Integrated production departments are generally limited at traditional agencies and usually consist of broadcast producers who also produce video content for the web. Not only is this not integrated production, but it's also highly ineffective for both the agency and the clients they are servicing.
Truly integrated production lives by the philosophy, "If it needs to be made, a producer is needed to make it whether it's print, digital, broadcast, out-of-home, social, or experiential." And by the way, a project manager really should be an individual that produces an entire body of work. If software companies in the '80s knew what producers were, then they would have hired them to produce their products and PMs wouldn't exist.
Why is this an important topic? Digital projects, regardless of agency, usually suffer from the following issues:
- Not properly scoped
- Not finished on time
- Not finished on budget
- Not fully functional per original specs
- Not what the client was expecting
It is a fair argument to say that there is more involved in the creation of a website or app than a TV spot or a print ad, so that complicates the process, but that doesn't change the fact the work has to be done and done properly.
Regarding project management, the general comment I hear is, "Why can't project managers be more like producers?" What is driving that comment? There are two things at work here.
First, many PMs have a tendency to become curators of calendars and workflow rather than being a part of the creative process so they are, by nature, removed from the team making the work. They become merely the people who communicate timelines and not actually people who make the work happen.
Secondly, any producer worth their sand delivers the work on time. No questions asked. PMs often are the barer of the news that according to their calendar, the team will not deliver on time. The team then blames the PM for the work not getting done. Not that the delay is necessarily the PMs fault, but at that point the question becomes who is the driver of the work? On a production of any other kind, it is the producer.
So how do you make a producer truly integrated? First of all, you must teach a producer each medium. You must mentor a producer through each type of project -- digital, social, experiential, print, etc. -- so that they know how to execute it properly. They will find that the same tools they have learned about producing a broadcast spot apply across the board. It's that simple. Instead of a director, you're working with a designer. Instead of a line producer, you're working with UX and so on. I've found that involving the producers in our department in digital work planning has given them the opportunity to truly understand what UX, BA, digital strategy, Q/A, and so on. Once they see who is responsible for what and learn the time frames around each part of the project, they are able to truly understand the process and help move the work forward.
At most agencies, PMs and producers co-exist. How can PMs and producers work hand-in-hand to ensure that clients are receiving projects completed properly and on time? PMs need to fly at 30,000 feet overseeing the entire body of work, while producers should be at 3,000 feet working in the details of each project. A campaign may need three to four different producers depending on the scope of work, but it would only have one PM who oversees all of the different pieces. It's important not to expect the PMs to be producers and vice versa and to clarify everyone's role in the beginning. PMs should be involved in the creative process from the first kick-off and walk alongside each producer throughout the creation of the campaign. Like everything else, the success will happen by defining roles to make sure all tasks are covered, implementing and hiring the right staff, and mentoring them through the new model. I have experienced the success of this model on a single piece of business, so there is no reason why an entire agency can't function this way.
Peter Blitzer is director of integrated production at JWT Atlanta.
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