Tue, 14 Mar 2023 13:46:00 GMT
“Not an agency, but a new model that allows collaboration across a consortium of talent”, Majestic Beast is a part-creative, part-production company - a new beast altogether - set up by industry heavyweight Bob Winter, a widely-awarded agency veteran (most recently, ECD at Leo Burnett in Chicago). Supporting him are Matt Abramson, executive producer and managing director at Cap Gun Collective and Jen Shelley, director of communications at Whitehouse Post. Bob has a long history of working with Whitehouse Post and hatched this new concept, in part, based on these collaborations over the years.
Speaking to LBB’s Ben Conway alongside Jen and Matt, Bob says, “Every time I'd be working with these guys, we would have great ideas and we’d go, ‘Oh, man, that's amazing - I wish we would have done that’. It’s a shame that, generally, by the time it comes to choosing production partners, the idea’s already been sold and the client’s expecting that to be delivered - so there's no moment really to collaborate together and shape ideas.”
He continues, “So we thought it would be interesting if we went to clients and said, ‘As an alternative, you could actually brief the whole crew together... directors, producers, creatives, editors, all working together’.”
And that, is the Majestic Beast model. All parties, from creative through to post-production, are briefed together at the very start and work collaboratively to shape, deliver and ship the campaign. Bob elaborates, “It makes for a really efficient model. We're all working from the very first moment together on something that we know is going to be on time and on budget - delivering amazing content in a much more efficient way than was possible before. From a client's perspective, they get an entire crew who's going to actually give you ideas and make them, and do it within your budget and in a way that is more collaborative than they’re used to working. It's an interesting model that I think is a lot faster, a lot more efficient and hopefully, a lot more fun.”
Reiterating just how collaborative their companies are already, Jen shares that having everyone around the same table from the beginning also gives brands confidence that their marketing ideas can actually be achieved - and importantly, be achieved on budget. “This is going to be a game changer because you don't want to get someone excited about something that actually can't be done,” she says. “Instead we’re saying, ‘OK, what are we looking at and how do we all work together to bring our strengths?’.”
Without a dedicated talent roster as such, Majestic Beast utilises the existing rosters from Whitehouse, Cap Gun, Carbon - and their other partners and collaborators - to source talents like directors (through Matt and his team), editors (through Whitehouse Post), designers, animators and visual effects artists (through Carbon), and so on. Depending on the project at hand, they can quickly assemble a suitable task force to provide full-service capabilities - and the response so far has been overwhelmingly positive.
“A lot of the conversations [with potential clients] have been like, ‘Wow, this solves a lot of problems for us’,” says Bob. “People are looking for faster, more efficient delivery of content, and this model allows for that. People are very intrigued and a lot of them have already worked with lots of our partners that we can pull in, so they know and trust us.” He continues, “There's a little bit of, ‘I don't know what to make of this or where to put you guys’, but that's OK because it's a new model. The more we get clients in who are willing to see how the process actually works, the more traction we’ll get.”
Bob adds that this model is something that the industry has anticipated for a while - resisted only by the norms and the “history of the way things have always been” which prove difficult to change in traditional advertising institutions - although, he reminds us, it has been done before. “At one point in the industry, writers and art directors didn't work together - and then they were brought together to collaborate and suddenly that became a much better way of getting to ideas. The next logical step is to increase that collaboration and bring in production partners to set a vision and an idea together, early on. It's no secret that when you put interesting people with diverse perspectives together to work on a project, you come up with really interesting and diverse ideas. I don't think that's a secret, right? Did I just give away a trade secret? Dammit…”
From the production side of things, Matt agrees, “It's so helpful to be able to scope things out so early in the process - from a production standpoint, you're not trying to solve an unfixable puzzle by the time you see it. If people want efficiency and speed… we're eliminating a pretty substantial hurdle down the road and we're all dialled in together from the start.”
Familiar with the standard production company role of joining a project after an idea has been sold, Matt shares that Majestic Beast’s shake-up of the creative-production pipeline is “empowering” for him and his producers and directors at Cap Gun, adding that joining early on allows the production team to be involved “when things are still a little bit more malleable.” He says, “Directors are always trying to push things to make it their own and enhance it, but often you're touching work so far down the line that the effect you can have on it is limited… [this way] the makers have already been briefed - they’re part of the DNA of it.”
“Yeah,” agrees Bob, “it’s never good to go to a production company and say, ‘Here's an idea we sold: It's unproducable, we have four dollars and four days… good luck!’. [With Majestic Beast,] everybody's super united and excited about the idea, and we know what we need to do to make it happen.”
The company’s proof of concept came to Cap Gun prior to Bob joining the team, through Scratch Collective - a campaign for Crumbl Cookies which had the brand strategy and positioning worked out, but which required creative, production and post-production teams to deliver it. Using this as a “test drive” for the new model, the team used their skills and partners to create a hilarious film featuring legendary announcer Michael Buffer, sell it to the client, and make it.
Seeing the model at work gave the group confidence that a script-to-ship collective working directly with brands and teaming with a pool of trusted collaborators was something they wanted to explore, and Majestic Beast was born. “That's primarily what we'll be doing,” says Bob, “getting projects from clients that either don't have an agency or have a project that's out of scope for an agency. Eventually, it might be nice if we could be a great resource for agencies as well. We can bring creatives together and run our model for an agency too… I think that's a possibility.”
Pleased with the efficiency and speed of their early work as a collective, Bob is keen to affirm that speed is not the sole aim, but simply a byproduct of the model’s collaborative nature and the team’s nimble structure. “The beauty of this model is that we can make things with just this group and we can also expand the team based on the project's needs,” he says. “So if we need strategy or lots of creative firepower, we can bring in teams for that. We have access to lots of really talented people who can work on a freelance basis… the beauty of the model is that clients are only paying for the team they need.”
Concluding, Bob says that at Majestic Beast’s core is the teamwork between great minds that the model brings together from the moment they all get briefed to the moment they deliver something. “The efficiency comes as a byproduct of it,” he says. “But the heart of it is collaboration and making great content and bringing great ideas to life.”