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Production Line: Generating Really Compelling Creative with Alex Gianni


BBDO New York's director of content production on approaching problems from a different angle and why lightning in the bottle will always bring great ideas to life

Production Line: Generating Really Compelling Creative with Alex Gianni

Alex is currently the director of content production at BBDO NY, overseeing the integrated content production team and BBDO’s in house production studio, as well as leading Omnicom’s scaled production initiative.  

Alex is a creative producer and a staunch champion of the craft. He has spent most of his career at Y&R and BBDO, he also had a three year stint in London running a live action/animation production company and was introduction to the world of production at MTV. Alex has produced some of the most impactful and awarded advertising work of the past twenty years. He has won several industry accolades from Emmys to Lions and everything in between for his work with brands including Sandy Hook Promise, Meta, Snickers, FedEx, Twix, LG, American Red Cross & Hewlett Packard. Recognised as an industry leader, he judges various award shows and is a frequent contributor to global  production initiatives, including Free The Work and The One Show.  

Alex currently lives in NJ with his wife Silvia, their four children and their cat, Sushi. 

LBB> What lasting impact has the experience of the pandemic had on how you and your agency think about and approach production? 

Alex> There are two halves of this answer. The first is what was forced on us and like so many industries, tested the tried-and-true model we built everything around. Going back to the old way is not an option. Change at that depth lasts and you better adapt if you want to. The second is what we chose to keep. Rethink everything. Approach the problem from a different angle. We are unquestionably better equipped to embrace challenges. We would be foolish not to let that kind of innovation last. 

LBB> Aside from covid-19, what have been the most disruptive forces to hit agency production in the past few years? 

Alex> If I had to pick three, I’d say content creation and behaviour, privacy regulations and emerging technology. These three are at an incredible state of convergence. Each one is highly disruptive and in many ways transformative for production. A big part of our job is understanding those challenges and adapting the work around them. Not resist them. These are opportunities. The strategy behind our briefs have evolved to use these insights at the same pace they are evolving. Fully understanding trends and behaviours forces us to use new mediums and consumer data opportunistically. If we do that right, then we can generate really compelling creative. 

LBB> A good producer should be able to produce for any medium, from film to events to digital. Do you agree or disagree with this statement? Why/why not? 

Alex> I agree that a great producer can lead and adapt to produce for any medium, however, I wonder if you’d ask a plumber to frame your house? Having a specialist on your roster often archives the best possible work. We’ve attracted and developed a unique 'makers model' at BBDO with individuals that possess a wide variety of expertise that span various mediums. Every production is a unique opportunity and assigning producers based on who’s best suited to the job helps craft the best creative.

LBB> What’s your own pathway to production? When you started out, what sort of work were you producing and what lessons have stayed with you in that time? 

Alex> I produced my first short when I was in fifth grade, it was a stop motion piece coupled with a live action shoot that had a bunch of hyper kids escaping the evil grips of aliens. It was compelling at the time! I knew then that I was destined to work in the creative arts business. I had a unique pathway to production. I started out my career at MTV in the music video days where they embodied a good, fast and scrappy mentality to capturing content. I moved from MTV to USA Studios/PrimeTime Post where I honed in my skills and understanding for post production and high volume media distribution. 

While at USA Studios I was introduced to advertising and broke into the industry at Y&R NY -- it was there that I learned about craft and taking a good idea and making it great. I met some of the industry's Mad Men & Woman and had incredible mentors that showed me the way. Training and individual development was critical. Among the lessons that I carry with me from those early days are making sure to always listen, stay patient, be authentic, support your team, be fair and honest and treat people with respect, because it matters. 

LBB> If you compare your role to the role of the heads of TV/heads of production 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?) 

Alex> The most striking change has been driven by technology and our media landscape. When I first joined the industry, media buys were much more straightforward and data insights were analogue. Whereas today, technology has revolutionised every aspect of our industry and how we strategise and bring creative solutions to market. On the flip side, the core of our business has remained the same. We still cherry pick the best in class makers, mobilise a production plan, manage expectations, develop budgets, develop the work-flow, structure timelines and guide a project through this process in order to make the best work possible. That lightning in the bottle will always bring great ideas to life. 

LBB> There are so many models for the way production is organised in the advertising industry - what set-ups have you found to be the most successful and why? 

Alex> I’m completely biased, but I’ve seen first hand that BBDO has built a world class integrated team of agile content creators. We have a unique and nimble group of makers that come to us with different backgrounds and skills; our team is made up of integrated and digital content makers, experiential and influencer specialists, creative technologists, developers, designers, QA engineers and print producers. In addition to our trusted suppliers, we have a BBDO/Omnicom scaled global production offering where we can architect best in class full-service production solutions that best benefit our client’s and creative needs. 

