Death of the production company?

Bob Greenberg of R/GA will give a keynote at the Boards Summit in New York on the death of the production company paradigm. At first this seemed startling but, after reflection and research, it’s rather old news.

Bob’s point: New multi-platform methods of persuasion, espoused by marketers and new-fangled digital agencies, are designing and implementing campaigns that cross traditional boundaries.

He’ll say that these efforts are so complicated that they are nearly forced into producing these elements in-house, because only then will they be able to exercise the discipline and coordination inherently required to implement.

Of course, agencies have done the “production” thing periodically over time primarily for cost reasons. We in the production community have truly enjoyed seeing these efforts flail and collapse. Who is laughing now?

Now it is our own community that insists on using the old protocol to solve new questions (GM style).

Even those in editorial, who have expanded into new disciplines, like production/content, have done so by creating old model production companies complete with directorial rosters, traditional representation, and many of the other artifacts that have been declining in productivity and profit for years.

Could this be like starting a newspaper to compete with the internet? A case can be made that these are old solutions for entirely different new questions.

Many of us remember the time when a robust production community battled for a prolific stream of work from the large Chicago shops and regional agencies.

The world flattened with the appearance of new iterations, like Chicago Story, which teamed with a powerful national partner offering top quality work at moderate prices — the “flattening of the world” by the internet and fueled by the ignorance of SAG leadership and other unions.

While Story (nee Chicago story) still thrives, few others traditional shops, excluding the specialty companies, even exist.

The organizations that are still relevant will more likely combine disciplines like Don Hogue’s formula at Radar and, of course, the amazing case of Don McNeill and Digital Kitchen.

DK is credited with creating an entirely new genre and built an impressive brand ignoring traditional boundaries and eschewing the traditional director convention

These days, while DK seems to be evolving into a digital agency in the R/GA mold, it creates prodigious amounts of live action, motion and countless other iterations without resorting to the outside production resources and the director paradigm.

Instead, DK successfully rests on their prodigious body of work, reputation and creative lineage as assurances to their customers and partners.

Today, as visionary as the DK model has been, even it might also be considered old paradigm, in the sense that it relies on some pretty serious brick and mortar commitments to get the job done, which can inhibit flexibility, encourage bureaucracy and has the tendency to inhibit creativity (high class problem).

In my view, production entities will need to mirror the interdisciplinary approach of digital agencies to be relevant to the Agencies they have relied on for business traditionally, and to clients and new markets that are quickly emerging.

So, who is the will be the next “next”?