Welcome Back to the Community Table: Agents in Conversation with Chicago Art Producers. Main Course Part 1

3Welcome to our 4th series of posts where we share the results from our conversations held directly with community leaders about top of mind photo-industry issues.  Community Table was formed from the collective efforts of Matt Nycz and Kate Chase of Brite Productions and Heather Elder and Lauranne Lospalluto of Heather Elder Represents with the idea that there is nothing more powerful in our industry than education.

With the founding of Lord & Thomas, the city of Chicago would put itself on the advertising map in 1881. Beginning as a space broker for newspapers and magazines, L&T evolved slowly into an agent for advertisers. By the early 1900s, L&T was the third-largest agency in the U.S., creating advertising for blue-chip clients such as Sunkist, Van Camp, Quaker Oats and Goodyear.

And while we can’t tell you when the first art buyer job was created and at which Chicago agency, we can tell you that we recently had the pleasure of having 8 of the City’s finest art buyers join us at the Community Table.

While we also know that we must keep an eye on what’s ahead, we believe it is equally important to have a strong understanding of the past – it really wasn’t that long ago that we were mailing, Fedexing, and faxing estimates around, calling agencies to ask for creative lists and actually picking up the telephone to get things done.  So with all these beliefs in mind, we came up with our roundtables topic:  “The Art Producer, Past, Present and Future”. 

And with that, we welcome you back to Community Table, Chicago.

 As a reminder, each Conversation Starter was directed to one person with a general discussion ensuing.  Rather than sharing the entire conversation, we included the original question and then the quotes and notes that were most relevant.  Please note, often times the person leading the conversation spoke most often.

And with that, we welcome you back to the table.

Please note, there will be 7 posts shared over the next few weeks.  Tune in every Tuesday and Thursday for the latest installments.  

Chicago Participating Art Producers

Karen Blatchford/Executive Art Producer DDB

Liz Miller-Gershfeld/VP, Senior Art Producer Energy BBDO

Antoinette Rodriguez/Art Producer mcgarrybowen

Meghan Pearson/Senior Art Buyer Ogilvy

Emily Hoskins/Art Buyer Upshot

Sheryl Long/Art Producer Y&R

Lisa Kunst/Producer Leo Burnett

Ken Zane/Producer Leo Burnett

______________________________

 11

CONVERSATION STARTER:  The Bid Process:  Where We are Coming From/Remembering the Past (continuation from Appetizer Part 1 and Appetizer Part 2): 

As we look into the future, we think it is important that everyone have a strong understanding of the past. It wasn’t long ago that we were mailing, Fedexing, and faxing estimates to each other, calling agencies to ask for creative lists and actually picking up the telephone to get things done. During that time, how would you define the position of art buyer and what would you see as the major responsibilities of an art buyer?

 Drafting off of the question about an art producer’s job description, what skill set do you think a person needs to have in order to be successful at art production?

Ken Zane/Producer Leo Burnett

Problem solving. Skill-wise, for me coming from a creative background, is to engage my creative team early on. I like to get a sense of their eye and what they’re attracted to. So when the time comes and we get that job in two weeks, I know exactly what style of illustration and photography they gravitate towards and I can choose the most relevant recommendations.  In order to problem solve for your team, you have to know your team.

After that, get to know your account team so you can educate them on the value that an art producer contributes to the agency.

Kate Chase/Brite Productions

Would you say that is a political skill?

Ken Zane/Producer Leo Burnett

I think it’s intuitive and there are some things you can’t learn. What you can learn is to generate POs, the language of usage.

Kate Chase/Brite Productions

Where do you learn this?

Ken Zane/Producer Leo Burnett

Experience. Trial and error or if you’re lucky enough to have a great manager who has the opportunity to train you. I haven’t seen this happen in awhile because everyone is so busy but when it does happen it makes a difference.

Kate Chase/Brite Productions

What about art skills and software like Excel and Lightroom?

