INFLUENCER: Frances Royle, Founder of Royle Productions, explains why decoupling allows for better value
With all aspects of the industry shunning the AOR and retainer models, Frances Royle, Founder of Royle Productions, explains why decoupling allows for better value, and how her unique business model has risen to the challenge by taking all of the risk.
Our industry is evolving, whether we like it or not, with the advertising landscape becoming increasingly project led. From Amazon to Google, brands across the world are picking production suppliers on a project-by-project basis. They’re using multiple agencies at any given time and, in turn, an ‘agency of record’ is becoming a thing of the past.
Gone are the days of being remotely complacent – no matter how big or brilliant an agency you are. With so much incredible creative talent and competition, the penalty for not delivering amazing work is harsher than ever, so there really is no room for mistakes in production. Agencies can be dropped as fast as they’re hired, and clients simply move onto the next shinier offering.
With uncertainty surrounding where the next project (and inevitably the next pay-check) is coming from, there is growing concern as to whether agencies can sustain the current model, operating vast, expensive and often inefficient production teams.
If clients are approaching creative on a project-by-project basis, then agencies must follow suit and approach production on a project-by-project basis too.
As far back as 2008, you could sense that things were changing. Production was being scrutinised and there was a lot of talk about decoupling. Clients were realising that they weren’t getting good value, great production or, worse, both. With client work drying up, it just wasn’t making sense to have producers around all the time, especially if you weren’t a busy agency.
It was this change in climate that led me to leave BBH after 25 years in an agency I called home. Without the security of the agency production world, I set out to test out my theory that long-term commitment didn’t always deliver the best production value, and in 2013, Royle Productions was born.
In setting up my own production offering, I wanted to address this new way in which the industry is working. I didn’t want clients to use us because they’re contracted to – I want to be enlisted on our merits. I knew that I had to start a unique model that allowed for better work, eliminating the cost concerns that so often stifle the creativity.
Royle Productions operates as an outsourced production team, comprised of best in class producers who specialise in one area – film. From big budget commercials and online films, to smaller budget corporate and behind-the-scenes jobs, we’ve built a team of hybrid producers who, alongside our brilliant business affairs team, have the ability to craft great ideas into amazing films on both sides of production. Whether it’s on an agency or production company level, our production team can take on every aspect of a job.
One of our biggest differentiators is having no retainer fee, allowing agencies and brands to bring us in on a project-by-project basis. We also offer a fixed price. One fee per project and it absolutely won’t go over budget unless the client asks for anything else. There’s no longer a need to keep ten percent of the budget as a contingency for if anything goes wrong, because we eliminate all risk.
We believe in who we work with and what we can deliver – so we contract every party and it’s our name on the contracts on behalf of whoever we’re working with. We take all the risk; everything from creative to business affairs. And by eliminating risk – we allow for greater creativity. Everybody thinks production is so exciting, which it is, but there are many pitfalls. We’ve been there, done it and experience is key to all that.
There’s no reason why an agency shouldn’t be able to enlist the experience and mastery of a head of TV, without adding one to their payroll. A good creative producer should be seen as the third creative. They’re the one who hopefully, in collaboration with the creatives, can implement the magic.
We also take the stress out of finding the best people to work with. A big bug bear for agencies is when they use freelancers; it’s very hard to get good freelancers when you need them, and once they’re gone, people don’t often know what’s happened to the assets. We offer after-production services which entail the management of the options that need to be reviewed and renewed.
People need to want to change the model, work smarter and remove a massive overhead, because ultimately an agency can be an ideas factory. The creative agency will still come up with strategy and ideas that they so brilliantly do, but can bring in the right specialists depending on what they want to make.
The current model, with a massive overhead cost and multiple people with varying levels of ability and experience, just isn’t viable any more. You don’t need to work that way. You can work with production companies and directors as and when you need to; you can do that with the whole of production.
Despite being a model that makes total sense, the most challenging element is getting agencies to think in a different way. Royle Productions is a disruptive way of thinking; we want to change the way people approach production – not to compromising anything, but to make both commercial and creative success for all parties involved.
To be great you’ve got to have experience, creative understanding, and a passion for what you do, and we strive to work with like-minded people who want to craft content in a way that makes it the best it can possibly be. The way brands now interact with agencies may require a different production model but, ultimately, great ideas brilliantly executed will always be at the heart of everything we do.