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Content That Connects: John Doris on Giving Production a Seat at the Creative Table


TBWA\Chiat\Day NY‘s head of integrated production speaks to LBB’s Adam Bennett, in collaboration with Comcast Technology Solutions, about the production secrets behind content that truly hits the mark

Content That Connects: John Doris on Giving Production a Seat at the Creative Table

Any piece of content for a brand means little if it never manages to connect 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 Adam Bennett is speaking with John Doris, head of integrated production at TBWA\Chiat\Day NY. Having operated at the centre of the production maelstrom for over twenty years, John is perfectly positioned to offer his insight on the industry’s present - and its future. Here, he reflects on how hiring social-first thinkers has liberated his team, why entertainment is more important than ever and, ultimately, what makes craft such an indispensable ingredient of content that connects… 

LBB> John - to start at the beginning, what first attracted you to a career in production, and what’s the most enjoyable aspect of your role today?

John> I was initially first attracted to production because I have an older brother who was an agency producer and then a HOP at CDP in London. As a kid, I thought he had the coolest job and would love looking out for the ads he made on tv. I knew I wanted to follow in his footsteps from a young age and, luckily, I got a break in the AV dept at Saatchi and Saatchi London. 

The best aspect of my role today is building and nurturing a team full of passionate makers and creators. At TBWA\Chiat\Day I’m lucky enough to have production oversight across all our clients as well as leadership of our internal studio. The studio has gone from a team of 3 people to over 30 today including Directors, editors, VFX and a newly created social content team. 

Bringing in great people and helping them shape the overall vision of how we make as a modern agency gives me a huge sense of pride and achievement. 

LBB> In the past, you’ve likened the role of a producer to that of a ‘conductor’. What makes that an apt comparison, and do you see that changing as a result of emerging technology or other factors?

John> I still stand by that. Producing to me is all about taste, knowledge, and creating the right chemistry. You don’t have to know everyone and everything, you just need to bring the right people to the table and allow them to play in harmony. The only change today is that the orchestra might be larger with the various skillsets required across different platforms and medias. 

LBB> Can you share an example of a recent project that required the production department to solve a particularly tricky or interesting problem? How did production step up to find and execute the solution in that instance?

John> I feel like there are problems every day! The most recent challenge has been around the volume, speed, and price of social content assets. Our solution was to build social into our content studio so that we have nimble teams of writers, makers, and producers to take a brief and make it autonomously. 

This allowed us to hire social-first thinkers and makers, and give them the freedom to make outside of the usual agency/client process. It’s been liberating and also energised producers, creatives, and the entire agency. 

LBB> What kind of role does production play in making a narrative or idea connect with its audience?

John> I put a lot of emphasis on craft and agonising over the details. Bringing the right Director, editor, music track, etc to a project can make a huge difference in how a piece of work connects with the audience. Production should be the tastemakers and play a huge role in putting the right team together. They have to have a seat at the creative table. 

LBB> And how is that role evolving in the age of fragmented media?

John> I just think it’s even more crucial now that we’re making more content across more channels. A producer needs to have knowledge and connections to film, digital, Innovation, experiential, entertainment, influencers and more. A producer must be curious now more than ever in order to add the value that’s required. 

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

John> It’s more valuable than ever. We’re making more than we’ve ever made, and content really is king. The armies of people we have working across projects is massive and more often than not the producer is the person at the helm of that leading the way. Without a strong producer it can quickly become a circus!

LBB> To what extent do you believe data can be leveraged to improve both production and the impact of your content?

John> At a basic level it can obviously be used to target the right audiences for your content. Then there are ideas that can leverage data in order to tailor a specific experience or story to someone. That’s the side that interests me. 

We did a campaign recently for Columbia Journalism review (CJR) where we used data to show how newsworthy you might be if you were to go missing in the US. Finding creative ways to use data will definitely be something we continue to see. 

Above: TBWA/Chiat/Day New York’s campaign ‘#EveryoneIsPressworthy’ opened up a dialogue around how journalists cover reports of missing people. 

LBB> From your point of view, what’s the key to crafting content that really connects with people?

John> I think entertainment has never been more important than it is right now. People are spending more time than ever on tiktok and other social platforms, and they want to have fun.

Putting content where the audiences are and making it something they want to engage with is our current challenge. Making things that feel less ad-like while finding ways to promote your brand/cause is the new challenge. Luckily, there is so much technology and new platforms to play with that the opportunities really are infinite. 

LBB> And finally, if the perfect CV lands on your desk for a producer in your department, what does it have on it and why?

John> I think Diversity is key. Diversity in the people and diversity in skillsets. I’m really trying to hire people who bring something different to the team and have a unique point of view. 

We’ve evolved way beyond ad people so I like people who have different backgrounds in order to bring fresh perspective and contacts. Honestly, I don’t pay too much attention to CV’s. I’m more about someone’s energy and vibe as well as what they’ve specifically brought to the work they’ve created. And ideally they’re someone I’d want to go for a beer with. That’s always important!

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Genres: People

Comcast Technology Solutions, Wed, 01 Feb 2023 09:11:32 GMT