Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Dare To Do Daring Work

Q: Introduce us to yourself and your company.
Hey, my name is Bill Allen, I'm the Head of Interactive Development at BooneOakley. BooneOakley is a full service advertising agency in Charlotte, NC (pop. 6). We've done work for a variety of clients in a number of categories. Ruby Tuesday, CarMax, Bloom Grocery Stores, MTV2, HBO, Continental Tires, NASCAR, The Charlotte Bobcats ... the list goes on.

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 started painting at Rhode Island School of Design and that led me to printmaking which led me to photography which led me to computer manipulated photography (Photoshop 2 baby!) and then on to applications like Director. From Director and early CDRom projects I started learning basic web technologies like html, flash...etc. At a certain point I took a freelance gig with an advertising agency and I got hooked on the environment. Been with it ever since.

Q: How do you stay on top of emerging technologies and keep your team informed and motivated?
We have a small shop so we don't really need sophisticated tools for sharing information, no Basecamp etc. Mostly link sharing and sticking your head over into your neighbor's space. "Come look at this".

Q: What does your ideal client/project look like?
Well like the website says "For those who dare to do daring work". Ultimately is it worth it to spend a ton of money on something with mediocre results? I'm sure every group will say this but we want to work for people we respect and who respect us, and trust us. Trust us enough to know that we don't just throw crap against the wall and hope it sticks. We think really, really hard about our crap and when we throw it...we're positive it will stick.

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

Well, being able to identify what problem they are trying to solve really helps, and then you can tell if what you're doing actually addresses that problem. That and ask lots and lots of questions and get answers.

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

The latest one, http://www.booneoakley.com . When the original idea surfaced I knew it was going to be great because A. It terrified me and B. I knew it was completely doable. The only real challenge were the ones usually associated with internal projects: Decisions, Finding Time, Scope Creep. Remarkably without a whole lot of structure it pulled itself off wonderfully. Mostly due to the nature of the project, the creative team could work directly on almost all of the site including the annotations. There wasn't a technical hurdle in place. That was refreshing for all parties involved. Also, the frenzy around the site has been a lot of fun. Some very strong opinions but overwhelmingly, and quite surprisingly, they're very positive.

Q: How many projects are you comfortable producing at one given time?
Given the size of our shop we usually have a couple of smaller projects going at once. If the job is gigantic we tend to farm out to development shops of appropriate size and skillset. We've also set up several ongoing maintenance jobs that have to get done every week, emails and banners with dynamic feeds etc. The nature of campaigns now gets pretty mixed up so digital development is sometimes the focus and sometimes it's just a garnish.

Q: What does your dream production team look like?
Uh, solid LAMP loving DB developer, I think that's a solid foundation to build on. A great back-end developer, who can rock stuff like AS3, Flex and overlap with the DB dev, also might know iPhone and a couple other technologies. Thirdly, some kind of front-end designer / animation rockstar. And last but not least someone to crack the whip and keep them away from the Call of Duty 4. This team would work in tandem with a creative team that would drive things conceptually. Ultimately they would all get along but it can be tough getting the personalities and egos to mesh and respect each other.

Q: How do you ensure that your client's best interests are met?
Think...lots...really hard. We do our research, we try to put the teams in the best possible position to do great work. And if we think we're doing something that isn't going to help them we say so. The smart one's listen, sometimes they have very valid reasons for doing what seem to be crazy things and once they explain that to us it's easier to go do what they want us to do. Talking helps a lot.

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

Wow, I almost don't want to say because I want us to get there first :P. I think W+K's production of Battlegrounds, that 1vs1 basketball tournament a few years back, was a harbinger for me of where things where headed. Seen a few failed attempts (Cavemen) but ultimately I see content production in all our futures. Quality production tools are so readily available. Cheap Canon Rebels are going to have video soon. The booneoakley site showed that you can put tools directly in the hands of creatives and develop something compelling.

Q: Please share a snippet of wisdom that you would like to impart on our readers.
It is rare that I've been unhappy with myself when I've gone well beyond what I thought was necessary to get something just done, but instead stopped and polished a project up, actually thought about if it could be better and took the steps to make it better.


As far as development goes, make a habit of being thorough, name things consistently etc. and always be aware that you're not the last one who will ever have to touch your work. Be thoughtful, comment your code, think of others and how your code "reads".

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