Havas/Paul Ward/inhouse agency production

Future of Production

'Making More Than We Manage': The Mantra Driving Prose On Pixels

Paul Ward on how prioritizing audiences and improving content performance is shaping the direction of production

By Paul Ward

First up, we’ve banned the word ‘in-house’ in Havas. Prose on Pixels aren’t an in-house studio, we’re a standalone global business and want to ensure our agencies and the brands we work with understand the difference.

We set up Prose on Pixels for three reasons:

1) Our clients: In every global pitch our agencies took part in, we saw that clients wanted a modern production story at the heart of the agency proposal.

2) Our people: Our creative and production teams aren’t that interested in sub-contracting everything they do – they want to be more involved in the making.

3) Our owners: As a network housed within a holding company – Vivendi – with huge global entities in music, gaming, television and film, we’d be missing a trick if we didn’t.

We talk a lot (to everyone) about our ambition to make more than we manage. Unlike some will claim, this is not purely an attempt to grab more revenue; rather, it’s our group’s strategy to ensure our agencies remain relevant. I’m not going to bang on about how our industry has changed and so this and that, but, well it bloody well has; we’re not competing against the same businesses that we were 10 years ago. There are so many new kids on the block, as well as a few older ones who’ve reinvented well.

We set up Prose on Pixels because we felt it was the right thing to do for our clients, our people and our future. We had to change, and we did.

I can’t claim it’s not been difficult. We picked up a collection of studios from around the world, which had all lived solely within the footprint of the agency within which they sat.

They were all very can-do, but the do was incredibly didactic – the teams were set up to simply do whatever the agency told them to, with the least amount of fuss. We had to make quite a few changes to our offering in order to develop Prose on Pixels proposition.

Today we are a global business which our group’s agency teams and direct clients come to because we’re good enough and add enough value to be able to compete with a lot of the best businesses out there. I say ‘a lot of’ because we’re also realists; I am forever talking about trying to win work ‘from the bottom to the middle’ tiers of content. Of course, we’d love to be doing more of the tier one (high-end) work; however, we won't claim we’re able to compete with the very best production companies. We understand which lane our studios occupy, where the demand is, where the gaps in existing offerings are, and where we can add most value.

We work with a lot of external and standalone clients – however, when we’re partnering the group’s other agencies, we very much see ourselves as the (high-end) fast food restaurant to the agency’s Michelin star, fine dining gaff. The agency brings the warm glow of excellence in strategy, creative and client service – and then, when the work’s been originated, we then step in to ensure it’s amplified across the hundreds of different mediums, or languages, a modern campaign has to reach nowadays. We bring a pared back, delivery focussed business which ensures deadlines are kept, brand guidelines remain defended and budgets are stretched as far as they possibly can be. And it works very well indeed – the relationship between the agencies and our teams is very strong, underpinned by a mutual level of trust in each others’ expertise.

However, for me, this should be table stakes. If we weren’t capable of originating great work, the agencies wouldn’t talk to us – and if we couldn’t deliver on time and on budget, you can add the clients to that list too. We want to make a difference.

We’re doing this by following an ‘audience first’ approach to the making of our content. We now have a new role within our business, Content Architect, which we firmly believe is the difference maker for our network. It’s their job to hang out in the space between ad agency brand strategists and media agency media planners, developing accurate content lay downs and measuring/optimising the work we create based on the different types of audiences our clients are trying to reach. We’ve not found many clients who don’t want to target an audience more accurately and/or improve their performance – and so, providing we get into conversations early enough, we’re able to condition our various agency teams to divvy up the budget more effectively so that we can improve performance through things like in-market testing and optimisation.

This is where our production studios really come into their own, but that’s for another day.

Paul Ward is the President, Global Network & CEO, UK at Prose on Pixels.


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