Welcome Back to the Community Table: Agents in Conversation with Chicago Art Producers. Dessert 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

______________________________

 8

CONVERSATION STARTER:  Let’s talk about the relationship between the account person and the art producer some.  Is this person helpful in the process or do they tend to complicate the process?  How can the partnership be more effective? (link here to start the conversation from the beginning)

Ken Zane/Producer Leo Burnett

I had a great experience last week with an account person who walked a client through the entire process of a shoot and explained how what they were asking for wasn’t possible. And they got it.  I haven’t seen that in three years.

A month ago, I had an account director tell a client they could have something overnight.

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

Good ones who train other account people and clients are fabulous. Then there are the ones who are dismissive and everything falls apart.

Kate Chase/Brite Productions

How do you educate them?

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

If they’re interested in partnering and learning the process and they value the creative, then they can be taught what we do. And if they don’t have that infrastructure in place, it’s unfortunate and challenging.

Sheryl Long/Art Producer Y&R

The smart ones know what they don’t know and then aren’t afraid to ask questions.

Kate Chase/Brite Productions

This is the first Commuity Table where we have identified that the account person plays a very important role.

Heather Elder/Heather Elder Represents

I’ve been having this conversation a lot over the past few months. My job folders used to be this thick and now they are like this (gesture from thin to thick). What it takes to get a job approved now has a lot to do with the account person.

I started as an account person so I understand. And I tell my photographers all the time that we need to speak their language too. I often find myself doing their job, writing the emails that they will forward to the client, answering the questions that shouldn’t even come to us.  It is taking a lot more time, hand holding and effort to get a job approved when an account person is involved.  More time than not, it feels like they need some assistance and education.  Not all of them of course, but the younger ones for sure.

Karen Blatchford/Executive Art Producer DDB

Sometimes when something needs to get answered or sold in, the creative is much more effective than the account person.  However, the creative isn’t always available.  When that happens it is more important than ever for the two to speak so the account person knows the creatives motivation and can help move the project along.  It is always preferable when the creative is present though, that makes all the difference. 

Matt Nycz/Brite Productions

From our perspective, what happens is that we are ready to go into a meeting and we’re told we’re the recommend, our estimate is right on and we’ve got the photographer, the producer, everyone lined up to go and two or three hours go by and we get the call that the client overruled the recommend. This never used to happen because it was well sold in by the Creative Director.

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

This has happened twice to us in the past two months.

Unattributed

Art buyers have told me they never give that information out (whom they are bidding) any longer because they know it could back fire.  But they’ve been burned because if you can’t share that a photographer is a first choice, they may decide to take another project if our client is dragging their feet.

Kate Chase/Brite Productions

How do you fix that? Can we do anything?

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

If it’s the CMO, you don’t go into a cage fight for it. If we bring three people into the room one person is a distinct favorite for us. But if the CMO has another pick, we brought them all into the room and have to be willing to work with anyone of them.

Matt Nycz/Brite Productions

To my point, is it simply a point that the CMO overrules or is it a weak account team? We had this happen recently and the Creative Director told me that the account team didn’t back her up and was left standing by herself.

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

If it’s the pre-bid, that’s one thing. If it’s after you’ve had creative conversations and after you’ve presented numbers and you want to understand infrastructure for producing the job, that’s when we say we have a distinct POV about this job because we’ve essentially had these job interviews.

Lisa Kunst/Producer Leo Burnett

It’s really about the approach. At that point if they want to disagree, they are the client and ultimately paying the bills. So we present the information and risks and let them make the decision.

Karen Blatchford/Executive Art Producer DDB

When you first start a job and are looking at websites and getting first conversations going, I’ll say to them ‘Who is your 1, 2 and 3?” I get their lists and schedule calls. After the calls I ask the same thing and nine times out of ten the order changes.

If your talent is not talking to the creatives you are dis-servicing yourselves. Sometimes there is no time. You just need the numbers. But in general, they should be on the call.

There are some who are not great on the phone and I know this and will call them and coach them. I will know who is good for the job and get on the phone and help the photographer. I know from working with the team and what their personalities are who is going to be a good fit.

