Future of Production

The Rise and Rewards Of Agency In-House Production

As technology transforms the production process, agencies are investing heavily. But what are the benefits for clients?

By Olivia Atkins

They used to be two quite distinct parts of the advertising process: agencies handled strategy and creative concepts and production companies, well they handled production - casting, directing and producing the films.

But the days of TV ads, lovingly crafted and with production values that would do a movie proud, are (sadly) declining. And many marketing budgets are increasingly unable to sustain the production costs of old - with their inevitable mark-ups. Meanwhile the rise of social video has required a new approach to film-making - faster, snappier and cheaper.

With these changes has come the convergence of agency and production skills, and the traditional expectations of either division are becoming outdated. The agency in-house production unit - once a proud innovation - is increasingly an expected part of the agency offer, and a welcome additional source of revenue for agencies. The experience of covid only served to underline the value of in-house agency production units, as work was shepherded through remotely and often virtually and quality remained reasonably high.

The best independent production companies, with their roster of star directors, still survive and thrive, of course, working as partners with the agencies and marketers that still value the real impact and long-term brand-building that can be achieved by a brilliant film with a proper budget (though a proper budget is no guarantee of quality, and vice-versa). But there's less commercial work to sustain the sort of vibrancy that was enjoyed by the independent production sector a couple of decades ago. The rise of virtual production, with its cost-savings and claims to sustainability, has also drawn many marketers away from the big productions of old, again to the detriment of the old production model.

Bringing agency and (some) production skills together creates benefits beyond efficiently using resources and speeding up processes. Aligning these skills in-house under one offering streamlines production timelines and makes for a more connected and unified approach. Which allows agencies to keep up with the ever-changing demands of creating content online. And it provides agencies with the scope to respond in live time, retain creative control and oversee the entire production pipeline.

However, the symbiosis of roles is not without its difficulties – having everyone in one space, part of a single agency, means that there may be less perspective on the overall job. It could also make it harder to cultivate healthy boundaries, with strategy and concept very much taking place in the same space as talks around what is creatively possible. But does this negatively impede or stagnate the creative process? And what does the initial set-up require to ensure productions are managed to a high calibre?

As Pablo Bertero, chief content officer at Wunderman Thompson Studios EMEA, says: “Fear not, production quality as it remains is non-negotiable. However, the definition of quality has evolved. It is no longer confined to the realm of expensive cameras and opulent setups. Nowadays, bite-sized content captured on iPhones, tailored to the ever-expanding array of channels, possesses the ability to captivate consumers and be deemed of exceptional quality.”

In short, it’s what agencies do with this integrated skillset that will set them apart form more traditional production shops. With the rise of digital media and the increasing importance of social media and video content, agencies are finding it increasingly necessary to have in-house production capabilities to create high-quality content quickly and efficiently. This enables them to stay competitive and meet the needs of their clients, while maintaining consistency and cohesion across messaging without having to outsource to a third party.

While the trend towards in-house production is no doubt here to stay, with agencies investing in technology and talent to stay ahead of the curve and provide the best possible service to their clients, how they do so is all for the taking. Particularly with thought to creating content across markets – which is only made more complex from a centralised position.

To continue this conversation, we’re launching a new series talking with the heads of in-house agency production departments to understand how this model is evolving and what methods, tools and practices agencies are implementing to better steer their production efforts and strategic thinking. Over the coming weeks, we’ll share thought leadership pieces from some of the leading minds in the industry as they take us through how they’re navigating these changes, embedding new technology into their creative mix and why integrated production is becoming an increasingly viable solution.


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