Jess Ringshall is, among many other things, a force to be reckoned with. She started her career as a runner and researcher at Optomen Television for ‘The F Word’ in 2005 in London, which led her down the slope of the all-encompassing world of television. Her focus was factual entertainment and broadcasting, during which she discovered and honed her love for storytelling. But, something was missing.
In the TV world, according to Jess, you become one of three things - a producer, a writer, or a manager. What she was looking for was a mix of the three. She loved creative work, but wanted to be in close work with teams, as well as act as a problem solver, which eventually led her into the advertising world.
Adland welcomed her as an assistant producer at Grey, where she spent nine years climbing up the ranks until reaching head of content production. Following that, she co-founded eleven, a brand partnerships consultancy specialising in entertainment, dedicated to helping brands find their objectives and translate them into ‘meaningful cultural moments’. During some of that time Jess also dabbled in sound design, as well as spending almost two years at 750mph, where she says she met one of the most passionate teams in the industry.
All this leads us to her current role, which she’s occupied since May 2022, as chief production officer at Saatchi & Saatchi UK - a role, she says, that was immensely needed within the agency. And although Jess admits stepping into a newly created role can be ‘daunting’, she is happy to see production taking its well-deserved place in the C-suite, both in the industry and beyond. To her, and producers all around, the work is what truly matters most, and positioning themselves in every step of the chain is paramount to creating bullet-proof work.
LBB’s Zoe Antonov spoke to Jess about her extensive career, the knowledge she gained throughout it, and what is in store for production, now that it is finally stepping into the C-suite.
LBB> First off, congrats on your new role! So far, what has been the biggest revelation for you about it? And how have you gotten to know the agency better through the role?
Jess> Thank you! I think the biggest revelation about the role is how needed it was. There are more and more CPOs being appointed in and around the industry, and it can feel daunting stepping into a newly created position - especially at an agency that’s 50 years old - but it’s been amazing to see how pivotal production has become in conversation across everything we do.
I was lucky to start when the squad model had recently been implemented, which meant the agency had a new feeling to it altogether. The agency is now arranged by client teams rather than disciplines, and having different teams has made it easier for me to dive deeper into the agency more quickly. The squad system facilitates a real range of work, and I think that's really, really powerful and important.
LBB> To bring it back, what drew you to production and made you want to be part of that corner of the industry?
Jess> I started out in television, as a runner in factual entertainment and broadcasting. I loved the storytelling aspect of television, but in that world you usually either become a producer, writer or manager, and I knew I wanted to be somewhere in the middle. A friend who worked in advertising put me in touch with their head of production, who wanted different types of talent coming into the business, and that’s how I came to find the perfect place in the industry – within creative storytelling and working closely with teams but also being able to be the problem solver.
LBB> Speaking of your previous lives, you also used to work in sound design, besides TV. What kind of lessons did you take away from that time in your career, or what have you found beneficial?
Jess> While I stepped out of advertising for a while, I always stayed within the world of content making. Working in other roles taught me a lot about understanding audiences from different perspectives. I learned a huge amount about how to negotiate, truly think about a deal and a partnership on both sides and what's going to drive individuals and businesses to make those decisions. My time at 750mph also taught me the value of uncompromising passion for craft. We used to produce work for campaigns and clients to a level of perfection that very few people would understand - it was amazing, and that attitude is something I’ve carried with me ever since.
LBB> Can you talk more about why you think that production needs a place in the C-suite right now, more than ever?
Jess> I think every producer will tell you that they are driven by the work and by being able to work really meaningfully in a team. When a discipline isn't appropriately considered further enough up the chain in terms of ideation, it lessens the value of what those teams are bringing. In terms of production, most creative agencies are becoming more media agnostic in terms of the ideas that they're generating, and so is production. We're no longer sitting in silos, and no matter if you are a digital producer or an AV producer, everybody needs to be producing everything under one banner.
The future is definitely having somebody in a leadership role guiding the fourth discipline that's as important as the others. It still has a magic and an alchemy that necessitates somebody from that world to represent it. I’m lucky to be part of a leadership team who from my first day have truly valued my input in stages where production never was previously.
LBB> To you, what is the key to integrating production into the ideation process more and how do you do that?
Jess> It’s about having the right people in the room. What is incredible about Saatchi’s is that we have a production lead in each of the squads. Fundamentally, when a brief hits the agency, four sets of eyes look at it through their particular lens. As much as production elements might come into a granular level much further down the line, the reality is that the response from creative and strategy will now have a production lens on it too. And it is about having those people together at the top making it happen.
LBB> Let’s talk a bit about the New Creators Showcase. What is the importance of it for you and where do you see it playing a role in the industry and the culture moving forward?
Jess> The New Creators Showcase is an incredible platform that Saatchi has had for over 30 years. This year, we worked with Channel 4 to spotlight some incredible young creatives to an audience of global agencies, brands, clients and media platforms. Aside from giving them a platform, it’s about making sure that we build up the New Creators Showcase so that it's evident in our work too - one of this year’s creators has just directed a Christmas campaign for us and I hope that for the wider industry, the Showcase is a reminder of how important it is to invest in new talent, as it’s really the future of our profession.
LBB> There’s been a lot of talk about data driven production. Can you give us an example on how you use data to better your work recently.
Jess> Data driven production is really exciting and like a lot of technology, it's about embracing it for the right reasons and in the right context, for the right creative solutions. Where I've seen it used really effectively here is with EE Home Safe, which won gold at the Ocean Outdoor Creative Competition last month. The concept uses live data feeds to offer agile travel guidance tailored to digital billboard locations, and in doing so it uses data to speak more meaningfully to audiences, which is what this kind of production should really be all about.
LBB> In terms of work, have there been any projects recently that you have been very excited to work on and why?
Jess> I joined just as we were finishing up on the EE Women's Euros campaign, Not Her Problem, as part of the Hope United platform, which I think is an incredible initiative. Saatchis are really good at building incredibly deep relationships with clients, and that’s what allows us to be doing really impactful work. We've worked with EE in some capacity for over a decade, and as much as we've established it as a leading brand in the space, we were also able to build Hope United and establish a really meaningful initiative around it.
LBB> Outside of work, what inspires you? What are your passions and hobbies?
Jess> I have kids, do they count?! Because I've moved around a little bit more between advertising, entertainment and craft, starting at Saatchis has really inspired me to immerse myself back into amazing work and craft. I love being able to spend time watching content, films, reading books, and feeling as though I'm really connected to what stories are out there.