Is in-house production destructive?

It probably wouldn’t take the intellect of Einstein to work out exactly who the cause of Robert Campbell’s dismay was in his Year Ahead For Production essay published in last week’s Campaign. And while the Outsider founder’s thoughts on the trend of agencies opting to use (or being strong-armed into using) in-house production companies or ones that share a common parent were not new, they were probably the most articulately expressed for some time.

The UK has a thriving – and highly competitive – independent production company scene where the best directors fight to get the best scripts. It’s a system that works (a glance at Campaign’s Production Company of the Year over the past decade shows this, revealing a rich and diverse list of winners and runners-up – none of which is in-house), but Campbell fears that it is under threat and that this could have a profound effect on creativity. Interference in the free market seldom creates good, but you might think that the economic argument is one that overrides this. Campbell disagrees with this too, saying that it’s no saving at all. So is in-house production threatening creativity?


Creative

Russell Ramsey, executive creative director, JWT London

"I can’t imagine a modern communications company operating properly without in-house production facilities. We want to make things and sometimes the quickest, easiest way to do that is to do it yourself. The important thing is to treat each production on an individual basis and weigh up whether going to an outside company will result in a better job. In many cases, the answer is yes. There’s huge value in using outside production companies or post facilities, and that is something we still do in most cases. There can’t be a mandate to only use in-house facilities."


Chief executive

Russ Lidstone, chief executive, Havas Worldwide London

"It’s an anachronism to assume that agencies should leave all levels of film production to independent companies in today’s content-hungry, technologically empowered, always-on world. We’ve strengthened our in-house film production capabilities because we have clients who require great-quality, lower-cost or fast-turnaround film content for internal purposes and content marketing activity. This isn’t in any way ‘removing a vital source of creativity’. Depending on the nature of the idea, budget, time constraints and ambition, naturally we’ll partner best-in-class production companies."


Creative

Ryan Newey, executive creative director, Fold7

"In-house production facilities have become the norm in many agencies. Does this harm creativity? How can it? In-house is no replacement for working with the best production companies when possible but, in an age when content is king and clients need to be ‘always on’, it offers another tool in your kit box. Having the in-house card up your sleeve means great team involvement, with the added benefit of speed and agility, and a closeness to the work that ensures consistency of the creative idea. As long as in-house is never a default for ease, it’s a great way to ensure clients keep pace with 21st-century consumers."


Production trade body

Steve Davies, chief executive, Advertising Producers Association

"The motivation for agency groups is to keep as much of their client’s spending as possible within the group. Doubtless they will talk of ‘synergies’, but what clients will see – or, at least, we hope they will see – is that buying all aspects of production on the open market serves their interests best. That is where the top talent is because it wants access to the best work. Equally importantly, the production sector is substantially oversupplied. It is a buyer’s market and, with the benefit of the expertise of the agency TV department, the client is able to get best value in production, post and editing. Why would a client not want that?"

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