Future of Production

Bringing all the diamonds together: VMLY&R on the future of in-house production

Head of production Charlotte Greywoode considers how changes to technology and sustainability are impacting agency production efforts

By Charlotte Greywoode

Maybe I’m a traditionalist, but I’ve always enjoyed the triple bid system. I love the feeling at the beginning of a project when everyone is still freshly passionate, and the world is your oyster. The agency producer is at the helm of the alchemy - this script, that director, this deal to free up budget for that scene. We thrive off the diversity of thought, and delight in the unexpected that shines through a set of treatments. There’s the opportunity for sound boarding and combined experience that can solve the unsolvable. Disasters are prevented that only one mind saw coming. We love when we have the freedom to pull the best team together, one we know will make the magic happen.

BUT is it fair to say that we often go back to our favourites? That there are some people that just ‘get it’ regardless of the brief? I think so. That for me is the sweet spot for in house production. ‘Better, quicker, cheaper’ should be the benefits we can enjoy from having the right people on the job whoever they work for, rather than the brief that we’re setting ourselves, just because. And if we can tempt those diamonds in together under one roof and have them all to ourselves then why shouldn’t we?

We’ve all worked with a client or agency who claim to know their brand implicitly, charging through the production process with a heavy hand. But in this quest - to overturn the production triangle of ‘time, quality and money’ - knowing what you want can get you everywhere. By creating a shorthand and chemistry between key players, you can shave off huge amounts of time (and therefore money) by not involving extra cooks, plus the time it takes to choose them and get them up to speed. And when you’ve got ten stakeholders who each want their own round of amends, all likely to contradict each other, the traditional routes can be eye-wateringly expensive and cumbersome. Not to mention how embarrassing it can be to drag a bewildered director on the journey with you fighting to protect their vision.

It’s also no new insight that brands understand the need to fit in when showing up on social platforms. In a world of fast, relevant content with low production values, it’s a win for internal production to have the agility to jump on a trend, hot footing from concept through to delivery quicker than you can say ‘TikTok’. Social content is celebrated for its no frills, replicable style without the need to overthink it or discuss it in a PPM. The traditional process can feel dusty in comparison, so it’s great that production companies have been able to seize the opportunity to tackle these briefs themselves, working directly to clients. As an industry we’ve blurred the lines of client-brief, agency-creative, production company-execution. If the creative is good, then there’s space for everyone, and working one way or the other should be dictated by the brief not just the bottom line.

And then we reach one of today’s most influential capabilities. What about technology in house? In an ever-changing landscape, obsessive with the new – shout out to the metaverse and AI - is it possible to possess all the skill sets needed to satisfy the variety of briefs whilst retaining the best creative? That’s where the holding companies come in. With experts peppered across agencies, we’re able to pick brains and explore without the pressure of where the execution will ultimately lie. It allows us to be at the forefront. But let’s not get too cocky- to stay ahead of the game we need to frequently open ourselves up to the outside and work things out together. The journey is exciting, and nobody wants to be left behind.

As for the future, the trend that has been a long-awaited breath of fresh air is the client appetite for working sustainably. After the flurry of post Covid shoots abroad, we’re increasingly being asked about Virtual Production and how we can be kinder to the environment. Attitude is shifting from ‘what can you do?’ to ‘what can we do?’ with teams outside of production lining up for AdGreen training, and companies sharing their goals to reach net zero. The most coveted briefs are those with positive impact, so it makes sense that our approach to production should follow suit. Creatively, there’s still a way to go to be able to promise an unrivalled output, but this surge in demand is certainly promising to encourage a greener way of thinking as standard – whether you’re in-house, small independent, or global studio. As an industry, I hope, we can all agree on that.

Charlotte Greywoode is the Head of Production at VMLY&R London


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