2011 was an interesting year for the world of production and advertising. The continuing development in technology played an important role in this process. Each year, we see technology evolve, morph and merge different media platforms together to create new and colourful ways for brands to advertise their products, leading the industry away from more traditional formats.
Acceleration of this integrated process will continue in 2012. We are already seeing the shift from the traditional TV commercial to multi-faceted cross-platforms packed with interactive content (ASOS "urban tour" being a prime example). Campaigns are seamlessly merging TV and online with a lot more user-generated content uploaded via social networking sites. This amalgamation of digital and production is not only visible in the growth and modernisation of digital departments within traditional ad agencies, but also with the emergence of hybrid digital agencies such as Party, Vitro, Blast Radius and Hypernaked, which specialise in brand innovation and online strategy etc. A trend that will rapidly continue in 2012.
The traditional production segment will remain strong, with TV advertising staying relatively intact. However, content production is already shifting towards a more interactive experience. This digital integration is of utmost importance in order to keep the tech-savvy younger generation engaged and garner their interest.
The production company model has remained pretty basic up until now, but this is transforming with the emergence of more open and complex briefs. Production companies need to be highly creative, have a good understanding of entertainment and technologies, and possess strong development skills in order to stay at the top of their game.
I believe that the more creative and forward-thinking production companies will excel this year. We all need to extend our focus from sole execution to other vital areas such as creating, writing, producing etc - not only within the commercials field, but also across all areas of content. We are also seeing an increase in self-generated content for music videos, virals, short films and TV, with brand-associated projects becoming apparent.
Seamless integration between digital and production is needed on all levels - drawing the once different worlds of content directors, writers and technologists into one pool and creating one specific form, a hybrid between audiovisual content that can be shared, changed and added to and different mini-entities built up within. The challenge is to create one cohesive team - where everyone can tap into each other's skillsets and work as one unique organism on a project-by-project basis.
Fundamentally, we are moving away from the traditional approach, which is still valuable but limited. Many projects that come into production companies are now less director-focused and more notable for their amalgamation of skillsets - ie. due to their creative, director and production talent pool. This kind of flexibility is vital in the modern production model, all of us requiring a critical mass of skills moving forward. The other challenge is for us and our directors to be able to understand digital and interactive and to keep up with the ever-evolving development with technology. Our busiest directors at Stink are those who have been directing to a high end for no more than five to six years, who are adaptable and can choose the right approach (technique, camera, style, sound, music and craft) depending on the medium, as well as being great storytellers.
More frequently, the agency gets the production company on board much earlier in the process. The entity needs to be able to communicate with the client, understand their needs and create specific relevant online content. Hence why I believe we will see the transition from the traditional production company crossover to a more creative model over the next few years. With the agencies focusing more on strategy, brand innovation and becoming more collaborative with regard to creative, in some cases we will see production companies working a lot closer with the client. Clients also have their own strategy, hence the fact that we are seeing brands such as Red Bull and Vice setting up their own online channels and the likes of TK Maxx, Specsavers and a number of fashion brands having their own in-house strategic and creative teams.
Client conditions and budgets are generally relevant to how much money is in the system. I believe, up until recently, we have been going through a transitional period where some markets and agencies are unrealistic with requests for big projects with limited funds. A number of production companies have had to change their mindsets and work within these constraints and be more realistic and adaptable to how they function. At the same time, creatively, we have pushed the boundaries and advertising has become more relevant, entertaining and adventurous - with everyone fighting to earn their audience and keep clients happy. Therefore, with new tools and ways of filming and editing being introduced, we have to be much sharper on all levels: clever, self-supportive and self-sustained in all areas on both the creative and business side.
We have seen a trend for strategic mergers, acquisitions and consolidations across the board on both the agency and production side, which isn't surprising due to the recent economic climate. Production pools are also commonplace with clients such as Unilever, Procter & Gamble and Volkswagen Group, which, as a production company, you want to be in, otherwise opportunities for repeat business and revenue can be missed. More revenue streams are opening up, whereas previously we predominantly relied on leftover funds from mark-up on productions.
If we form the right relationships with agencies and clients, are in the right production pools, have the right talent, technology and business structure in place, and remain very focused in these areas, we will stay at the forefront of production. Geographical expansion, for me, is creatively and technologically awe-inspiring in emerging markets, where growth happens at different speeds and times and keeps up the intrigue and passion to stay at the forefront of creativity.
Slowly, we are creating our own rights within the world of production through trends, digital and production itself that encompasses all areas of advertising - film, TV, online, fashion, music and live events and exhibitions - which is an exciting place to be. I believe the future lies in our hands.
Daniel Bergmann is the managing director at Stink.