LBB> When working with a new partner or collaborator, how do you go about establishing trust? 

Alex> The key to establishing trust is to pave clear lines of communication and to set the tone and expectations at the onset of the job. It’s important that everyone is aligned. I am a believer in picking up the phone and talking things through as sometimes details can get lost in text and emails. Email and virtual collaboration tools should not replace human connection which always leads to transparency and great work. Also, embracing challenges and differences together and treating everyone with decency and respect is a tried-and-true practice that always prevails. 

LBB> How important is it to you there is diversity across all partners on a production? Do you have any measures to promote diversity when it comes to production? 

Alex> Diversity and inclusion are unquestionably central to me personally and an important focus at BBDO. We guide our work to be more inclusive and representative by applying a DE&I lens to the entire creative value chain. This is far more strategic than just the suppliers we partner with, it’s an internal set of guiding principles where we make DIVERSITY, EQUITY & INCLUSION our shared responsibility. We’ve developed an internal Diversity + Data tool we call The BBDO Creative Compass. The goal of the initiative is to be more inclusive and representative with our work. We have established quantitative and qualitative research tools to evaluate the level of inclusion in the work, which allows us to impact creative in real time. We look to partner with production partners that hold these truths and commit to promoting DE&I in the way they promote, hire and operate their companies. We also lean on our global chief diversity, equity and inclusion officer here at BBDO to help guide the work and promote the necessary training, tools and insights to ensure our agency and the work we create meets our equitable brand values.

When it comes to supplier diversity, our director of supplier diversity helps manage an internal supplier roster of certified companies. We also run diversity data analyses for ourselves and for our clients. We are committed to partnering with many unique and equitable platforms which drive DE&I into our production ecosystem, we are proud sponsors and users of FTW, we are advocates of the Double the Line initiative, Vets2Set and a variety of global PA programs that foster and advocate for underrepresented communities within production. As a production department we have established a set of intentional diversity pledges that we adhere to as we engage on every project. Furthermore, we’ve developed a unique internal career development initiative called The BBDO Production Collective, The 'Collective' is a holistic career development initiative program built to open doors for under-represented creators. Participants are given access to a wide variety of resources and opportunities within the BBDO NY production and creative departments. Our core mission is to help set up our members for professional and personal success both within advertising, and beyond. 

LBB> Speaking of casting, what is your approach to this side of a production? How do you work with directors to ensure a fair and fruitful process? 

Alex> We know that culture shapes and impacts communication and that communication shapes and impacts culture. It is vital that we’re intentional, inclusive and representative with the individuals we cast because we know that diversity in advertising generates brand trust and equity. We start our casting process well before we arrive at production. We believe that creating fair and equitable work needs to be imbedded in the idea at the brief stage and cascade all the way through every facet of the curation process. So when we get to casting protagonists for content it’s not a down funnel casting specification or consideration but more of a holistic necessity for how the idea is conceded. 

LBB> Sustainable production is also, understandably, a big talking point and will continue to be so moving forward. How are you navigating this as an agency? 

Alex> Our industry has been steadily and progressively advocating for sustainable and regenerative production practices. It is our responsibility to take an environmentally conscious up-front production approach to how we structure our shoots. We’ve come a long way as a production community in both acknowledging our part and changing behaviours to proactively making our sets more eco friendly. We still have a long way to go, but as an agency we’ve been advocating with our production partners and clients that we all win when we make green production a standard practice. 

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?) 

Alex> We take training and development seriously and have developed an internal program to help producers grow. We have actively invested in mentee partnerships where we partner all up in coming talent with Sr and executive producers. A sounding board and a support structure as young producers navigate production principles. Covid made this more difficult, but as a department we encourage on-set participation, open lines of communication and giving this younger (more production intuitive) generation the tools and support needed to succeed. 

LBB> What’s the most exciting thing about working in production right now? 

Alex> It’s truly an exciting time to be at the helm of this convergence of technology and content creation. The agility and innovation needed to make content these days is very intense. I love it because producers are increasingly part of early stage ideation and creatively behind bringing highly complex projects across the finish line. Curating and mining for production solutions has opened new doors and opportunities to how we make work. It might feel easier to do the same thing the same way your entire career, but that’s not for me. Every job has its unique set of deliverables but for the first time ever we’re making campaigns that undoubtedly work across many mediums, and mashing up traditional and non-traditional workflows to make a wide array provocative content. 

LBB> And what advice would you give to an aspiring agency producer? 

Alex> Be curious. 


Ask questions 

Be kind 

Embrace change 

Stay calm 

Pay attention to details 


Find solutions 

Be authentic 

Get uncomfortable and push boundaries.

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BBDO New York, Fri, 24 Mar 2023 16:28:24 GMT