Friday, December 19, 2008

Educational Inspiration

Throughout the span of this blog I will be continuing to refine my definition of what the role of an Interactive Producer is.

I think its crucial right now in this stage of our maturation as an industry and also because the definition is always evolving.

One of my personal focuses and one that I know many other Interactive Producers focus on is business development.

Business Development means different things to different people.

My personal definition of Business Development is to be obsessively passionate about what we do, to be very educated about how we do it and to want to go share that energy with other people.

To be an evangelist for the medium and to inspire clients to see the beauty of design and technology being born from the womb of an idea.

Its about making people excited about what you can do for them.

So how is this done?

As an Interactive Producer I take it upon myself to really understand the capabilities, strengths and weaknesses of my teams and then go out and try to win projects that will leverage those strengths and improve those weaknesses.

Every project is an opportunity to not only make moolah, but to strengthen your team by leaps and bounds.

I was fortunate to be an Interactive Producer at Firstborn during a time when video was just emerging on the web.

As a team we had all committed to a better understanding the nature of video on the web and then in turn wrote up documentation and spoke to our clients to better help them understand what it was all about and how to go about executing successful campaigns around that understanding.

Both then and now I try to imbue my clients with the excitement I had for emerging technology and better ways to communicate.

That initiative led to a lot of video website work for us back then.

Clients need to be educated, not just current clients but potential clients.

Education is the key to building and establishing healthy working relationships.

Clients need to be educated as to what is cutting edge and that you can bring that sharpness to them. They need to know that not everything works for every brand, service or property and then be presented with some well thought out options that you know will work.

If i see another Papervision 3D navigation carousel I think I am going to go mad!

As an industry I think we have expanded and grown in so many positive ways but there are also negative roadblocks that have been created as well.

We as digital shops tend to perpetuate certain bad habits that our clients tend to fell into.

One of those bad habits is allowing our clients to copy work or try to stuff their idea into a site they saw recently on The FWA.

There are tons of very coo sites out there, however not are all suited for your brand.

Many times sites are developed without really strategizing and determining if it is directly applicable to the target audience or not.

There is no template!

The saying that "the client is always right" is completely flawed and not applicable for our industry.

With all due respect, the client is typically wrong in this regard.

As digital shops we need to help re-focus our clients to think bigger or smaller and to innovate rather than copy and to help them find other sources of inspiration for new and creative ideas.

I was recently watching the movie Romance and Cigarettes, a movie written and directed by John Tuturro and produced by the Coen Brothers.

What occurred to me was that this movie was a completely different format than any other movie I had seen before.

It was a combination musical, drama, thriller, comedy and so much more.

What it inspired in me was that things can and need to be done differently and we have the power to help our clients achieve that.

Brand storytelling can be done in so many different ways and this particular movie inspired me to look beyond the conventional and to seek out ways to be a more valuable digital partner.

The beauty of the web is that its so vast and so much can be accomplished that looking at and copying other websites is futile and will lead to a creative cramp in our industry.

Every brand is different and every offering and entertainment or service is different and that must be addressed by the Interactive Producer to the client in terms of clear and honest communication of achieving the goals and expectations set out by the client.

As producers we know all too well how every single project ends.

There is always some sort of veil of drama associated with the final deliverable, no matter how good the project is.

The Interactive Producer's role is to make sure that the client is focused on a clear vision of what the site will be like the entire length of the project's design and development phase and what to expect when its time for launch.

Clients need to be educated from day one in order for them to go back and set realistic expectations for their own internal teams so that there is no pressure from the invisible "THEY" who are wondering why this isn't what they envisioned.

We cannot expect our clients to know all of the various design and technical nuances associated with a highly complex web application or mobile app or installation or whatever the end user will be interacting with.

This is simply unrealistic, and in many cases its why they hired us in the first place.

An Interactive Producer needs to take the initiative and start this education process from the onset of the project.

I think it should start from the initial pitch but thats my own personal preference and I tend to start my relationships with the client even before actually winning the project.

The Interactive Producer needs to make sure, that no matter how clear the contract reads, that every term and every detail is understood by the PERSON that they are working with on the client side.

For example, how many times do clients need to have 5-6 different people signing off on a particular asset?

Lets take a 3D render of a mountain for example.

Now the client doesn't know how long it takes to frame up, texture and render a 3D object and in many cases they assume its as simple as a JPG.

The Producer needs to let the client know that any assets that are going to take a longer time to produce must have the right scheduled design, development approval and execution periods built in from the very start of the project.

This will eliminate a very frustrating and very common stumbling block that many projects undertake.

When can I have it?
When can I see it?
When will it be done?
Can I have it for first thing 9 am?

I can go on and on about various examples of specific nuances, we all must identify them for ourselves at the onset of a project and then they must be clearly outlined for our clients, specifically by the Interactive Producer in their own special way.

So remember these two very crucial points.

Inspiration and Education.

We need to love our clients and one way of doing that is to altruistically educate them so they can be better clients and so we can have better relationships. As the day to day contact, the Interactive Producer can have someone to speak intelligently to and empathize with when there is a challenge or snag in the project.

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