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Content That Connects: Michele Silvestri Reframes the Role of Production


The Makerhouse global president and global chief production officer at WPP’s Ford business speaks to LBB’s Ben Conway, in association with Comcast Technology Solutions, about rethinking what production can achieve

Content That Connects: Michele Silvestri Reframes the Role of Production

Any piece of content for a brand means little if it never connects with its target audience, a statement to ponder in this 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 Ben Conway is discussing ‘Content that Connects’ with Michele Silvestri, the global president of Makerhouse, a design-centric, multi-disciplinary content production house in the Hogarth network with teams in Detroit, Toronto, London, Dusseldorf, Bangkok, Melbourne, Dubai, Montevideo, and Buenos Aires. In addition to this, she also serves as the global chief production officer for the WPP|Ford business, where she oversees global brand design and production across a diverse portfolio of client teams.

LBB> As Makerhouse’s global president - how do you oversee and influence the production of design content?

Michele> Our company is design-centric at its core as design is inherently about problem-solving and craft. My role is to ensure we are thinking strategically about how we maintain our clients’ brand integrity in a poly-dimensional world by leveraging design and system-thinking to deliver value-driven outcomes across products, services, content and experiences. Outcomes that balance cost-control and craft, efficiency and effectiveness, physical and virtual, touch and tech, human and AI. From guiding upstream brand design systems that can deliver modular intelligent content at scale to how we’re crafting immersive brand experiences in virtual worlds that drive engagement and brand love. 

LBB> You’re also WPP’s global chief production officer for Ford - what does this role entail?

Michele> In the current economic climate, it is no surprise that cost-control and efficiency drivers are front and centre in the conversation, influencing marketing and, subsequently, constraining briefs and budgets. We must be simultaneously empathetic to our clients’ shrinking budgets and scaled content demands while being empathetic to our makers, who need to make more, better, faster and cheaper. Beyond bringing ideas to life brilliantly, production now has a broader upstream role to play. We must embrace innovations that can automate effort that is rapidly becoming commoditised. And make time and space early and often, for impactful ideation, design-thinking and strategic production planning and making. My role is to ensure we bring craft ingenuity to solve our clients’ business needs by continuously balancing content excellence and effectiveness with savings and efficiency. 

LBB> How are you ensuring the network’s Ford productions are connecting with its audience? What are some innovative campaigns you’ve worked on recently for Ford?

Michele> We must consider inclusion and diversity in our talent, both on-screen and behind the screen, as well as in the stories we tell, and how we tell them to ensure we’re being real and authentic - not performative. Our recent Ford International Women’s Day ‘Men’s Only Edition’ campaign and Ford ‘YouMode’ hands-free campaign are great examples of this. They led the conversation with authentic brand and product stories, told authentically, and crafted beautifully through upstream production strategies that delivered breakthrough content with speed, efficiency and savings.

LBB> How are you seeing new technology and processes improve how production connects with its audience? 

Michele> We’re working in new, non-linear ways to maximise the moment of asset capture and creation to stretch content use and future reuse across clients’ business units and markets. A modular approach to foundational asset creation provides quality building blocks for nimble, mass personalisation, audience-first creation and in-flight optimisation. Upstream learning agendas, deep audience understanding and collaborative planning across media, creative, production and analytics allows for downstream production efficiencies enabled by automation, and measurable content effectiveness and optimisation. 

LBB> In our fluid media environment, with new formats, trends and tech every day, how would you communicate the value of production to a brand? 

Michele> Media proliferation is placing disintegration pressures on brand cohesion. Real-time social media-driven transparency is threatening brand integrity. And hungry content engines aren’t satiated for brand content. Our reality requires production leadership to understand the power of brand design crossed with production strategy to deliver synchronous solutions where every aspect works in harmony to drive both business value and social value - in a way that is inclusive and accessible to all. 

There is business value in brand consistency and cohesion, and in upstream production planning with strategic frameworks that reduce waste by bringing systematisation and efficiency to how assets are made, reused, tracked and measured. Production has an opportunity to be the end-to-end mechanism that delivers brand content and experiences with meaning, relevance and performance, adding value to consumers’ lives and clients’ bottom lines. 

LBB> What’s the key to crafting content that really connects with people? 

Michele> It’s about empathy and understanding. For work to connect and add enduring value, we must ensure our work is accessible in an inherent, holistic way – being empathetic to a human need, in the moment of need. Empathetic to the demands of our audiences’ time and attention. Empathetic to their individuality, ensuring they feel seen and heard, because representation matters. Making products, services, content and experiences as sensible, usable, meaningful and effective as possible. 

LBB> We talk about ‘the craft’ a lot in this industry - but how can production elevate a campaign’s idea/creative? And which areas of production should agencies, production companies and brands be investing in to offer the best-crafted output going forward in 2023? 

Michele> Production can elevate creative with upstream collaborative ideation, partnership and planning. Our collective approach can no longer be linear handoffs as the creative process progresses. We need to reframe how we think about the role of production and where it comes into the process. Sometimes the media idea leads the solution, sometimes the creative idea leads the solution, sometimes the budget or timing leads the solution, and sometimes the production idea IS the solution. 

What we can make and how we make it has become limitless. More than ever before, we’re in an era that requires insatiable curiosity to explore, test, learn and understand new ways of making. And with AI-enhanced tools and technologies at our disposal, we need to off-load what we can automate, to double down on what we can’t. This requires careful consideration and understanding of where and how we can utilise AI as a creative tool, to drive speed and efficiency, and to make more space for what only humans can do – think critically and solve problems creatively, with intentionality, insight and human understanding.

LBB> To what extent can data be leveraged to improve production and the impact of the content? How have Makerhouse and WPP’s Ford projects recently been using data in this way? 

Michele> We have the ability to capture and leverage production data to evaluate and optimise what and how we make across the end-to-end content lifecycle. This supports our ability to deliver relevant, personalised and impactful content across all channels and markets through intelligent creative, delivery and reporting. Shifting from a focus on only episodic, campaign-based production to an always-on mindset is key in an era where personalisation is an expectation and addressable media is a digital gateway to greater audience connection. Personalisation and accessibility are inextricably linked – allowing for more inclusive media functionality with relevant, moment-based content that adds value, rather than noise.

LBB> If the perfect CV lands on your desk for a producer, what does it have on it and why? 

Michele> The perfect producer CV showcases examples of someone who is multi-dimensional, bringing a diversity of talent and experience to the table. They’re someone who showcases both divergent and convergent thinking to solve production challenges. Someone who can dive upstream to ideate solutions both creatively and strategically in partnership. Someone who understands how to deliver large, long-form productions as efficiently as quick-turn content solutions. Someone who comes to the table with an understanding of sourcing strategies that can maximise client production budgets without any sacrifice to creative excellence and craft. 

And most of all, someone who is passionate about making beautiful, effective work, without preconceived notions of how, or for how much – bringing new thinking and new solutions that can bring measurable, transformative value to our client’s business. 

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Comcast Technology Solutions, Fri, 14 Apr 2023 13:46:00 GMT