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Content that Connects: How Lucia Grillo Drives DDB North America’s Operations in Service of Creativity


The agency’s chief integration officer speaks with LBB’s Addison Capper, in association with Comcast Technology Solutions, about ‘solving the unsolvable’ and why great production departments are chock full of great taste and common sense

Content that Connects: How Lucia Grillo Drives DDB North America’s Operations in Service of Creativity

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. 

Today, LBB’s Addison Capper is picking the brains of Lucia Grillo, DDB North America’s chief integration officer.

LBB> You are the chief integration officer at DDB. Excuse the awful pun, but how does that role integrate into the production department at DDB? What does your role entail?

Lucia> At the heart of my role is bringing all our disciplines to bear to make sure great work gets created, sold, and made. Starting with making sure we have the right staff plan, to building capabilities we need through the line, to making sure all of those capabilities are brought together at the right time and right place, all of that is part of my remit. Essentially my role is to drive operations in service of creativity. And production, of course, is one of the cornerstones of great work, and having them be integral (and integrated) into the process early and often is crucial if you want to do anything interesting.

LBB> How is DDB North America leveraging data to improve production and the impact of its content output? And how do you feel the use of data in production will evolve in coming years? 

Lucia> Data makes better briefs, which makes for better work. That’s one of the simplest ways it affects the impact and quality of our work at DDB.  

Obviously, we also use data inputs to optimise, which changes the way we think about production in general. It’s not a one-and-done approach anymore — it never ends, which means that production (and producers) are even more important to clients’ business than ever before

LBB> In your opinion, what kind of role does production play in making a narrative/idea connect with its audience?

Lucia> The curation and deployment of the talent we collaborate with is the key to making an idea connect with its audience. A story changes drastically just by passing through the filter of who is telling it. Production’s role is to find the perfect storytellers to create a narrative that people WANT to connect with. Imagine the difference if ‘Goodfellas’ was directed by Steven Spielberg vs Martin Scorsese. It would be (obviously) a completely different story.

LBB> How is that role evolving in the age of evermore fragmented media?

Lucia> It used to be that production’s role was to find the best talent to bring a project to life, on time and on budget. Now that fragmented media is the norm, we also have to stretch budgets even further to create more content than ever, while maintaining quality, and hitting multiple deadlines, formats, etc. It’s more of a tightrope walk than ever.

LBB> In that constantly shifting media environment, how would you articulate the value of production to a brand?

Lucia> I think a lot of brands have tried to take on production internally, with varying degrees of success. What our production department brings, besides great taste and common sense, is the ability to bring new and unexpected talent to projects, to find techniques no one has tried before, and to solve the unsolvable. Anyone can find partners that hit the budget, but the magic happens with you bring something to life in a way that no one has thought of.

LBB> How do you feel production and producers are perceived today? And how does that compare to other moments in your career?

Lucia> I think it depends on where you work. DDB values production and the quality they bring to the work. They want them in meetings, they are equal partners in the creative process.  Not all agencies are like that, and I’ll just say that it shows in the work.

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?

Lucia> We need to do two things. We need to have an easier way of discovering, sharing, and promoting diverse talent, and we need to help get clients to feel comfortable taking a chance on partners that maybe aren’t as established or well known - or don’t have examples of exactly the same work as part of their portfolio. We have a lot of clients that are very invested in diverse talent, and they trust us to bring those voices forward. In that sense, we are very lucky. But we can always do more.

LBB> Can you tell us one thing that you believe we are certain to have in store for the future of production?

Lucia> When I started in this business, my boss told me that advertising was dead and that no one would need producers anymore. That turned out to be wrong, obviously. Technology always evolves and changes our day to day, but you will always need people with great taste and the ability to pull off miracles.  

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Comcast Technology Solutions, Wed, 01 Mar 2023 16:48:27 GMT