In the context of film, TV or a production company, the producer is a familiar figure. Ad agencies also have producers, however: a lesser-known species frequently at the edge of the interplay of genius (creatives) and business acumen (accounts). Nonetheless, the producer’s role in the process of creation is key to delivering any ad campaign.
My professional responsibilities:
When people ask what my job involves, while I might try to summarise it in a few words and general tasks, inevitably I end up contextualising what I do within the framework of the ad agency and its departments. It goes without saying that the industry is much broader than my own specific area, which is focused on traditional media – primarily television.
The agency TV producer:
1. Inspires creativity.
An idea, in its basic form, ends up written down on a piece of paper. That idea can then go down any number of routes in the process of execution, and it is the producer’s call as to which direction best elaborates it. The same creative concept might be developed as if directed by Pedro Almodóvar; as a piece of stop motion animation with plasticine figures; or in the tone and style of Michael Haneke. Different executions for the same initial idea, which – in the best-case scenario – help grow and enrich the project. A producer must evaluate direction, production, and both technical and formal solutions, in order to enhance the points of audience connection and ensure the original idea reaches TV screens without losing a jot of the creative freshness with which it was conceived. Along the way, the risks and obstacles are many.
2. Estimates, scrutinizes and negotiates production design and costs.
Letting your imagination soar is all very well, but creatives can sometimes seem to be living in a dream world, and their proposals need to be made to fit within the client’s strategic and budgetary parameters. While strategy is not the producer’s area, the budget is inevitably his main headache when it comes to negotiating production costs without cutting a project’s wings. It is never pleasant to have to trim a campaign because of a lack of resources. Ultimately, though (even if it takes a while to reach), there is always a point where alternative plans and audiovisual solutions fall into place which are both economically and creatively viable for everyone concerned. To discuss, mediate and monitor this budgeting process is essential for negotiations to reach a successful conclusion.
3. Supervises filming.
The agency producer is the person on set who acquires the most cross-discipline information from everyone else involved, from the production companies, cinematographers, electricians, copywriters, art directors and account directors to the product managers and heads of marketing. All of whom bring vital experience and input which need – indeed, have – to be taken into account. As specialists in their field, each bases their decisions and assessments on criteria of which the others may lack the requisite knowledge or perspective. In which case, the producer’s role is to act as spokesman, to transmit information and to translate for the benefit of all parties the various measures being taken in the course of the shoot. In addition, the producer evaluates the relative importance some decisions may have later, especially those that affect the audiovisual narrative.
4. Controls the quality of production.
Film crews, actors, extras, configuring technical equipment, machinery, post-production facilities, coverage (editorial rights, footage, etc): The budget approved by the client covers a long list of elements to be handled during the shoot, the post-production and the on-air schedule. But during production there are frequently unforeseen circumstances that have to be dealt with, always in the best manner possible and in the client’s best interest, and without the final quality suffering. A well-designed production simply cannot leave large margins for error – but it is important to allow some margin. Not to do so is to court disaster. So it is vital for the agency producer and the production company producer to work closely together, ‘in the same boat’, and to resolve crises in ways which benefit everyone. And, where possible, to resolve them by ourselves, without stressing the client. In adverse conditions, a producer’s priority has to be getting the balance right in terms of energy, time and money invested, relieving the tension, and seeing the process through to its end.
5. Produces, produces and produces.
Even if the production is complex, at times over-budget or loses the creative thread, the role of the agency producer is to lead the project in the best way possible, at the best price, and with the most suitable and comitted professional resources available. Whatever happens, the TVC needs to be made; failure is not an option. An average TVC, ultimately broadcast in a block of about 25 ads, lasts some 30 seconds only. Those who even remember the spot will never know the effort it required, the impossible conditions or the adversities overcome in its production. But if sales figures rise, the hard work has been worth it.
TV Producer, Ogilvy & Mather Barcelona