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

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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.  

Chicago Buyers in attendance:

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

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CONVERSATION STARTER:  On the portfolio shows, advice for art producers just starting out and the different paths taken to being a producer. (To start from the beginning of the conversation, link here)

Ken Zane/ Producer Leo Burnett

Don’t you find that it’s hard sometimes to get the creative on the call?

Sheryl Long/ Art Producer Y&R

It’s hard to get them to come to portfolio shows. Maybe two to three show up.  They come straight to me. I warn reps in advance, but it’s embarrassing.

 Ken Zane/Producer  Leo Burnett

I have an approach that gets good turnout. I walk up to each creative personally and say something like “I know you are really busy. I have two photographers whose work I think you should really look at. If you have ten minutes, it would be great if you can come by.”

It’s important to let them know how many books they have to look at because they’re afraid they’re going to walk into a room full of books.

Kate Chase/Brite Productions

I had a show a couple years ago in New York and the caterers were late. There were a couple narcissus bulbs on the table and one of them started to bite into the bulb because they are so conditioned. I politely stopped him and he said “Where’s the food man?” And I said “It’s not here yet.” But the food is what gets them in.

Sheryl Long/Art Producer Y&R

My creatives aren’t even interested in the food or the beer.  They are simply too busy to attend.

Emily Hoskins/Art Producer Upshot

I’ve noticed this as well. I started as a digital asset manager and I would always go to the portfolio shows. But as a digital asset manager, I knew more than the creatives. And there was no education as to why Heather was standing there with the books and why they needed to be there and they’d grab a plate of food and go back to their desks. It was so embarrassing. They could have just stayed around and talked with the rep.

At Upshot, I cancelled all the portfolio shows and rounded up the art directors and asked them what they were hoping to get out of the shows. Free food? That’s an answer. But if it was an education, the education of art is important and interesting to me.

So now when reps come in, I introduce them and the photographers they represent and explain why you rep them and what work is relevant to the work at Upshot. It’s a point of engagement and education they didn’t receive before.

Heather Elder/Heather Elder Represents

Do you have good turnout?

Emily Hoskins/Art Producer Upshot

So much better. Of course there’s food, but I don’t ever address the food as part of the portfolio show.

Matt Nycz/Brite Productions

We recognize that not all the photographers are going to be relevant. I make it a point to ask them what they are working on and show them only what’s relevant. If they have ten minutes, I direct them to be helpful. I’m not trying to sell them something, I value their time.

Heather Elder/Heather Elder Represents

The agencies that seem to have the most successful portfolio shows have a protocol. They don’t try to squeeze people in. They have set times for the shows and conversations with the creatives ahead of time and explain what photographers they should consider and why

It makes it much more interactive and less of a chore. And not “Oh my god, it’s another portfolio show.” I’d rather be told to come back in July if that’s when the next opening is than come in and have low attendance because everyone is so busy. Which I’m happy for too, but makes it hard on us.

Lisa Kunst/Producer Leo Burnett

We have a very structured portolio show and people show up and it’s very successful. They start promoting the week before. Once a week on Tuesday morning. The creatives know to expect it and don’t feel blindsided. It’s on the creative floor. We make it very convenient. And they are happy to come.

Kate Chase/Brite Productions

The Richards Group has one every Thursday from 9 – 11. They have a sign-in sheet and Stan Richards used to take the sheet and talk with any art director who didn’t show up.

Karen Blatchford/Executive Art Producer DDB

It stems from leadership.  It’s part of my job, but I don’t have the time to recruit everyone. I tell the reps not to bring food for more than four or five people and be happy if three show up.

Kate Chase/Brite Productions

RPA has hired a full-time person to solicit reps to come in in pairs. The agency is doing it themselves and reaching out to me. It’s working in reverse. They put up a big poster and it’s this person’s full-time job.

I’ve done it in New York with a rep friend of mine.

An agency was asked to encourage reps to co-share every other month rather than once a month. She would drive the creatives to come in and bring in a bigger audience. I did it with a rep friend with whom I didn’t have a lot of crossover and it worked.

Kate Chase/Brite Productions

If you were to give advice to someone coming into the industry, what would it be?

Antoinette Rodriguez/Art Producer mcgarrybowen

I was talking with someone recently and told her a few things.

