By Katherine Tripp

The overall challenge facing the production process is the growing tendency to downsize production departments in advertising agencies, in an effort to reduce costs. Surely the traffic department can contact production companies and suppliers put forward by procurement, creatives can liaise with directors, cost controllers can make sure nobody gets ripped off without having to waste time by consulting with the agency, and finance can manage budgets and administration elements. Account Managers can arrange schedules and travel arrangements, while cast, voice overs, musicians and engineers will somehow be briefed and kept on track during the process, and everyone involved will know exactly when and where to meet in order to keep the relevant production on track.

Projects can and do evolve in this way, but invariably the process is messy, with miscommunication prevailing, information getting lost, and ultimately a huge amount of time and money wasted as a result.

The production process, and how it is managed by both agency and client, is an integral part of the marketing and advertising process – until a project is briefed into production, it is essentially only words and pictures on paper. It takes a creatively driven advertising production department to take a brief, put the puzzle pieces together seamlessly so that the right supplier is secured, at the right price, and make sure that the process is managed in such a way that everyone’s expectations are met.



1. Ultimately agencies and clients get the work they invest in. It may seem to make no sense to pay for a specialized department to advise, negotiate, co-ordinate, and be the middleman, but without it, you run the risk of having an incompetently run machine. In an industry where time is as much a product as money, an efficiently run production department, run by skilled & experienced people, will make sure that time is managed effectively across all parties involved. Their job is to make sure the Client gets the best end product in the right amount of time for a suitable amount of money, and if the process proposed is respected by both agency and client, it will show in the work produced.

2. The production of good work is like building a house – you can’t build the walls before you’ve dug the foundations, you can’t erect the roof until the structure has been completed, you can’t paint the house until you’ve plastered the walls… Sometimes cheap materials will work, but sometimes you’ll have to spend money on things you can’t always see. Skimp on a partition and you could have an open plan living area…or a house that collapses. Trust the production team’s advice on how best to put the relevant project together and how to invest the budget – they are ultimately responsible for not only the outcome of the finished piece of work but also the management of the budget, and their advice and guidance should be respected.

3. With Procurement’s constant emphasis on margin and cost, there is a growing trend to secure package deals with preferred external suppliers to execute work on behalf of agencies, and as a result the process is becoming more and more fragmented. No one is ultimately taking the lead and being responsible for managing and overseeing the production of the project. By doing this it is not only the bottom line which suffers as a result of wasted man-hours and ineffective companies being paid to manage processes for which they have no experience, but ultimately it shows in the end product. Working within this business model which is based on constant pressure to cut costs and margins, makes the production of high quality, well thought out creative work problematic. Clients should rather encourage procurement and cost controllers to work together with the agency’s production department, sourcing and securing the right suppliers for the relevant projects, at a fair yet feasible cost. Agency producers are exposed to a wide range of suppliers and what they specialize in daily, have the experience in costing & executing work in this field, and their opinion and expertise should be valued, rather than questioned and side lined in an effort to focus on saving costs. Collaborating and pooling experience and skills will save a significant amount of time and result in a more streamlined and ultimately more cost effective production process, which is ultimately a win-win situation for everyone.

4. All the investment in research and development of a new product, or maintaining sales levels of an established product, rests on the piece of advertising ultimately produced. All the careful strategic planning and creative script crafting can be ruined by a poorly finished ad. This is not the time to try and rush the process and set unrealistic deadlines to try and make up for time lost in the preceding processes. Bring the producer in during the conceptual process to advise on time lines required to execute the particular idea well, and allow for the schedule requirements recommended to get the job done well.


‘Poor execution can ruin the best laid strategic plans.’ (Image Source: Popular Mechanics Print Campaign)

The reality is that no one ever remembers if the piece of work was delivered by a certain deadline, only whether it was well executed and was successful in achieving its objective.

“Advertising agencies should recognize the important role that a well managed production department plays, and put people and systems in place which can facilitate the proper procedures, so that clients can in turn trust them to manage the process efficiently and effectively.”

This more cohesive and less fragmented approach to the execution of projects, together with a respect for sufficient time lines and realistic budget allocations, will ultimately result in more effective and creative work.




Katherine has worked in advertising production for the past 20 years on both the agency and production house side. Her work has been awarded at The Apex Effectiveness Awards, The Loerie Effectiveness Awards, as well as all the local and international creative award shows endorsed by The Creative Circle.