<img height="1" width="1" src="https://www.facebook.com/tr?id=154003588595255&amp;ev=PageView &amp;noscript=1">

Advertising

The Intersection of Creative and Production with Rain the Growth Agency

When creative and production work together under the same roof, how does that change the process, and the outcome, for clients and customers?

January 21, 2021

In_Conversation_Cutaway_Thmb_1920x1080_Jeff_Beckerman_Steve_Diamond

Our guests Steve Diamond and Jeff Beckerman bring two very unique perspectives to their agency work, one in creative and one in production. When two teams that are normally separated work together under the same roof, how does that change the advertising game? 

The following interview is an excerpt from our video series, Advertising - In Conversation. To watch the full interview and see more video content, click here. Or you can listen to the Shift In Conversation podcast here.

 

---------

Steve Diamond - Chief Creative Officer - Rain the Growth Agency
Jeff Beckerman - Director of Production - Rain the Growth Agency 
Grace Amodeo - Program Manager - Shift

Grace:
Can each of you introduce yourselves, and tell us about your career to this point?

Steve:
My name is Steve Diamond, I'm the Chief Creative Officer at Rain the Growth Agency. I live in Portland, Oregon right now, which is also where the agency is headquartered. But most of my career I spent in New York working for agencies of varying sizes, some of which are Ogilvy, DDB and Hill Holliday. 

Jeff:
Hi, I'm Jeff Beckerman, Director of Production at Rain the Growth Agency. Similar to Steve, I spent most of my career in New York. I had my own production and post-production company there for 17 years. I crossed over to the agency side and worked with a handful of different agencies, then relocated to the Portland area to work at Rain the Growth Agency and help grow the production team. 

Grace:
Tell us a little bit about Rain the Growth Agency. What kind of company is it?

Steve:
One thing I'll say is that both Jeff and I, separately, moved to Portland to work for Rain for a reason. And that is because the company has got a business model that's very different from any other agency that I've ever experienced. So the whole agency is set up to produce transformational growth for clients. We have all the resources within one agency, we have strategy and creative and then production and post-production. We even have a company that does duplication, distribution, and customization. And it’s the media management that’s really the secret sauce, so using analytics we are able to understand what’s happening every day with the media, and that is constantly optimized to produce the best result for the client. 

Grace:
How would you describe the more typical or “standard” advertising structure in the industry? 

Steve:
In a typical big agency or even a medium-sized one, you’re going to have a creative department and a production department. But the production team is going to be a department, not a company. Their job is usually to take the creative once it’s been sold and then find a production company to partner with. Our situation is different, because Jeff runs a production company. So when the creative is sold, we’ve already been talking about production before we even sold it. As soon as the client says yes, let’s go — we’re in production that day. Whereas at another agency, they would first start shopping the idea around to find the right production company. 

When the creative is sold, we’ve already been talking about production before we even sold it. As soon as the client says yes, let’s go — we’re in production that day.

Jeff:
Usually at an agency, the creative and production teams are very separate. So a lot of times creative comes up with an idea, and production has to figure out how to make that work. Here it’s very different because we are the production company about 80% of the time, we’re handling the entire production shoot. There are other instances where we do work with a production partner, depending on needs. But by executing the creative and production together, there’s a lot of efficiencies that happen and we never get into a situation where we’re told that we have to figure out how to make this work. We’re partners together. 

Grace:
Have you seen a significant change in the advertising industry overall in the past few years? If so, why do you think that is?

Steve:
Well, it's definitely happening. And we have our model, but lots of other agencies have created similar, but not the same, solutions. There are big agencies that have created their own production companies, and there are medium-sized agencies that have developed their own production companies, and there are production companies that have developed their own creative teams. It’s all shifting around. 

Jeff:
I think it's also shifting because of where the dollars come from. Budgets are much smaller than they once were. There’s a lot of things changing in that respect. And that’s why sometimes a production company is the creative arm of a brand, sometimes they go directly to the brands — a lot of brand direct that’s happening. And in some ways we’re kind of an extension of the brand, we become that brand direct because we’re working so closely with the clients. 

Grace:
Tell us about how your two teams, Creative and Production, really work together on any given project. 

Steve:
Production is involved right at the beginning of the kickoff. Meaning, we get an assignment from a client and at that time we let Jeff and his team know that we are developing some new concepts and that they will go into production in six, eight, ten weeks from now. Sometimes two weeks from now. We’ll talk in general about the parameters, budget, timing, things like that. And then the creative team will get to work on the concepts, with some knowledge from production about what’s possible. At the same time, production has the heads up that this is coming. And then when we get closer to what we might be presenting to the clients, we’ll share them again with Jeff’s team to make sure we are still within the time and budget that we have.

Jeff:
A lot of times the creative team will show us, say, four concepts that we’re about ready to pitch the client and ask if they can work within the budget. And sometimes we’ll say these two can, these two can’t. We’ve even had conversations that none of them can work in the budget. And then it’s about what we can do differently to make it work. A lot of times those conversations are happening before presentations are made so that the creative is adjusted to the budget needs, and that’s how we work together to make it happen. 

Grace:
What are the specific benefits to the client or the brand in having your two teams working so closely together? 

