Confessions Of A Production Consultant

By - CTL
February 27, 2020
That's a wrap

By Mike Canavan BBS Australasia.

It is without question that the most hated person in the advertising business is the production consultant, business manager or cost controller. You pick the title.

Why you might ask? Well to the agency they represent a threat. A “Clear and Present Danger”. They perceive them as a real challenge to their overall control, and a foil to their judgment and advice and creativity. But I should say we are not. Production Consultants can be of the greatest assistance and value to an Agency; depending on how they are used and treated.

Now I must add, at this point NOT all Agencies are like this. I have over these many years work with many wonderful and talented Agency TV producers; however, they seem to be becoming fewer and fewer in numbers today. I suppose this is due to Agency management not wanting to spend the money on hiring experienced people, for these people cost money.

These days they promote and employ Junior Producers, give them titles far in excess of the skills and experience and hope to God no one catches on. Now this may be alright when things are running smoothly, but heaven forbid something goes awry, and unhappily in all TV production there are many times the unknown factor crops up. These situations generally require experience and knowledge to cope with and stay within budget and brief, and without advice, the Junior producers no matter how fancy the title they have, just don’t have this.

Unhappily or perhaps most unwisely, many Agencies still believe that they have a divine omnipotence and perfect insight into the production of television commercials no matter what. They cling to a delusional view, that what they say, should be taken as though it came from a burning bush, carried by Moses, whilst descending from Mount Sinai.

This is curious to say the least.

Should you become ill, you visit your doctor. If he doesn’t have all the answers you want, you ask to be referred to a Specialist. The Specialist of course is somebody who studied the particular problem or issues their entire working career. Not someone, who may encounter issues may be five, six or even ten times a year.

Similarly, the production consultant should be somebody who has looked through a camera, Directed or Produced commercials and made decisions that financially impact on their own personal wealth. They should be an expert who knows and understand the production business back to front. They should not make emotional decisions or use favouritism or bias in their advice. They should only recommend a path that they truly believe is the right one for the production.

It is this very experience that can be harnessed and worked with providing a significant benefit to all parties concerned. What the Agency has missed is that the Production Consultant have the ear and trust of the client, if they worked with them, they would find that things would go a good deal smoother.


But of course, unfortunately for the Agency this is immaterial when they are endeavoring to assert their authority and control.

Rather than working with such an individual, they set about hiding, or misdirected the consultant in an effort to secure what they see is in what they believe however misguided is in “the best interest of their client”. This of course beggars the most obvious of questions, why is the production consultant, cost control or business manager put there in the first place by the client.

Apparently, this hasn’t yet, (astonishingly) occurred to the agency. The reason that the third party is hired by the client, is because the client cannot and does not believe, trust or accept that the agency is capable of doing the work unsupervised. Obliviously the Client believes that they (the Agency) require expert management or advice. Now that alone, should be enough of a hint, that there might be a problem in the relationship the client has with their agency. But no; they just don’t get. I’m not sure, whether the building has to fall on them, or lightning strike, or some other act of God must occur before they wake up to this. But for better or worse, we seem to be saddled with this unholy conundrum.

After a difficult year, full of mayhem, mistakes and poor judgement on their (the Agency’s) behalf, I was recently confronted by a new Group Account Director who instructed me that the agency had decided, that they were changing the way production was to be done, and taking back control of the process. A bold and daring move no doubt, full of youthful exuberance, even let’s say a well-intentioned noble and sentiment. Their only problem is the production consultant doesn’t work for them. If of course they did, it would be simple enough, they would just fire him or her, and the problems would appear to have gone away. The tragedy is of course, they can’t. The consultant works for the client. Rather than heal the festering sore, their actions, only serve to inflame the situation.

Pouring gasoline on a fire, rarely assists in putting it out.

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