Beware the pre-production 'smoke and mirrors'

Beware the pre-production 'smoke and mirrors'
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As Soda Stream is stinging with their latest ad banned by UK approval bodies, this is a good warning about the dangers of the wrong advice in pre-production to our industry here.

There are expensive investments in TVC's that can be lost by being banned by approval bodies as well as a number of other costly issues. Whilst this particular TVC has gone on to receive some social media attention, not all disasters like this end up as well, and that's an expensive loss to most businesses when you think about a last minute cancellation of the media buy and expensive production costs lost.

I see many businesses in this current market scrambling for each other's share of the industry, but in the process are forgetting some fundamentals. They're either cutting corners intentionally, or simply ignorant. This carelessness is putting brands at risk of being blackbanned and exposed to some expensive cost over runs, badly managed talent & royalties, and not to mention lost potential in the creative execution at the very least.

This risk, if not for the brands, can also fall onto the service providers and individuals – enough to close down a delicately balanced business in this economy. The legal battles can also delay a launch, having a costly impact on an advertisers business regardless of the outcome of a dispute.

I see production houses taking on post-production when they are not experienced enough with the complexities of visual effects, visual effects houses taking on in-house productions when they don't have the expertise, agencies taking on in-house production and cutting corners, some hybrid production services under-delivering and with a lack in their offering. I see many taking on ad agency type roles but without the full understanding of what is actually involved in managing and protecting a big brand's business beyond the momentary execution of an individual TVC, and doing an inadequate job at that.

Many businesses think that if there is a producer on board that everything will be OK. I'm here to flag the fact that there are many different types of producers and with different skillsets.

There are agency, production house, design, VFX, post production, line, long form, corporate producers to name a few, and all of them have very different specialised skills. Often the producers themselves think that each other's skills are 'easy'. This is a fundamental problem to the industry and exposes businesses at every level.

On top of that there have been many moves in the production industry lately and the showreels of some businesses do not actually reflect an honest representation of the team that they currently have on board. The promises are greater than their ability to deliver and there is a lot of 'smoke and mirrors' going on in the industry right now. Credible production services are suffering and often it is because they are not willing to compromise on safety or are steadfast on being responsible with the client's dollar. This is then coming back to bite them by the undercutting and lack of integrity out there at the moment.

In my experience if a post house or production house is claiming to do productions direct with a marketer then my advice is that there must be someone with advertising industry experience in the mix, however that gets done. At best, if one of these providers has an experienced agency producer on board then that's a good start, although I suggest to marketers that this producer's ultimate responsibility is to their employer and not necessarily with the best interests of the brand in mind. More often than not it is simply by what they are NOT doing that is the likely cause of disasters and that's regularly based on ignorance and lack of experience.

I do personally believe that the old agency model is failing in many ways for mid to small brands and agencies, and they're looking for cost effective and creative solutions – I'm all for that. I'm just here to warn people that may be ignorant to the risks to be really careful right now who they trust with their precious production and media dollar in what feels like desperate times to some businesses out there, to be clear on the role & expertise of the many different types of producer in the process, and to fully understand the integrity and offering of the businesses they hire.

Anne Miles is executive producer/buyer at International Creative Services and has over 30 years experience across agency, film company, visual effects, design and

post production industries.

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