Meghan Pearson/Senior Art Buyer Ogilvy

Back to your question Kate about what is and what isn’t a political skill, I think to be successful you have to build relationships. And to me this means being genuine and sincere and enjoying that camaraderie. I love what I do and I love the creative process, getting to know the younger people and trying to nurture them as well as the older guys because we’ve all been in the trenches. It’s about learning who you are working with and being respectful of your account people. It’s a hard job.

Sheryl Long/Art Producer Y&R

The creative are so busy and you work with them on so many jobs that they have to put a lot of trust in you on the production end.  Of course, you have to earn that trust.

For example, a designer will trust me to mark up the retouching and they’ll look at my mark-ups or an art director will ask me to narrow down the casting before I share it with him/her. 

Kate Chase/Brite Productions

Is this where Photoshop and InDesign are valuable?

Liz Miller-Gershfeld/VP, Senior Art Producer Energy BBDO

Absolutely. This is one of the hard skills.

Lisa Kunst/ Producer Leo Burnett

At Leo Burnett a lot has changed over the years. Since 2009, I have not been an art producer but a producer.  Not only do I handle the creative execution, but I take everything through production.  For print, you have to know how to manage all the retouching and post.  And even though I no longer have to write POs,  I  have to make sure I understand fulfillment and know everything about it.

Sheryl Long/Art Producer Y&R

Do you oversee the POs after they are written?

Lisa Kunst/Producer Leo Burnett

Yes, I ask my business manager to send me all the POs. I give them all the language and usage and ask them to put it in the PO,  I suggest trying not to interpret because I’ve been talking with the vendor and know the details.

Kate Chase/Brite Productions

What happened in 2009? How were new responsibilities assigned?

Lisa Kunst/Producer Leo Burnett

Our head of production had a vision. He said that we all had to become cross-platform producers so the entire production department,  including TV/Broadcast, Print and Art producers and later Digital, all could work across mediums.  There wasn’t any formal training.  So depending on an individual’s background and skillset, there were some people who were able to transition quicker and do a few more things and others who took longer to adjust.

Matt Nycz/Brite Productions

I was on the other side of this at the time. I was in broadcast before print. At the time I was bidding a motion project for a photographer. The art producer asked me who the DP was and I said ‘the photographer.’ We quickly realized she was coming from broadcast and we were speaking with different terminology and had a great conversation about this. She was thrown in the deep end of the pool “Call this guy and get a bid.”’

And when I was able to bring in film language we figured it out.

Lisa Kunst/Producer Leo Burnett

Back to your question about skill-set, I make sure I take Photoshop classes every year and keep up  with InDesign. Anything I can do to keep moving it forward and keep current. I visit my youngest art directors and ask them to show me Photoshop tips.

Karen Blatchford/Executive Art Producer DDB

It comes back to how I work. I’m brutally honest. If I don’t understand something, I am open about it. We are all expected to know more than we have in the past and especially with social and digital, I’m the first person to say “I don’t understand this. Explain it to me. Help me out. What questions do you need me to ask to get this estimated correctly?”

I’m getting into areas I’m not always comfortable with. I can do photography, illustration and stock in my sleep. But I’m starting to do voice-over and broadcast.  It’s all content and I’m expected to produce content in whatever form it comes.

Sheryl Long/Art Producer Y&R

I had a client producing a Flugtag in four different cities. I had to find Australian models to man their tent to hand out schwag. I had become an event planner for an experiential production.

Liz Miller-Gershfeld/VP, Senior Art Producer Energy BBDO

If you’re fully integrated, you can take it on.

Kate Chase/Brite Productions

Are you working fewer or more hours than you used to? Is there a difference?

Lisa Kunst/Producer Leo Burnett

It varies week-to-week. It depends on the client, workload and staffing.

Karen Blatchford/Executive Art Producer DDB

If it’s new business, it’s 24/7. You bring it home and are expected to respond at any time.

Unattributed

I have no problem responding from home. I have kids and go home and keep working. I make dinner, help them with homework and keep working.

Heather Elder/Heather Elder Represents

We do find we’re working 24 hours. You wake up and check your email. You check before you go to bed and on the weekends. We all just have boundaries and maintain them as best we can.

