The essential knowledge required of modern day Producers

Producers need to have a bird’s eye view of every aspect of production

As the countdown begins for applications to the IPA Production Essentials Certificate, Kim Knowlton, the course tutor, provides some insight into the essential knowledge required of modern-day Producers.

Agency production is constantly evolving and rightly so. Like any successful business, it has to adapt to the changing landscape and client expectations. It has to take advantage of new opportunities, technologies, and working practices.

I have just retired from my role as Production Consultant for the IPA and many years as a producer and Head of Production. I am sure I have said 'production is changing' about every five years for 35 years. Not many of us can remember what it was like to do everything by fax – with no mobile phones.

Producers have a huge number of responsibilities

In all those years, the biggest change has been the most recent. The sheer breadth of modern campaigns. An integrated campaign now can consist of events, games, websites, toys, experiential, print, stock footage, animation, and live-action all across multiple media and multiple markets. Producers are expected to have the same depth of knowledge as before but a lot more breadth. Beyond that, clients expect these assets to be delivered faster and often at less cost. There is no time to come up to speed, producers need to be experts across a plethora of disciplines.

For the successful production of any campaign, the producer must now be completely central, from inception to final delivery. There are so many cross dependencies and interdependencies, it is crucial for a producer to have a bird’s eye view of every aspect of production. What is rarely recognised, however, is the need for detail. Insurance, celebrity contracts, copyright, licences, employment law, health and safety, contract negotiation, usages and future usages to name but a few. This is exacerbated by diminishing production departments as a whole. Production Assistants are a rare commodity. Junior Producers are often expected to deliver campaigns beyond their years. For numerous reasons there are fewer and fewer experienced producers within agencies.

Naturally, agencies don’t like to publicise when things go wrong but after eight years of advising agencies on behalf of the IPA, I have found that production problems are much more frequent than we care to admit. Unfortunately, the breadth of responsibility on producers and the rush to do everything instantly leaves them heavily exposed. Actually, that’s not true, ultimately it is the agency and its clients who are heavily exposed. Sometimes it is just the case that the asset is withdrawn and there is merely the loss of the cost of production and some media spend. Sometimes it can be much worse. Often unknowingly, producers now manage a huge liability for the agency and the client. CFOs make a point of having oversight of all legal and financial commitments but how many review a PIBS, check the talent contracts, or are aware of music copyright infringement liabilities, and whether they are in line with the agency-client contract.

The role of the IPA in production

Fortunately, the IPA has been running the IPA Production Essentials Certificate for 30 years. In the last three years, this has been completely overhauled to address the challenges I have listed and make producers aware of the liabilities they manage on behalf of their agencies and clients.

The IPA led the way in how production could continue during the Covid-19 pandemic, who was liable for what, and how production could be financially viable and undertaken safely.

The IPA plays a crucial role in negotiating industry-wide agreements with all production suppliers from Equity to the APA. All of these, as well as best practice documentation, is available to IPA members. The detail of these is examined in the IPA Production Essentials Certificate and interrogated by industry experts. Every producer who passes the course has a broad and basic understanding of the production process. The producer is there to deliver the best possible work on time and on budget but beyond that, it is crucial that they are able to minimise agency liability and risk. We are right to celebrate a great campaign but just as importantly we should celebrate a good producer protecting their agency and client.

The IPA Production Essentials Certificate is open for applications until Friday 29 July. The qualification will run over four weeks in October and November 2022. I look forward to welcoming you in October.

Kim Knowlton has spent 35 years in the industry, including eight years as the IPA's Production Consultant. She continues to run the IPA Production Essentials Certificate.

Apply for the IPA Production Essentials Certificate
Last updated 23 June 2022