Welcome back to the Community Table: Agents in Conversation with Chicago Art Producers: The Appetizer, Part 2

 

Welcome 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”. 

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.  

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

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

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?

Kate Chase/Brite Productions

How do you get the best from your team, vendors and clients when some value quality and others value cost?

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

There are different situations. When we are dealing with our digital teams, the timelines and priorities are very different. And if you can skillfully facilitate a conversation with the team, you find out the priority is indeed quantity and budget, you can look for appropriate artists.

With a print campaign, you facilitate a conversation with the client and the creative and if the priority is budget, you can problem solve accordingly. But it’s really important to get them to say it and to say it in a room. And to get them to admit that their priority is quality you can problem solve from that perspective.

Heather Elder/Heather Elder Represents

Why is the answer to what they value most so hard to get? It’s so much harder than it used to be to get this information.

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

You have to be invited into the room.

Karen Blatchford/Executive Art Producer DDB

I do it all the time. I go old school and call a meeting but say that everyone only has to be there for 10 minute, but save everyone 50 emails over the next two days. Having that conversation face-to-face is the key.

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

If the creative leadership can articulate that the priority is a level of quality, you let them know what needs to happen. It requires playing a  strong role and at times uncomfortable moments.

Kate Chase/Brite Productions

Do you then message that out to your vendors that quality is the number one criteria?

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

Based on the artists we’re talking to, it’s inherent I would say.

Karen Blatchford/Executive Art Producer DDB

But sometimes we don’t know the answer to that question until we get everybody in the room. To Liz’s point there are big differences between our teams.

Kate Chase/Brite Productions

Which is very hard when you are the vendor on the other side when you want quality.

Unatrributed

Sometimes digital teams don’t even want to see the artist so that tips the hat.

Heather Elder/Heather Elder Represents

What I’m hearing is that as artists and reps maybe we should change the conversation from “Do you have a budget?” to “What is your client valuing here?” so you can go back to your team with a specific question instead of leaving it open-ended. “Are they valuing quality? Price?”

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

That’s exactly right. Say the budget is $80,000. You could ask “Do you want us to come in under so you have money to put towards next year or do you want us to use this number very robustly? Do you want a ton of assets or do you want a few very iconic assets?” That’s the conversation we have to have.

Heather Elder/Heather Elder Represents

And when we have this information we can go back to our artists and tell them you don’t want the $1,500/day stylist and we don’t need to spend $10,000 on props. Let’s get them the best that we can for the budget they have. That is expectation management at it’s best.

Matt Nycz/Brite Productions

When we ask if there’s a budget, we think there’s a budget somewhere that someone knows.

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

There’s a budget.

Matt Nycz/Brite Productions

It’s probably rare these days that if we’re left to ourselves we will come in under that budget. So if you really want the job, you are going to bid it aggressively. You will cut corners and make it happen. I think this is the big issue for photographers and for us these days is to look at it like “You have this much money and this is what you want to accomplish and how do we make it happen.” And then it opens up the conversations about whether or not to do the shoot in four days or two days and what that looks like. And the art director understands you’re going to be working like a dog for three days, doing three shots a day and it’s not going to be luxury, but you’ll get it done.

The hard thing for us is when there is no information.

Unattributed

When there is nothing out there and no information somebody doesn’t care or there is just no information. When there is simply no information maybe you are not a serious consideration.

Kate Chase/Brite Productions

What do you tell a vendor when it is an economy job?

Lisa Kunst/Producer Leo Burnett

Even before we look at bidding and I know it’s an economy job and there are certain vendors that might fit the bill and might be too high, without insulting them, I tell them a little about it and ask if they are interested. Sometimes they will say that they love the creative, it’s perfect for them and they want to do it. But I usually do a little bit of research prior to going into that bidding phase because I really want to be very transparent and that my vendors understand that this is where we are.

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

So there are no insults.

Matt Nycz/Brite Productions

I think in this day and age there are no insults. Anytime they get asked to bid on a project, they are always flattered to be thought of.