First of all, be patient. Especially in the Chicago industry, it seems like people tend to stay in their positions. I was fortunate to find an agency that was growing and had this position open up. I started out as a receptionist and consider myself very lucky to have found that position and to have stepped into art buying. But patience is needed.

I also suggested that she stay on top of trends, not just in photography but also illustration and digital, to know the language. And to be clear on what she wants.

Kate Chase/Brite Productions

When you were a receptionist, what did you see the role of an art producer as?

Antoinette Rodriguez/Art Producer mcgarrybowen

When I first started, there was always this notion that I would move in to art buying. I was always doing searches, looking at stock and new photographers.

But to always be looking into what you want to do and to be patient.

Matt Nycz/Brite Productions

There is also a lost gap in the 80’s and 90’s. You had to take an entry-level job for awhile to get to wehre you wanted to be. I think our society has changed and people are coming out of school wanting a job doing exactly what they want to do and the salary they want. This is not the industry to go into if you want that, but it’s certainly. It’s interesting. A friend of mine is in banking and his bank had generational training. He’s about 40 and his boss is 50 and their entire group was there. They went around the table and answered questions.

One of them was “If you did a really great job, what reward would you expect?” The older boss said it would be nice if it were acknowledged by his superiors and told he did a great job. My friend said that would be nice and it would also be nice if it were acknowledged in front of the job. They guy in his 30s said to send an email out to the company. The guy in his 20s said it would be nice to get a Starbuck’s gift card.

His boss clarified that he expected to be compensated for doing a good job. Well “yeah’ some type a financial acknowledgment.  Trainer explained this is the difference, that his generation expects rewards and doesn’t expect to start in a low-level job and earn the position.

Heather Elder/Heather Elder Represents

As a parent it starts with the goodie bag. The kids who leave your birthday party and ask “Where is my goodie bag?”  Or at the end of every season, where is my medal?

Antoinette Rodriguez/Art Producer mcgarrybowen

I have to say that I really value the time I spent at the reception desk. I was answering phones and scheduling conference rooms, but as the creatives were walking around I was creating relationships with them and got to know them.

Matt Nycz/Brite Productions

This is why people in the entertainment industry worked in the mailroom. They learned information and that was the most valuable position to get to the next job.

Heather Elder/Heather Elder Represents

A lot of people these days aren’t valuing the receptionist or entry level job. They want to wait around for the exact job they want. They lose sight that if you are resourceful and nimble and showed the characteristics of someone who will do anything to get the job, you are noticed.

Kate Chase/Brite Productions

Let’s go around and share your paths to becoming art producers.

Sheryl Long/Art Producer Y&R

I was a photo major and started as a studio manager.

Meghan Pearson/Senior Art Buyer Ogilvy

I was a photo major and worked as an assistant to photographers. Then I worked for one photographer for five years managing his studio, doing production, retouching and second shooting. One of our clients was an agency and I made the transition to working with them.

Unattributed

I was a photo major as well and I think I said this earlier but I worked for a photographer and I actually filed the transparencies. This was my first job.

Ken Zane/Producer Leo Burnett

I was a fashion photographer. It was the good old days when we did our own production.

Antoinette Rodriguez/Art Producer mcgarrybowen

I was a photo major and I nannied for two years when I first moved here.

Matt Nycz/Brite Productions

Another great place to start. One of the producers we work with a lot was a nanny for her first job for a very major photographer and this is how she got her first job.

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

I was a photo minor and one of my first jobs was working on a low-budget prison movie. I was the second-second AD. I handed out cigarettes to the prisoners in the yard.

Emily Hoskins/Art Buyer Upshot

I was a photo major as well and started as an assistant, then a studio manager and then worked as a photo editor for a magazine before becoming an art buyer. It wasn’t an intentional path, but it was a path.

Lisa Kunst/Producer Leo Burnett

I also started as a receptionist at Campbell -Mithun, Chicago and then worked my way into the creative department, working in the mount room and then as an Art Director creating print and broadcast. I then started a graphic design studio where I had the opportunity to purchase art/illustration, photography, retouching and printing.

Unattributed

When I was in college, the very last year was when they introduced business photography. I thought it was amazing and thought it was what everyone needed to know. The adjunct photographer who taught the class brought in art directors and stylists. It was an introduction to the business that no one knew anything about

In my four years of college, I hadn’t learned any of this.

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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