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Producing Tomorrow’s Producers: Why Production Is a Solutions Business with Deb Archambault


BBH USA head of production on why a talented producer is a sponge, exposing yourself to culture and trending social influencers

Producing Tomorrow’s Producers: Why Production Is a Solutions Business with Deb Archambault

With the ambition to help perpetuate John Hegarty’s famous words “We haven’t come this far to be ordinary,” Deb Archambault recently re-joined BBH US as the director of production. In an industry where a brief can become anything, her specialty is solving projects with no roadmap across all mediums and platforms. From middle of the night instals on Wall Street to overnight shoots in Bangkok, Deb has extensive experience and is excited to bestow her knowledge on the next generation of producers rising the ranks of the BBH halls.

Prior to the boomerang, Deb started out doing in-house casting at Deutsch NY, met her husband at Publicis, ate too many mid-town salads at McCann, and most recently oversaw a few March Madness spots for Coke Zero Sugar at Cartwright LA. She has produced some of the most iconic and awarded advertising of the past decade on projects like Fearless Girl, Universal Love, Godiva Box within a Box and Hope Stems. She can often be found slope side with her two children, her husband and her snowboarding bulldog, Boris.

LBB> What advice would you give to any aspiring producers or content creators hoping to make the jump into production?

Deb> Jump in!! The production pool has never been hotter. With creativity booming and clients eager to invest in non-traditional content, there’s never been a better time to be someone who fosters ideas and turns them into reality. 

Not familiar with how production worked yesterday? That's OK. These days, a brief can be anything. Be prepared to learn on the fly. Don’t worry about what you don’t know. Figure out the right person or partner to ask questions. Production is a solutions business. Yes, there are budgets and timelines to consider. But, in simple terms, your job is to figure it out and to deliver creative solutions that enable the best possible end product for any idea. 

LBB> What skills or emerging areas would you advise aspiring producers to learn about and educate themselves about?

Deb> All of it. A talented producer is a sponge. You’ll never know when you need to know something, so stay up to speed on anything and everything relevant to your craft. Expose yourself to culture, AI best practices, trending social influencers, up-and-coming content creators, and who shot the last Vogue cover. Producers who maintain a wealth of knowledge are an invaluable asset to creatives as they ideate and are the perpetual matchmaker between the idea and solution. 

LBB> What was the biggest lesson you learned when you were starting out in production - and why has that stayed with you?

Deb> One of the best parts of working in our industry is that you never do the same thing, twice. The medium might be the same (be it storyboards or pre-roll videos) but it’s likely the creative will be different and that you’ll engage with different artists and production companies to make the content needed. You never know exactly what the day will bring, or what project you’ll work on next. I’ve always loved that about being a producer.

LBB> When it comes to broadening access to production and improving diversity and inclusion what are your team doing to address this? And why is it an important issue for the production community to address?

Deb> When the talent pool looks the same, the creative output will end up feeling the same. That’s the nature of influence. However, it’s easier than ever to learn about and chat with people who are making things differently. Thank you, internet. I’m always keeping my eyes open for potential new partners - people who approach advertising from a different lens, people who have a new or fresh voice. 

Part of being a good producer is being familiar with potential future partners to share with the creatives as collaborators. The projects at BBH vary in story, scope and audience and it's exciting to bring new collaborators into this space.

LBB> There are young people getting into production who maybe don’t see the line between professional production and the creator economy, and that may well also be the shape of things to come. What are your thoughts about that? Is there a tension between more formalised production and the ‘creator economy’ or do the two feed into each other?

Deb> There is a time and a place (and a budget) for both “professional” production and creative makers. But it’s fascinating to think about what happens when the lines are blurred. When you take a more scrappy approach and apply it to professional production (and I don’t just mean cutting back on crafty). Or, how would a top tier DoP approach a project coming from the creator space? It’s seeing ideas from new perspectives that’s insightful. And has so much potential to create something that feels new.

LBB> If you compare your role to the role of the heads of TV/heads of production/ exec producers when you first joined the industry, what do you think are the most striking or interesting changes (and what surprising things have stayed the same?)

Deb> Traditionally, the head of production rose through the ranks as a broadcast producer. Broadcast set the tone (and made the money) and everyone who specialised in other types of production laddered up. These days, it’s more important to have a variety of experiences. You can’t just apply a broadcast approach to social and experiential, for example, they are different mindsets. And heads of production need to help promote that conversation.

LBB> When it comes to educating producers how does your agency like to approach this? (I know we’re always hearing about how much easier it is to educate or train oneself on tech, etc. But what areas do you think producers can benefit from more directed or structured training?)

Deb> There are a few approaches to educating and training producers. The best way, in my experience, is through osmosis. Back in my early days at Deutch NY, all of the art producers sat in a room fondly referred to as the “Fish Bowl.” I overheard every conversation, I tossed out endless questions, I learned how to speak the language, how to approach production partners, how to professionally handle the dreaded “break-up calls,” and everything in between. Working from home has changed this type of learning. But I think it’s important to bring it back. Whether that’s more junior producers sitting in calls, more one on one zooms, or more time in office. There are ways to do it. We, as production leaders, need to be more proactive about the value of us being in a room together.

The second way is a more formal approach. EPs and seniors training juniors on the process, and the partners. Juniors will thrive with a combined approach to both of these methods. Establish the backbone of the production process and fill it in with experience.

LBB> It seems that there’s an emphasis on speed and volume when it comes to content - but to where is the space for up and coming producers to learn about (and learn to appreciate) craft?

Deb> Clients and those tracking budgets will always want more volume faster and cheaper. But part of our role as producer is to advocate for the creative process and do what’s right for the creative. We understand there can be value in speed and volume, but we can’t get scared by it or become beholden to it. We have to find ways to continue to inject craft into the current production climate. Whether you spend a day finding the right creative solution or a week, the research must be done – and creative excellence must be always promoted and maintained.

LBB> On the other side of the equation, what’s the key to retaining expertise and helping people who have been working in production for decades to develop new skills?

Deb> Whether you’re an aspiring producer or a seasoned one, having a willingness to learn is an essential mindset. Professionals who have been doing it forever have so much experience to bring to the table. But as times change, so has the required skill set. You can’t rely on what you did yesterday because that skill might not be needed tomorrow. 

If you’ve only produced TV spots your whole career and suddenly you’re asked to produce a live event, what’s your attitude? No, because I don’t know how. Find someone better suited? Or sure, let’s work together to figure this out! I’ve certainly always led with a “let's figure it out!” approach. 

LBB> Clearly there is so much change, but what are the personality traits and skills that will always be in demand from producers?

Deb> I’ve always described production as the perfect job balancing both the right and left side of the brain. Who else gets to scroll Nowness, attend a music lunch screening all while calculating a ballpark estimate in excel while juggling scheduling 25 calls into a nine hour work day? #nevernotproducing isn’t a job requirement, it's a lifestyle.

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BBH USA (New York), Tue, 11 Apr 2023 14:27:00 GMT