Saturday, January 10, 2009

Interactive Steward

Q: Introduce us to yourself and your company.
I am Tom Buchok, an interactive producer at Preston Kelly in Minneapolis, Minn.

Much like Daniel Shaw mentioned, I am lucky to be at a full-service agency and work amongst an integrated team. I get to participate in producing projects that span from large-scale video shoots to low-budget web applications.

I also co-founded Bannerflow — a simple way to show banner ads to your clients.

Q: Interactive Producers come from all walks of life, they are a hybrid of talents, tell us about your background and how you got interested in digital production?
I fell into digital product by being just bad enough at a bunch of things. I love the geek side of the job, but I'm a pretty weak coder. Working with creatives gives me great energy, but I tend to fear the blank page myself. And I've dabbled in Account Service, but I can't pull myself away from digging into the weeds on a project.

I got interested in being an Interactive Producer because I figured out that I could be surrounded by everything I love about working in advertising — creativity, technology and strategy.

I wonder how many other Interactive Producers often say to themselves, "I get paid for this?!"

Q: How do you stay on top of emerging technologies and keep your team informed and motivated?
I rely a ton on my team of developers, designers and strategists to stay informed. We've built up a good process of constantly sharing links, ideas and updates on technologies.

Honestly, the people I know in real life pale in comparison to the people I follow on Twitter and Delicious. Those two networks are absolutely vital in keeping me informed and motivated. I've been a really big fan of Delicious lately.

Q: What does your ideal client/project look like?
The ideal client is motivated to learn. As Interactive Producers, we're constantly learning about new stuff and trading within our teams. The agency-client relationship should be no different.

We've got a client right now who digs into the site analytics and proposes great insights to us. I love it. Just as agencies can push their clients with new ideas, clients can push agencies to do better work.

The ideal project is similar; I most enjoy the projects where I get to learn something new. It could be building a custom combobox to stay within required file weight for a banner ad or figuring out why a web application crashed at a critical moment.

Q: How do you educate your clients and set realistic expectations for a project?
Expectations are really still set by the ol' triangle of power - Scope, Timing and Budget.

Education often times comes through slowly building their digital brand. If we're starting with a new website, it's important to go from square one and onto the more advanced stuff. If a client has a ton of experience, we're usually both doing the educating.

Q: What was the best project you have ever worked on?
Beat the Brat had all the familiar symptoms of a memorable project — impossibly tight time line and the idea was completely out of scope, but we had a great team who wanted to deliver a nice site. While not the most technically difficult project, it was one I'm proud to have pulled off.

Q: How many projects are you comfortable producing at one given time?
I think I could take on a million projects comfortably. It's my team who starts to get uncomfortable when I start to forget things, miss deadlines and generally start sucking. That usually occurs around the double-digit mark.

Q: What does your dream production team look like?
When I'm the biggest idiot in the room, I'm extremely happy.

Q: How do you ensure that your client's best interests are met?
It sounds cliché, but everyone at Preston Kelly is a steward for our clients. Whether we're finding the best digital solution or overall brand strategy, we're very committed to putting out clients first. That's to say if an idea doesn't meet our client's best interests, many people on the team will make sure to kill it.

Q: What is your vision of what the next phase of our industry is going to look like?
The tipping point in media will really happen with this recession. Newspapers are reeling, magazines are not far behind. And television is scrambling into the digital age.

Our industry, interactive advertising, is going to really become a force in brand advertising — there's a ton of opportunity. Our intrinsic understanding of metrics, optimization and targeting will benefit as we witness the tectonic shift of content into the digital world.

From the geek side of things, mobile applications and web services offer a ton of potential to marketers everywhere.

Q: Please share a snippet of wisdom that you would like to impart on our readers.
Now I have to follow both Daniel and Jeff. Shit.

First and most importantly, keep up the good work, Craig. I love being an interactive producer and being able to be a part of this conversation is great.

Second, don't forget the worst part about Procrastination — it's not that the job doesn't get done; it's that someone else will do it.

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