5 Minutes With... Aaron Kovan
Aaron Kovan’s career as a producer started 13 years ago in Austin, Texas at GSD&M, before stints at Crispin Porter & Bogusky and McCann Worldgroup where he started its in-house production company Craft. Nowadays he oversees production at VaynerMedia and VaynerProductions as the companies’ chief production officer. Like many others in a similar role to his, Aaron has always been a maker, producing content of his own since his teenage skateboarding years.
LBB’s Addison Capper chatted with Aaron about how the agency producer role is changing with the expanding landscape of media platforms and why he can’t stop engaging with TikTok.
LBB> What are the biggest shifts and trends affecting the role of an agency producer nowadays?
Aaron> One of the major shifts in our industry is the expanding landscape of media platforms available to us. With this shift comes the need for producers to understand best practices specific to the various platforms that exist, and to know how to make the creative work relevant and effective for each.
Another big trend that is permeating throughout the creative industry is the ‘Maker Culture’ that now exists. It’s so prevalent today and it’s growing exponentially, especially within creative ad agencies. This trend is challenging in-house production teams to not only agency produce but also line produce, and the two are vastly different. It is a different skill set and a different rolodex.
LBB> As you’ve mentioned, being a ‘maker’ is very on-trend in the industry at the moment. Do you think this movement has helped to shine a light on the importance of what producers do, elevating them in the eyes of the rest of the industry?
Aaron> I think so. Being a maker is very much a DIY, scalable sort of approach. As a maker you are exposed to all parts of the production, you need to be very hands on.
Because of this, makers get visibility into what producers really do and the value they can add. Securing the talent, finding the location, assembling the right crew, acting as a real partner throughout the entire creative process. Producers are creatives in the sense that we will support and add to the creative vision 100%, and that’s the biggest thing for me.
At VaynerMedia, the way my production department is structured (or decoupled as I say) allows us to partner with the 'makers' within our creative department to produce their overall vision. My producers are always flexing different skill sets, which allows them to keep up with the speed at which the advertising and production worlds are becoming more entwined.
LBB> What are your views on in-house production? When is it the right approach for a brand and when do you look to work with external companies?
Aaron> I am a huge proponent of in-house production. After all, VaynerMedia has been doing production in-house since its inception 10 years ago. The sort of work VaynerMedia was doing back then lent itself to in-house and we’ve retained our approach to production, even as we’ve grown.
In our early days we were making smaller, micro-type content which was easy to accomplish with our in-house resources. As we grew, we started to take on bigger projects and do bigger pieces of work for our clients, including Budweiser’s ‘This Bud’s for 2’ spot with Derek Jeter, our ‘No More Mayo’ campaign for Miracle Whip where we changed the name for an entire town overnight, our recent Budweiser ‘Dwyane Wade’s Last Swap’ spot which won us three Cannes Lions, the Roc Nation ‘Meek Mill: A New Set of Rights’ film, to name a few.
Over time, we have continued to scale our in-house production capabilities to handle all different types of projects as they come through the door. We concept, and then build around.
Our production and creative teams here at VaynerMedia also work very closely to see if it makes sense to run an entire production in-house - literally under our own roof. Our studio is fully equipped with four stages, the latest high-end cameras, and a full grip and electronic department. We also have full post production capabilities, and animations in-house too.
It definitely varies on a case-by-case basis, and depends on what the creative idea is, of course. A lot of factors come into play: budget, timing and overall concept. There's no single formula we use to make a decision when it comes to our approach to production. We look at what is best for the work and the brand, and go from there. We can make anything happen.
LBB> Which platforms are particularly intriguing for you at the moment from a production perspective?
Aaron> Tik Tok is an interesting one, I’m looking forward to seeing more brands move there. The content is just so scrappy and all over the place; from VFX, to the different layers of music, sound effects, people talking out of sync, etc.. I can't stop engaging with it! I think it will force brands and their creative agency partners to really embrace making content that is out of their comfort zone.
LBB> What was your childhood like? Were you always into producing stuff?
Aaron> I played a lot of tennis, did a lot of skateboarding and art; I painted and drew a lot. As I got a little older the tennis thing phased out early (though I do play a lot now) and I started making skate videos when I was 14-15 and was a media arts major in college. I’ve always been a maker, producer. I love being on a set.
LBB> Why was it production that you stuck with out of the various agency departments you could have gone into?
Aaron> My first job in advertising was as an account manager working on AT&T. I just wanted to work for an agency and was happy with any role. I soon realised I wanted to be around the creative ‘making’ process a lot more. I felt drawn to it, so I ended up going on a global TV production which allowed me to really understand what a producer did. Right after that, I put in a request to transfer to the production department and there was luckily an opening. It all took off from there.
LBB> What does it take to be a good producer in 2019?
Aaron> Be in the know with all new and up-and-coming directors and production companies. Be able to flex and diversify your skillset like never before. Be able to project manage and work closely with clients directly. And be willing to dig in more with the creative team by helping concept creative solutions that can fit within the production plan. That’s my advice.
A nice bonus would be that you’re able to shoot and edit too, that is a huge plus.
LBB> What is a 'normal' day like for you?
Aaron> My days are all meetings, meetings, meetings. I try to get facetime with as many people as often as I can to keep the creative production conversation going. Besides that, I’m traveling to a shoot, on set, and maybe a few more meetings.
LBB> Outside of work what are you passionate about?
Aaron> My family. I love them so much.