Secrets of Producing the Best Value TV Commercials

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The “bloody difficult” role of production companies, to Steve Davies, is to “bring a piece of paper alive on screen”. A role which is highlighted as somewhat undervalued by both new advertisers coming into the area of production, and clients. The panel, presented by APA, re-asserts this idea of value, what it means regarding the production of commercials, and how brands and advertisers alike can harness it.

In 2016 Mark Pritchard advocated the need to improve creativity in advertising, a task that requires craft that belongs in the hands of serious professionals. “We are the craft makers” claims Jani Guest, Managing Director of Independent films. She explains that with the economic downturn, brands are looking for new ways to produce engaging content which meets the “bottom line”, often via in-house production or brand generated content. However, she questions both how engaging and cost effective this “bottom line” content is, urging advertisers to consider the power of choice when selecting the right craft maker.

James Bland highlights that through an agency shift to in-house production, the power of choice brands once had been disappearing, and the important role of the agency producer is being undermined. Rather than having the entire production landscape at their disposal, the agency producer is limited to a single supplier, the agency itself. James encourages agencies to “bring back” the key role of the agency producer and give them the back the tool of an international production landscape. He claims agencies aren’t necessarily “experts” in production, and the single supplier solution isn’t as money or time efficient as let on. “If you talk to any good agency producer, they can run circles around any in-house departments. It’s a fact”. It’s not the case for all brands, James highlights Booking. com as an example of a 2.0 company thats re-embracing this essential role. Bland finishes by stating that “choice is critical” for clients, the power residing in them to make the best decision for their brand. The importance of choice in every area of production was a clear overarching theme of the session.

Managing director of Biscuit Filmworks, Rupert Reynolds-Maclean, then showcased 5 stand out pieces of advertising work made in collaboration with London Production companies, from varying cost points. Nike’s outstanding “nothing beats a Londoner” is up first, which cost roughly 1.6-7 million to shoot. Rupert explains that the level of expertise needed to create such a piece is currently limited to production companies. Representing mid-budget campaigns is OVOs’ ‘power your life differently’ where the practical skill of knowing how to “get a lot of appliances onto a beach in-between tide” was attributed to, and ASOS’ ‘go play’ which had a production company contribute to the creative. Two campaigns on the lower end of the production costs were OVOs “renewable is unstoppable” and Harvey Nicholas’ “Shoplifters”, which both show how “a client and a production company can use the assets they already have to make something interesting on a much lower budget”. All examples exhibit production company’s ability to bring creative ideas to life, at any price level.

In response to a question regarding UK production houses role now content is no longer localised, the panel concludes with a discussion about how “unless its geotagged” all work has a space on the global stage.  The origin of the work to Jani is becoming less important. “What is important is the production process, because that is where you as a client are going to get the best value, and those are our strengths. They are not the strengths of agencies, or brands who are trying to produce their own content”. It seems the real secret of producing the best value TV commercials is a move away from single-supply production within agencies, to unlocking the choices presented by the entire production landscape, and APA assists agencies, brands and clients to do so.

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