Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Channel Agnostic

Q: Introduce us to yourself and your company.
Andrew Walter, VP of Content Delivery at EVB.

EVB is a channel agnostic agency based in San Francisco – we come up with good ideas that can manifest in any media. For example, in the past 6 months we’ve launched rich flash sites (Toyota 2010 Prius with Saatchi and Saatchi LA), a video content management delivery and distribution system (adidas.tv), Print campaigns (Smuin) and TV (golf channel). And of course we’re best known for our viral work such as Make Me Super for Kodak, Freak Your Mind for A&E Networks and Criss Angel and Elf Yourself with Toy and Office Max.

The best way to get to know what we do is to check out our work: http://www.evb.com/work

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?

Well, I’m not really interested in digital production…I’m interested in mass media. I started as a sound designer, sound engineer and media theorist and spent a chunk of my 20’s working in radio. Digital was a new medium that was just forming, so I attended the Interactive Telecommunications Program at NYU to learn about and experiment with it. With the focus we had on group work I quickly learned that there were better designers, writers and programmers, but I was pretty good at forging through strong egos and individual’s needs to drive a project to a unified vision.

That led me to run engagements for a management-consulting firm and then into advertising with Ogilvy in New York.

Basically, I like working with really smart people to solve broad problems that encompass aspects of business, design, technology and user needs. With this work I get to do that every day. And I get to make cool stuff.

Q: How do you stay on top of emerging technologies and keep your team informed and motivated?

They help me stay informed and motivated – that’s one of the awesome things about smart, passionate people. Over the past 12 or so years that I’ve been involved with digital media I’ve built up a great network of people who are always sharing work – be it industrial design, advertising, technology or art.

Q: What does your ideal client/project look like?

Honestly, As long as everyone is collaborative and we can be clear on all fronts (individuals, client company and agency) about our goals then the project should be great. The key is making sure we all know what our definition of success is.

Rather, what kills a project or project experience is when there are hidden agendas. For example, I had one project where the team was making no progress to get the client to really see the opportunity they had. We would come up with great stuff, and we could not get it approved nor could we get clear feedback as to where it wasn’t working. I finally spoke to the client directly and found out they got a bonus if they launched a certain number of programs within a given time frame – so our project needed to launch without exception by a certain date. Once we understood that the rest was easy.

Q: How do you educate your clients and set realistic expectations for a project?

Constant and very clear communication all the way through is key. I find most people are very understanding as long as they have the opportunity to help make decisions and choices – but they aren’t when backed into a corner. You also have to know who you are talking to, the experience they have and the level of information they need - and then tailor your communication to them.

Templates help as well.

Q: What was the best project you have ever worked on?

Probably working with a financial services company to use web technologies to re-define their client management processes. It allowed them to reduce their staff costs/client by about a third. That was a meaty one.

Q: How many projects are you comfortable producing at one given time?

Totally depends on scale, but I have personally had about 15 going at once. But that wasn’t really comfortable.

Q: What does your dream production team look like?

The people, skills and size change on need, but it’s made up of smart people who want to do great work. And they have no problem telling me why I’m wrong…though they also know they have to listen to me ;)

Q: How do you ensure that your client's best interests are met?
We’re in client service – our client’s best interest has to permeate everything we do. We need to be constantly talking, evaluating and reviewing to make sure that what we’re doing is servicing their goals – and that those goals were captured correctly at the outset.

Q: What is your vision of what the next phase of our industry is going to look like?

One word: Ecosystems.

Q: Please share a snippet of wisdom that you would like to impart on our readers.
The most important thing you can do is learn how to learn…and then keep that as a practice. After that - retain humility so you can recognize when you might actually be wrong.

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