Steve:
One of the biggest advantages is that we know what our objective is from the beginning, and that objective is to produce creative that helps the client get a return on their investment. It’s not to make a certain individual at the agency famous, it’s not to win an award. And that has a big effect on our working relationship with the client. We have a client who told us about an experience with another agency and another production company. The client approached the producer and director and asked if they could frame the shot a little wider. The director turned and said to the client, I’m not going to do that. If I frame this wide, you’re going to put a logo or a phone number at the bottom and that’s going to ruin the shot. And the client was furious, they were paying for this. So everyone involved in our productions knows why we’re making the spot, and that’s from the directors and producers all the way through to every single person on that set and eventually our team in post. We’re all playing towards the same goal. 

One of the biggest advantages is that we know what our objective is from the beginning, and that objective is to produce creative that helps the client get a return on their investment.

Grace:
How has COVID affected your productions, both in what you can produce and the types of spots that you can pitch?

Jeff:
The amazing thing about the agency is we didn't lose a beat, and we got right back into production. Early on we were doing these types of self shooting projects, where we would send cameras, tripods, and lights and we would direct people from their own homes. That changed at the end of May, and we started going back to location production. The thing that has changed is how strict we have to be about COVID safety, we work with COVID consultancies, health safety officers and set medics. There’s a lot of explanation to the clients about testing, why we have to do testing, and how we are doing all of the COVID safety protocols. Obviously there is a cost factor to that, and we also have to explain that to clients. There’s a lot of education to do going forward, and that’s something the production team is very involved with. 

Steve:
The other thing is when we're writing, we think in terms of not having five or six or ten people in a shot together. Not only would it not look relevant these days, but it would be hard for us to shoot it. Recently we did a production where we had small groups of people, couples or a few roommates, and when we did casting for that week we just cast actual couples. We found actors who were married to other actors, we found roommates who live together who are all actors. So there was no discomfort or risk in having them perform together. I would also say that we are more conservative than a lot of people are. For instance, we don’t have anyone travel by airplane, even though sometimes they are willing to. We recently had a production that was multi-city, and we found a director and DP in each city. They shot with the same camera and lenses and coordinated with the style, but we didn’t move them from one city to the next.

Jeff:
We felt that was the safest way to go by it. We are shooting in different locations for multiple reasons, but not the reasons we had in the past. If we shoot in a location it’s because maybe the director is located there, maybe there’s a particular celebrity or actor we found there. Maybe the client wants us to be close to their location. So we’ve adjusted to that. 

Steve:
One of the interesting things about production in the age of COVID is how much it has revolved around casting and location. We want to make sure people have other family members or roommates they live with who can help. We want to make sure there’s good broadband. Because we use these drop kits which come on a card, so we’re also looking at getting that cart into the house without a lot of steps. So the location is important as well as the technology and also the family structure. All kinds of interesting things that you never had to think about before. 

Jeff:
And Steve's talking about these remote-style shoots, but we’ve also gone back to full production where we have crews of 40 or 60 and we’re in studios or we’re shooting on location. We’re doing both at the same time, directed by the creative or the client’s request. 

Grace:
Do you have any specific success stories you can point to of your teams working really well together?

Steve:
We just finished a campaign for Mercari which is a marketplace where you can buy and sell things using an app. They’ve been a client for two years now, and this is our third campaign for them. When we started talking about what this campaign could be and should be, Jeff and I had a conversation about whether we would produce it ourselves or use a production partner. We realized it would require some sophisticated visual effects, so we wanted a partner to help us work those things out. We started working with a company that Jeff recommended called The Artery. That decision right there was very important because, as Jeff said earlier, somewhere between 70-90% of the time we are the production company. But in this case Jeff had no problem saying, for this one let’s work with a partner. 

Jeff:
And that was a good way to put it, partner. Because we really did partner up with them. Creative came up with this incredible concept, but how do we make the concept get from the storyboard stage to the executional stage? We had just over two months from the point of concept, it was a very tight timeline. We needed that support and help. They were a great partner to have, they were presenting wire frames, ideas, concepts, look boards, we were going back and forth with them. And then go into a two-day shoot in a studio with a large size crew, and then through the whole post process to get it done in an incredibly short timeline. 

Grace:
What is your vision or hope for the future of the advertising industry? What do you think might go back to normal, or will everything always be different?

We’re all going to work as hard as we can to just keep creating and having fun with it, coming up with solutions and moving forward to do some great creative. 

Steve:
I think the key is flexibility and resiliency, because I don't think we're going to know from month to month or year to year what exactly the conditions or the technology is going to be. This was a good example of this past year, the teams that we worked with were resilient, flexible, imaginative and innovative. 

Jeff:
I do think that production and creative is going to be very different than it was in the past. We’re going to continue practicing extreme safety measures, that will never end no matter what type of world we’re living in. I don’t think we’re going to have the big sets anymore, people are not going to be flying to shoot anymore. We’ve learned how we can do a lot of this remotely. It’s working really well to be able to see right through the camera, multiple cameras, and also have the conversation. The video village has changed and I think that’s going to continue to go forward in the future. We’re all going to work as hard as we can to just keep creating and having fun with it, coming up with solutions and moving forward to do some great creative. 

------

Would you like to participate in a future In Conversation video interview? Email grace@shift.io for more information. 

Grace Amodeo is a Content Marketing Manager at Shift. She is a graduate of Emerson College, where she studied film with a concentration in directing narrative fiction. Grace lives in Los Angeles.
Read more by Grace Amodeo