At the end of the day I want the best creative for the project. And it comes down to do we have the time to do it right.

Kate Chase/Brite Productions

Do your account people ever sit in on calls.

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

I’d prefer not because at that point they’ll bring the client in the room and you want to let the creatives and the artists be a little more free.

Ken Zane/Producer Leo Burnett

To Karen’s point,  as an example, we had a job when I first moved here we knew who we wanted. During the call with the client, they started leaning towards the second choice and the creative pointed out that the recommend was the only one who wanted the job so much that he created a treatment. The client considered this for two seconds and awarded the job to him.

Sheryl Long/Art Producer Y&R

I had a similar experience that kind of came down to a cage fight. The creative wanted one photographer and the client wanted the second choice. It came down to who is paying for this shoot. They were all amazing photographers but this is how my account team saw it. And if the client is not getting who they want, they won’t be happy. They won’t be happy along the line, with casting or anything.

Lisa Kunst/Producer Leo Burnett

At some point, you have to know when to fold them. You have to ask yourself if you want this battle.

Ken Zane/Producer Leo Burnett

Sometimes you have to welcome surprise. We had a photographer we wanted for a project. We didn’t know if she would be the right fit for the client but knew creatively she was right.  Rather than not include her, we decided to give it a try.

It was a job we had to do with another agency and had to work together and compromise. And I’ll never forget the client looking through every book and she wasn’t happy with any of them. Finally, she gets to the last book and she opens it and she starts smiling and said “Why did you show me these other four portfolios?” Sometimes you have a client who just gets it.  If we had chosen not to include her because we were worried about the fit (which was unfounded at that moment) our client would have missed out on this partnership.

Lisa Kunst/Producer Leo Burnett

I’d like to add some thoughts about what Ken shared a few minutes ago regarding treatments. Traditionally, this is something that was specific to broadcast. But I have seen this over and over and it makes a huge difference.

We all know the competition is fierce. And in a triple bid situation,  9 out of 10 times, when a photographer has done a treatment, they get the job. This is because they can pull relevant images that touch upon the look, tone and feel of the job and sell in their idea by writing about how they are going to execute it. It’s not expected today, but a lot of photographers are doing it voluntarily and it is very helpful.

Heather Elder/Heather Elder Represents

We write treatments quite a bit, but it’s often hard to find the time. It takes a full day to do it right.  At least a full day.

Matt Nycz/Brite Productions

I worked for a production company when I first stated off was to paste together a treatment for the directors. We were a staff of three building treatments essentially. It was built into the business model.

Unattributed

If I were a rep, I’d say “This is what you need to do to get the job.”

Heather Elder/Heather Elder Represents

When a photographer in our group does not have the time to adequately create a treatment, we remind them that if they can’t that is fine, but other photographer up for the project may be creating one.  This is not to scare them into finding the time but rather to help adjust expectations.   Because we want to be able to always share something visually, we’re pushing towards doing templates so that when they get busy they can drop in the specifics for that bid.

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

For a campaign your point of view is very important and you can’t necessarily rely on everyone else on the conference call to articulate your artistic point of view.

Heather Elder/Heather Elder Represents

And, it is very easy to forward along a well done treatment.

Matt Nycz/Brite Productions

It helps the art director expand on the idea and make their case.

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

On a recent bid with a photographer, he shared with us a well produced video of his photo philosophy.  It included information on how he works with talent and gets natural reactions from them.  We were able to show this to the client and this was turnkey for him getting the job.

So when the client asked “How do we know we are going to get these natural reactions from people?” we could refer to the film.

Matt Nycz/Brite Productions

The way we have viewed this and the way we work with our artists is that they have to feed the agency everything they need to get the job. It’s no longer enough just to show your work. Twenty years ago, you put together a book. But clients can go on Google images and see exactly what they want. They can’t buy it but they know it’s out there so they are not wowed as much as they were.

So giving you the tools to present who they want to work with to sell it to the client they have to get involved and help sell themselves. Your images are not the only commodity. You have to give them the vision to promote.


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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