Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO takes digital post-production in-house

The agency is saving time and money with its Laboratory set-up. Have outfits such as The Mill got anything to worry about?

Watching the new Sainsbury's campaign from Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO, you'd be forgiven for thinking that the only thing the agency's changed is the strapline. In fact, some of the changes took place behind the scenes: the post-production, normally farmed out to specialist facilities, was all handled at AMV in its new digital production facility, The Laboratory.

Officially opened last week, the facility has been partially operational since the summer, producing work for clients including Homebase and DaimlerChrysler as well as Sainsbury's.

AMV says it is offering clients cost savings, time efficiency and the ability to log on and check the creative work at any time during the production process. "It means that all the teams working on the project can have creative input and share ideas from start to finish," Andy Smith, the creative services director at The Laboratory, says. "It also means my creative directors are not in Soho two or three days a week. It makes things flow much faster."

The system links Apple Mac computers through AMV's central server, significantly increasing the power of each machine. It's a technique many of the big Hollywood film studios use, albeit on a much larger scale.

Smith won't reveal the exact investment AMV has made in the new facility, but is keen to point out that using Macs made it considerably less expensive than fitting an Avid system or a Flame suite.

"Each Mac cost us between £6,000 and £7,000 with software. We probably spent more money on the suite's infrastructure because we had to build a sound-proofed room for voiceovers," he says.

AMV is not the first to offer post-production in-house. A number of agencies have suites, but most have been installed and are serviced by a full-time post- house, such as The Mill or VTR. Bartle Bogle Hegarty, among others, has a "Mini Mill" that it uses for minor post- jobs and adapting foreign ads for the UK.

Frances Royle, the head of TV at BBH, says she gets most of the same benefits as AMV will get from The Laboratory, but without the investment in the equipment.

But because AMV's set-up is independent, it could be seen as a challenge to the big post- houses' dominance in the market. Surely it will make a dent in their bottom lines?

Pat Joseph, the group creative services director at The Mill, is not overly worried.

"It's not really about which technology you use, it's about people, and I don't think the top-level staff in the industry are going to want to work at an in-house set-up. Other agencies may look at the concept because there is a convenience factor and a fiscal advantage, but they won't be able to do anything that is creatively critical."

Smith says AMV has no plans to spread itself too thinly: "We'll expand when we're ready. We're cherry picking jobs at the moment. We're not going to do anything to jeopardise any of our clients, and it's not a threat to post-production companies. It's more like a new challenge for them to think about."

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