Karen Blatchford/Executive Art Producer DDB

I think it also depends on the situation. Are we dealing with a cost consultant? Do we have to triple bid? If I’m dealing with an economy budget I meet with the team and say “This is how it’s going to work. I’m going to send you links to one, two and three and propose the job to #1. If #1 doesn’t want do it, I’ll go to #2. This is not a triple bid situation. I’m asking this person a favor.” If people would rather work than not, I will say I have a tight budget and I’m not going to be offended if you say “No.” I’m going to call you again. But this is what I have. I’m being honest with you. You’re the first choice. I’d love to work with you, but we’re going to have to roll up our sleeves and get creative about how to get it done with what I have.

Heather Elder/Heather Elder Represents

That would be the best possible way.

Karen Blatchford/Executive Art Producer DDB

I can’t always do that. If I have a very tight budget and have to triple bid, I then tell everybody the same information and try and be as transparent as possible.

Sheryl Long/Art Producer Y&R

And it’s nice to have photographers who want a foot in the door and want to build the relationship. This is when I know they are interested in the photography and getting a great shot and I remember this later on because I want to make up for that favor.

Ken Zane/Producer Leo Burnett

Do you find that sets a negative expectation for the future? I have clients who will say “You did that job last time for $X why can’t you do it for that much this time?

Matt Nycz/Brite Productions

I’ve had cost consultants pull out jobs from other agencies from three years ago and compare the rates. The one I’m thinking about was a comparison of a studio portrait shot on seamless with a location shot of 50 people from overhead with different usage and told us we should have the same budget. This is because the same cost consultant worked on both jobs.

Ken Zane/Producer Leo Burnett

This is why it’s so important to educate your team and your clients. We had a job with a budget of $325k and we were clear with everyone about the quality of the production at this level. And going forward to set expectations so we don’t undercut the quality of the work.

Unattributed

And I’ll be honest. Sometimes it’s intractable and you can’t move them and they are not reasonable and are not hearing what you are saying and maybe the client doesn’t have the experience. And in those situations, feel free to walk away. It’s not held against you. We’re just at a stalemate and there is nothing we can do.

Heather Elder/Heather Elder Represents

Is it really not held against us?

Unattributed

No, it’s really not. Not by me. We realize it’s intractable and unfair.

Lisa Kunst/Producer Leo Burnett

In the past, when we have shot economy jobs, we keep bid summaries and keep them with our business documents. I note that it was a one-time situation where the vendor has been wonderful and partnered with us on cost. It’s clear when we have it in writing and you can move forward knowing we received a below-market price and we are not setting a precedent.

Emily Hoskins/Art Buyer Upshot

We also do this and it helps prevent any misinterpretation by an account person who might want to use this job as an example for another job.

Heather Elder/Heather Elder Represents

When we offer a discount on our fees, we show it as a negative number on the estimate so that when we go back and review the notes later, we see that it was a discount and not just a low fee.  We have also started offering production discounts occasionally.  We do this when we think there is a little wiggle room in the expenses but we just don’t know exactly where.  We tell the client that we can reconcile once the job is done but if we come in under that proposed discount, the savings is ours.  In those cases the client has to decide, do they want to discount or take a chance we may save even more?  It seems to work well when we offer it.

Karen Blatchford/Executive Art Producer DDB

To your point Heather, sometimes when I have those I’ll make a flat PO. Fee and expenses that includes everything. If I have a flat number you have to work backwards. In other words, if I have a flat number it’s the photographer’s choice as to how he or she wants to produce it.

Heather Elder/Heather Elder Represents

Leo Burnett does that. A firm bid or cost-plus.   Any overage needs to get approved or they won’t pay it.  And, if it is a flat bid then any savings is mine.  I appreciate how clear they are up front.

Matt Nycz/Brite Productions

Most of the time if it’s over, it’s because of changes made on set. Changes in wardrobe or additional props. It is the broadcast model. In many  ways it’s more efficient and takes the stress out of nitpicking every little cost.

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

It also really engages the cost consultants. When they know we’re going to receive a wrap package and pay hard costs, they will be likely to tell us we need the $350 hair and makeup person.

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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