Editorial: Large demise cuts off way in for talent

So Large has imploded just a year after its inception seemed to signal a new era of consolidation in the production industry. The news will have been greeted by sage nods from observers of this corner of the advertising business, many of whom predicted that the merger of Stark with Spectre was an ill-conceived bid to combine cost efficiencies with expensive directing talent. At a stroke Large became, as its name suggested, one of the biggest production companies in the UK and promised to provide a corporate robustness and discipline some of its rivals lack. At the same time, it pooled the talents of two of the industry's most sought-after directors, Danny Kleinman and Jeff Stark. Kleinman took the joint top spot as the most awarded director in the world last year, according to the Gunn Report, while Stark rounded off a year of acclaimed directing jobs with Marks & Spencer's star-studded Christmas campaign.

The merger, then, got off to an impressive start. But by this summer it had become clear to the directors that working harder was not resulting in a comparable increase in earnings. That Stark and Kleinman decided to cut their losses is not an indication of a production industry in crisis, unable to sustain a sizeable business with the overheads that implies.

Rather, it reflects the fact that commercials production is very much a bespoke service.

Economies of scale, beyond the obvious ones such as premises, are hard to squeeze and although Large was able to offer a wide and eclectic mix of directors, the list of sought-after directing talent has continued to narrow. The problem, such as it is, lies with tighter cost controls at agencies and clients. Cuts in agency TV departments have made it harder to take the time to see lots of director tapes, to source new and exciting directors and to help invest in nurturing newcomers. At the same time, the influence of procurement has compounded a risk-averse culture among agencies and clients. The result is a narrowing of wish-list directors down to a few proven names. That a director of Kleinman's level should be doing some of the pedestrian ads he has this year (Foster's Headtap, for example) is a clear illustration of this.

There's no doubt Kleinman and Stark will continue to thrive, either within or without a sizeable corporate structure. But when a company such as Large, with all its array of talent and management expertise, closes its doors then there is one avenue fewer for the emergence of the next generation of top-notch directors. And that's the real shame of this particular demise.

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