Winning Strategy for Choosing a Production Company: Choose One That Embraces Strategy

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“It’s off strategy.”

There they are. Three of the most cringe-worthy words any agency or brand wishes to never hear. Especially after viewing the first cut of a video.

We’ve all heard them before of course, like during a brainstorming session or a concept pitch. You would easily be given a mulligan for either. No money is at stake—yet. But after producing a video from an on-strategy script? Someone needs to call their headhunter.

Sadly, it happens. A lot.

When it does, you can be sure that fingers will be pointed, mostly in the direction of the production company. But you know what they say about finger pointing: every time you point a finger, there are three pointing right back at you.

So how can we avoid it? The answer—as the headline reveals—is to choose a production partner that embraces strategy.

There’s More to the Story Than the Story

Every production company will bill itself as “a group of talented storytellers.” And it would be smart to do so. But as we all know in the world of the 30-second sell, our stories are told in the service of a sales goal. That requires a strategy. So, when speaking with interested production partners—especially their directors—listen carefully. If they talk about the strategy without you having to mention it first, you’re on the right track. But, if all they seem to care about are things like camera moves and lighting, talk to someone else. A production company should be as invested in the success of the campaign as you are.

That Strategy is a Real Knee Slapper

Comedy is subjective. Strategy—when backed by solid research and analytics—is not. It’s why so many comedy spots fail. Someone focused too much on the jokes and failed to connect the backbone to the funny bone. We managed to avoid that misstep when we recently produced a series of spots with Navy Federal Credit Union. Luckily, we were given a sound strategy and a loose idea for the campaign. So, we and director Kip Hewitt were able to craft scripts that delivered on the strategy and hit the right comedic tone for NFCU. If all we cared about were the yuks, then the spots would have been, well, yuk.

“Get That Data Off My Set!”

Maybe you’ve heard—data dominates. Now, we’re not here to weigh in on the pros or cons of data’s influence on creativity (that’s for another time), but we are going to caution you from hiring a director that regards data points like a swarm of gnats attacking his set. If you and your client are going to invest in and leverage data, then you should find a production partner that understands its role and is open to the possibility that it could actually enhance the effectiveness of the final product.