Recently our Vitamin T team hosted an Agency Scoop event at General Assembly focused on 'Staying ahead in Digital Production - taking a closer look at the trends influencing today’s digital production landscape.'
Our panel included:
- Claire van Heyningen, Managing Director from Mirum Agency
- Simone Barker, Head of Production / GM from Virtual Immersive
- Dave Flanagan, Head of Digital Solutions from The Works Agency
- Claire Bisset, Digital Production Lead from Clemenger BBDO
As the buzz of digital transformation continues, and as marketing teams are leaning on agencies more than ever to help meet demand, the role of the digital producer has never played a more crucial role in today’s digital landscape. So how can agencies and producers best equip themselves to stay ahead in digital production?
THE ROLE OF A PRODUCER HAS EVOLVED
Over the last five years, looking at agencies specifically, the role of a producer and their relationship with the client has evolved from a basic vendor relationship to a partnership. More and more producers are now sat within the client’s office and working with the client’s team. This is helping producers understand the workflow of their client’s team and how it all comes together so producers can better equip themselves in problem solving quickly.
With technology constantly changing and evolving, it is more important than ever for a producer to keep learning and to keep on top of the latest technologies and platforms. What hasn’t changed is the core of a producer’s role — and that is to problem solve.
Clients will come to agencies with all different types of problems and producers need to have that understanding and know how to problem solve on a daily basis.
“There are no niches anymore, you have to be a jack of all trades” - Simone Barker, Virtual Immersive
NEW GENERATION OF DIGITAL PRODUCERS
Clients are now more digitally mature in terms their understanding of the digital landscape and how this affects their business and their customer’s experience with all the different touch points. When clients are developing their digital strategy, it now affects the entire business and not just the marketing discussion, it needs to fit into their overall strategy.
So producers now really need to get under the hood of the client’s business and get into the details and have an understanding of their workflow, their difficulties and struggles. We need to understand all those touch points in order to use our expertise to help clients create better experiences.
“Delivering projects in the traditional sense isn’t just what we do anymore. There is a requirement for us to understand the day-to-day running of the business. Essentially we are becoming consultants and it is important for us to be in the client’s business to understand what those problems are.” - Claire Bisset, Clemenger BBDO
A lot of what agencies do aren’t just ads — they're looking into product development and going in to look at the experiences themselves, questioning everything in order to deliver brand experiences. For example, how does this add value to the customer, how is this a signature experience, how do we retain our customers and looking for ways to go that extra mile.
Producing banner ads and EDMs are great — but producers need to have an understanding of product development in order to really be able to go in and optimise and fix those products, allowing them to create new experiences that are genuinely useful for customers.
“There is a lot of opportunity from a digital production side to play that consulting role from an actual remediation and helping businesses transform. There is some really amazing work you can do with clients who are struggling down the other end who really just haven’t thought about it for a long time and it really is rewarding as a producer to help them turn themselves around in that respect.” - Claire van Heyningen, Mirum Agency
There has been a drive for producers to transition from campaign work on to full web builds. However, this could be difficult if you are always managing campaign projects all the time. The advice is to find a company that will encourage this transition and support you. Then it is up to you to give it a go and keep learning. You need to give it a crack in order to understand it so find an agency that encourages learning on the job so you can step in and get involved.
Companies need to mix it up and get producers to work on different projects and different teams in order for everyone to keep learning and sharing valuable knowledge. This needs to be encouraged from the top down as the only way to learn is to be given the opportunity and putting in the work yourself and finding yourself a mentor who you can bounce off when you need advice.
“Don’t just put someone in their seat and they do all the banners and that's all they do because they will leave after 6 months. Try and mix it up and get them working on larger projects and closer with the senior UX, designers and developers.” - Dave Flanagan, The Works Agency
DIGITAL PRODUCERS NEED TO BE CLIENT-FACING
The latest technologies and platforms are changing every 6 months so it is very important and valuable to have digital producers be client facing in order to educate the clients and collaborate with the client teams along the way. Having someone who doesn’t understand the process or the technology can be a roadblock.
“We have some clients who don’t want to pay for account managers and producers. They want a lean team who is in there getting the job done” - Claire van Heyningen, Mirum Agency
This is an opportunity for agencies to elevate producers and account managers. Bringing them into client meetings along with the developers and the creative teams so they understand the client’s problems and the solutions and will be better equipped to have those conversations and solutions themselves the next time.
AGILE IS NOT THE SILVER BULLET. WATERFALL IS NOT EVIL AND DEAD
There is no workflow methodology that works with all clients and all projects. Waterfall has its place and there are certain projects and clients that respond really well to waterfall.
“And if you try fit a round client into a square peg of agile that they are not ready for, it's going to be an epic fail and everyone is going to lose belief in agile. It’s got to be a softly-softly approach. You've got to be very open to it and be prepared to work in waterfall in a lot of ways. It is Important to have agile really understood and embedded down in your business and be able to adjust really quickly.” - Claire van Heyningen, Mirum Agency
It should be based on the way the client’s organisation works and the way your agency works. There is no one size fits all. Use a mix of both — find out what works for the project and the client.
“Look at your project and look at what the factors are for success and failure for that project” - Dave Flanagan, The Works Agency.
AGENCIES ARE STILL COOL
Over the years we’ve seen a lot of change on the client side — clients pushing innovation within their in house creative and innovation teams as well as offering flexible working arrangements, working client side has become an attraction.
“Agencies are changing too and the ones that aren’t, are the ones that are in trouble” - Dave Flanagan, The Works Agency
Agencies used to get a lot of the campaign churn and burn work with employees working crazy hours into the night but is the playing field leveling out?
Now that some clients are bringing this fast moving campaign work in house, agencies are starting to commoditise services, working on innovation and ground breaking work with a lot of the work focusing on product rather than campaign work.
PROBLEM SOLVER AT HEART
Digital Producer, Digital Project Manager, Product Owner, Program Manager, the list of a job titles can go on. But we can all agree that at the end of the day, they are problem solvers.
“You get handed ideas and concepts and it is your job to figure it out and to bring into the room the right people, at the right time. And someone who can talk to the client about the idea and really build on what the creative team have come to you with.” - Claire Bisset, Clemenger BBDO
When interviewing talent, there is less focus on skills and more on attitude and behaviour. There is a new platform or a new design tool every 6 months so it is important to have someone who is willing to learn and get their hands dirty.
You can teach people technologies, you can’t teach people attitude and behaviours and the willingness to learn. Clients want to know how you react under pressure when thrown a curveball.
What your biggest mistake was and how you handled it and fix it? What projects are you proud of and what were the three things that really made you flourish in that project? How do you handle the different stakeholders who all have conflicting agendas?
“Problem solving is an attitude, not a skillset” - Claire van Heyningen, Mirum Agency
HOW TO KEEP UP
Learn from the people around you! Slack is a common tool within agencies and is a great place to share articles and tutorials and you will end up with awesome content that you can then browse in your own time.
Some other great sources that our panel go to are:
- Digital Trends
- Campaign Brief
- Fast Company
“Ask the question! Because everyone is so happy to share their knowledge.” - Simone Barker, Virtual Immersive