Any piece of content for a brand means little if it never connects with its target audience, a statement to ponder in this new interview series from Comcast Technology Solutions and Little Black Book.
Over the course of this series, we’ll be speaking to some of advertising’s most respected production leaders to delve into how emerging themes in production, such as data-fuelled production, more lo-fi shooting technology, remote filming, and evolving feelings towards the value of production all feed into creating content that matters to customers and works for brands.
Stepping into the conversation today is George Sholley. These days he’s head of production for Ogilvy North America. He has also had a stint at Apple as senior creative production consultant and spent almost nine years at BBDO prior to that. LBB’s Addison Capper caught up with George.
LBB> George, in your opinion, what kind of role does production play in making a narrative / idea connect with its audience?
George> Audience connection is precious because of the ever-increasing volume of media we consume. Our clients require pixel perfect executions at every consumer touchpoint. This means the craft of production is more important than ever, both in how we source talent and how we conduct our productions in the most sophisticated, agile, informed, and inclusive way possible. Production is the department of creative elevation for our creative teams and clients by making the space where ideas can take flight from amazing to iconic.
LBB> How is that role evolving in the age of evermore fragmented media that you speak of?
George> Content and context is more important than ever. As we know, the user journey on TikTok is different from that of YouTube, which is different from Netflix’s ad-supported models, etc. As producers, we’re students of every platform – from streaming to new-wave 4D DOOH experiences in Shanghai and Dubai – to ensure we’re meeting the standards of our client partners’ highly sophisticated customer bases.
LBB> With all of that in mind, how would you articulate the value of production to a brand?
George> Producers are leaders who map out the execution and delivery of omni-channel advertising frameworks for brands through creation expertise, ingenuity, and agility. As the legendary Shelly Lazarus recently said to me: from the moment we have a client-approved concept, the journey is only beginning. In production, we’re the guides and guardians of that iterative passage from page to screen.
LBB> How does your experience client-side at Apple - arguably one of the best branded content producers in the world - inform the way you approach production at Ogilvy North America?
George> Apple is a creatively led company, from its engineers to its world class marketers. Everyone in Apple’s marketing group works to ensure that their advertising matches the quality of their world-changing products. From a people experience standpoint, Apple’s unwavering focus on inclusivity in the workplace informs my own approach to how I help shape Ogilvy’s production department. I joined Ogilvy (I’m proudly second generation; my father Adam was an AE on Dove in the early ‘80s) because it has the same focus, ambition, and talent level as Apple, and because it’s guided by leaders who similarly choose creativity, humanity, and empathy over everything else.
LBB> How is Ogilvy North America leveraging data to improve production and the impact of its content output?
George> Intelligent modern marketing belongs wherever people gather, but the smartest marketing goes where people are heading. At Ogilvy we’ve got the proprietary tools to make an early evaluation of the data on consumer behaviour and content context. This data guides our work so we can deliver fresh solutions that drive business growth and become famous in culture.
LBB> And how do you feel the use of data in production will evolve in coming years?
George> The number of screens and their pixel resolution will continue to increase, as will the number of media placements available to brands. This will mean more opportunities for innovation in production through behavioural analysis around content consumption. For example, gen Z and gen alpha data shows us that gaming – Twitch, Steam, Sandbox – represents a fresh opportunity for marketing innovation. Cracking the code will require production’s expertise and study of these spaces to inform the creative process and help brands show up more authentically.
LBB> Do you have any examples of how Ogilvy North America's production departments are using data to better connect with audiences?
George> We wanted to reach gen Z with our recent work for the Equal Rights Amendment Coalition
, so we created a real company called ‘Woman Corp.’ (a Woman the government will actually give equal rights to under the law) and made a Stranger Things fan-favourite cast member its CEO. When she shared it to her millions of followers in an earned-first play on TikTok, we netted hundreds of thousands of organic views and likes within hours, getting the word out that the Equal Rights Amendment must be passed now, to the generation that needs to know about it the most.
LBB> How do you feel production and producers are perceived today? And how does that compare to other timesin your career?
George> Creative ideas are the arrow and production is the bow, and we must aim for the bullseye at every opportunity we’re given. I’ve been lucky enough to learn from production leaders who are partnered at the hip with their creative counterparts, and who themselves are great creative thinkers. At Ogilvy we talk about the importance of our ‘quad’: creative, account, strategy, production. We fire on all cylinders, which I believe clients can sense when they work with us.
LBB> What do you think are the most important things the production side of the industry needs to do to support up and coming talent and make sure clients get more diverse perspectives on their briefs?
George> Many people are unable to break into our business because they lack the resources to subsidise an internship or an entry-level position in an expensive city like New York or LA. Our industry needs to do more to help talent with unequal means get an equal start.
LBB> Can you tell us one thing that you believe we are certain to have in store for the future of production?
George> The new age of ad-supported streaming platforms like Netflix and HBO Max will mean more opportunity to create content - more production! - but also a heightened demand for highest-fidelity work that provokes and entertains consumers. Our work runs in ad breaks alongside people’s beloved streaming programming like White Lotus. This means craft and flawless execution are more important than ever. We’ve got to be on our toes.