camera or animation from other visual offerings.
The question is – how easy is it to produce in today’s market and how do you identify the wheat from the chaff? With something so important in engaging and winning hearts, minds and loyalty, it is imperative you trust your production company to deliver not just in creative terms but in all aspects of commercial message and motive.
The realm of ‘corporate production’ sits uneasily between all other genres. We nod in the direction of mainstream television, high-concept visual art, feature films, music videos, computer games, virals, commercials, and so on, wishing to be part of the exciting greener grass that’s soft and luscious on the other side of the hill.
The truth is, everybody working in all those areas does the same thing, has working practices that are more or less identical and uses pretty much the same equipment and techniques.
The difference for me and my company is that nothing leaves the building without me checking it from start to finish.
So why do it? The answer is simple. When a company’s workforce needs to be informed of changes of policy, of working practices, of employment terms, of the myriad things that affect their working life, then a human face engaging the audience and delivering a consistent message across an organisation has to be better than an impersonal letter or a brochure.
And, surprisingly, it can be cheaper most of the time. When you need to let your customer know about products, specifications, changes, whatever, human faces will engage the audience every time.
Of course, the downside is that they’ll know if you’re being economical with the truth, or are a bad communicator, or if your mum dresses you funny. Then again, they might see someone who is committed, passionate and capable of leadership. Think Richard Branson, and you have an ideal exemplar of how moving image communication (and brand!) can work.
Most moving image communication is about the message rather than the medium, and for this reason alone it pays to have a production partner that you can trust and who fills you with confidence.
At one level, production is about pointing a camera, getting people to say what they want and then editing the result in such a way that it engages with the audience. So far so good, and any media graduate (and there are lots of them!) will tell you that they can do it.
What makes the prospect of producing a moving image project a minefield for clients is the exceptionally low cost of entry into the industry, so that a recent graduate can equip him or her self to a reasonable standard using nothing more than a credit card. Add to this the seeming ease with which tasks can be completed.
Want a DVD? Click! There it is. Want a streaming file? Click! There it is. A ten year-old could do it – and there lies the problem. Clients know this, and therefore assume that a piece of moving image can be created quickly, cheaply and with minimal planning and forethought. You can almost hear the thought processes….”a keen young thing, fresh out of college, lots of ideas, could just do the trick….” This might be true, but place ‘effective’ in front of the word ‘piece’ and the complexion of the task changes.
At the other end of the spectrum are the creatives who want to make art, to take the corporate client into the realm of the Turner, to validate their approach with design that looks good but hides a message of little substance.
From Avant-Garde to ‘Aven’t a Clue – you need someone to act on your behalf, to get between the parties and sort out what’s going to be useful to you as a client.
It comes down to who you choose to make the production for you and your client. A major industrial spokesman once told me that the UK production industry was almost unique in the business world, because it had no organisation that was even close to being a market leader.
There are big corporate production companies, but no-one has a turnover approaching more than two per cent of the market (I’m excluding the global experiential organisations for whom moving image is a very small part of their offering) whereas conventional business looks for market leaders who account for 20 per cent or more.
It’s a cottage industry, in effect, with lots of freelance producers who work out of their spare room and yet are able to command complex creative crews and facilities by use of e-mail, fax and phone. They don’t need an office, or a structured environment – but you do.
You want back-up, sickness cover, enough people to get the job done to the timetable agreed with your client, and a one-man band won’t have those resources.
A solid production partner can do a lot for you, whether you are an agency or the end client (who might also be an agency).
For a start, it can provide all the facilities you ned to produce the end result under one roof. It will have good people on it’s books, with breadth of experience as well as depth.
A good producer will have at least five years experience in the business, but more likely ten.
He or she will not only be able to liaise and interpret ideas between agency and creatives, he/she will plan workflow, organise budgets, make sure the paperwork is correct, organise transport, liaise with contributors, work with scriptwriters and then tackle the crew and director.
But there’s one final thing a really solid production partner can do for you, and it’s a function of everyone who works on your project, not just the producer, although the project producer most often delivers the tactful message.
It’s a back-stop reality check, to ask you if what you’re doing is fit for purpose, determine if it can be done either at all or in time. Your producer refines thoughts and makes you look good.
Can a ten year-old do that?
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