Karen Blatchford/Executive Art Producer DDB

You have 200+ emails in the morning if you don’t.

Heather Elder/Heather Elder Represents

Are you feeling more or less focused then years passed when emails were less and your job description was more linear?

Liz Miller-Gershfeld/VP, Senior Art Producer Energy BBDO

It was more focused time before. We had print ads and it was very clear what we were executing against. We have many partner agencies and are adding shots days before a shoot. It’s much less focused and it’s much more difficult to bring everyone in to what the priority is. 

Heather Elder/Heather Elder Represents

I was recently about to send in an estimate when I got a call to add video. I sent them a list of questions and they didn’t have answers and said they’d get back to me. I realized they were just reacting to someone saying they wanted video. It sometimes happens too fast.

Liz Miller-Gershfeld/VP, Senior Art Producer Energy BBDO

You can often anticipate with certain clients that if they’re shooting TV about three days before they’ll say “Hey, we’re shooting TV, let’s get some print assets.”   And if the print and broadcast are not integrated it could be a recipe for disaster.

Matt Nycz/Brite Productions

I went to a meeting in New York for a job in Chile. Both print and broadcast producers were present. They decided they wanted print assets and the broadcast team was taking the lead and said they would just have the local production company shoot them. They came back and the imagery was terrible. They didn’t pay usage because they  hired someone’s assistant to shoot them and negotiated a full buy-out. So they got the price they wanted but the quality suffered.

Unattributed

I’ve had TV producers call me and say “Print is easy” and I’ve gotten hard drives full of images that are not large enough to go on billboards.

Antoinette Rodriguez/Art Producer mcgarrybowen

There’s a lot to know about print. They don’t always think about the bleed because you can’t retouch an entire background. I ran into this today. Someone from broadcast came to me and said they’d already negotiated a photographer to be on-set but they needed me to provide a contract for usage. I explained that I generally handle this and that the PO acts as a contract. They had already negotiated and paid them through the production company and paid markup.

Lisa Kunst/ Producer Leo Burnett

The markup associated with broadcast is an interesting subject.  I produced a TV shoot one day and print the next day, using the same set and talent.   The budget could not afford the markup on the broadcast crew. We had to go with a different  print team for the photo shoot day  which was a lot more economical. You don’t realize these costs until you are bundling print and TV.

Unattributed

We had a print team that was forced to join the union. The overage still brings a tear to my eye.

Karen Blatchford/Executive Art Producer DDB

We all have our skills and we can bring a certain quality to the print and often a better deal than the broadcast people can. It’s just communication and educating.

I’ve been on the other side and hired someone separately and the photographer and director didn’t get along. There is something to be said for having people who get along and are willing to share.

It’s political. I handle it by saying I understand they have their buy, but just let me throw out some names and do a call with the director and photographer. And often when you get people talking and they see their work, they see the difference. It’s really how you go about it.

Liz Miller-Gershfeld/VP, Senior Art Producer Energy BBDO

More than anything it’s about getting the broadcast producer on your team. You have to partner with them.

Matt Nycz/Brite Productions

From our side, we’ve done quite a few piggyback shoots. It’s really a personality thing. If the photographer can check their ego at the door and realize they are not the star of the show and that they are there to get a job done, it works well.

I work to get them to see we are trying to problem solve with them, that we are on their team and partnering to make it work.

Liz Miller-Gershfeld/VP, Senior Art Producer Energy BBDO

It has to be a well-facilitated conversation where everyone understands this is our client’s priority. It’s not your personality. It has nothing to do with us. The client has decided that this is how many assets they want from this robust production. We all have to play together.

Matt Nycz/Brite Productions

And you can suit up the right personalities to make it happen.

Tune in next time for more information about the evolution of the art producer over the years and how important the relationship between art producers and account executives have become.  To see previous Community Tables posts from Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York City  please link here.

And, as always, thank you  Allison McCreery of POP Blog for your flawless transcription and partnership on this project.

 

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