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Opinion and Insight

Generalists or Specialists? Producers in the Age of Innovation

Producer? Maker? Punk? AMV XLAB’s Dani Michelon speaks ahead of next week’s Production Social

Generalists or Specialists? Producers in the Age of Innovation

“I like ‘T-shaped’ people’,” considers Dani Michelon. When it comes to agency production, the range of projects and tasks your contemporary producer is likely to be juggling in the average working week is increasingly diverse. So how does the old adage that ‘a good producer can produce anything’ really stand up? On the one hand Dani concurs that production requires a certain kind of eye, a flexible approach to creative problem solving and the ability to collaborate and draw from all kinds of disciplines. On the other, the age of creative technology and innovation also requires producers with in-depth knowledge of distinct specialisms, such as UX, content, web development or whatever. 

And that sums up Dani to, well, a T. The head of AMV BBDO’s innovation hub, XLab, Dani’s journey has been an unusual one. After studying history, then a post graduate degree in history of art, Dani wound up working on a friend’s website, where she figured that she better learn how websites actually worked. It proved a savvy move and that mixture of curiosity and digital expertise has been a constant thread throughout a varied career. She’s worked on the production company side at Unit 9, cutting edge digital shops like AKQA and R/GA as well as more traditional creative agencies like BBH London.

In 2012 she joined AMV BBDO as their Head of Digital Production – but these days she’s more likely to be found marshalling a motley crew of hackers, makers and breakers at AMV XLab. The idea behind the lab is to innovate products, both as potential revenue streams for the agency and to bring an extra techno-magical spark to existing clients like Guinness and Walkers. It’s production, but not as we know it – in fact Dani prefers to talk about the ‘maker’ mentality.

What the industry expects from producers is changing – whether their working at an agency, production company or in-house with a client – but there are few places for producers across the industry to come together and talk and share their experiences and ideas. That’s why Dani is also the brains behind Production Social, a spin-off from the inspirational industry club, Creative Social.

“There are so many events focused on creatives and creativity and so few for producers!!” exclaims Dani. As a long term attendee of Creative Social events, she had begun to wonder whether there might be need for a similar forum for producers, where they could come together. After all, while the biggest ad festivals like to gear things towards creatives, they’re not the only ones driving the industry forward. “I mentioned it to Daniele [Fiandaca – Creative Social co-founder], and he said ‘why don’t you do it?’”

Gauntlet thrown, Dani was on the case. In May 2014, Production Social launched with ‘Lifting the lid on amazing craft’, an event that drew together a panel from the worlds of cuisine, fashion, VFX and creative tech.

At the end of the month Production Social is back – this time drawing inspiration from the world of Punk. 2016 marks the 40th anniversary of the movement. The connection between punk and production may not seem immediately obvious, but the DIY mentality and determination to push boundaries that characterised the punks has much in common with 21st century makers.

Ever the inquisitive explorer, Dani has been immersing herself in punk culture ahead of the panel next week.  “They were so raw and original,” she enthuses, finding personal as well as professional inspiration.

She hopes that the event will attract all kinds of producers and makers from across the creative industries. As new specialisms continue to emerge, the true T-shaper needs to be able to collaborate across them all – and where better to meet, greet and make new friends?

Genre: PR , People , Strategy/Insight