Head of operations at BBDO Singapore explains how the industry has pivoted over the past year and the changes the team has made to ensure a smooth production process
Anne Lee is the head of operations at BBDO Singapore, responsible for managing the creative and production teams. Anne is no stranger to the BBDO network, having returned following a five year stint at VMLY&R, where she was content producer handling film production, print production and digital and on-ground activations. Prior to VMLY&R, Anne was at BBDO Singapore for 13 years, managing the traffic, production and activation teams. During her tenure at both BBDO and VMLY&R, she has worked on local and international clients including Visa, Singtel, M1, Circle Line, TAFEP, Caltex, Mercedes, Land Rover and P&G.
We spoke to Anne about all things production in Singapore and the lasting impact of the pandemic.
LBB> What lasting impact has the experience of the pandemic had on how you and your agency think about and approach production?
Anne> It’s amazing that no matter pandemic or not, we all find ways to make it work! One sad thing though is that there is no insurance company that dares to take on the Covid-19 cover.
LBB> Aside from Covid-19, what have been the most disruptive forces to hit agency production in the past few years?
Anne> Budget changes.
LBB> A good producer should be able to produce for any medium, from film to events to digital. Do you agree or disagree with this statement? Why/why not?
Anne> I agree 100%, nothing is impossible!
LBB> And leading on from that, when it comes to building up your team at the agency, what’s your view on the balance of specialists vs generalists?
Anne> Both are equally as important, a person who has the ‘never say die’ attitude and will do anything to help in a job is as important as a person highly skilled in a specific, specialised and restricted field.
LBB> What’s your own pathway to production? When you started out, what sort of work were you producing and what lessons have stayed with you in that time?
Anne> My job scope was handling the traffic & print production department, when the opportunity for me to handle content production and operations came along I jumped at it and never looked back. I learnt that there is something new to learn every day, no matter how long someone has been in the industry.
LBB> If you compare your role to the role of the heads of TV/heads of production when you first joined the industry, what do you think are the most striking or interesting changes (and what surprising things have stayed the same?)
Anne> Just one year ago, we never thought that we could produce a fantastic and awesome video remotely, we had a shoot last year during the pandemic and nobody could fly, where the video campaign production was produced in three countries: Singapore, Philippines and Australia, our clients were in Hong Kong and agency was in Singapore! How cool is that?
LBB>There are so many models for the way production is organised in the advertising industry - what set-ups have you found to be the most successful and why?
Anne> I used to think that it’s best for production houses, clients and agencies to be on location, but I guess we have all adapted well in this covid climate and still produced awesome productions.
LBB> When working with a new partner or collaborator, how do you go about establishing trust?
Anne> By treating them as partners, being honest, being understanding. I think trust = honesty on both sides.
LBB> How important is it to you there is diversity across all partners on a production? Do you have any measures to promote diversity when it comes to production?
Anne> All partners must share the same commitment, be aligned on the same goal, to have the same mind-set as well as values and work together to produce the best video ever.
LBB> Speaking of casting, what is your approach to this side of a production? How do you work with directors to ensure a fair and fruitful process?
Anne> Casting depends a lot on the brief, diversity is the best and everyone must work together happily, productively and with the same one goal for a great video.
LBB> Sustainable production is also, understandably, a big talking point and will continue to be so moving forward. How are you navigating this as an agency?
Anne> All partners must be responsible.
LBB> Has the pandemic accelerated this conversation at all, in your opinion?
Anne> Definitely, I have worked with a maximum of 30 crew members , and at the last minute had only 10 crew members as the Covid situation worsened and I’ve had to postpone a shoot too.
LBB> What conversations are you having with clients about issues such as diversity and sustainability? Is it something that clients are invested in or more that agencies need to take the lead on?
Anne> I think the agency and the production house have to take the lead and advise the client.
LBB> What are your thoughts on the involvement of procurement in production?
Anne> Procurement is always a good thing. Everything being transparent for all parties is the best!
LBB> When it comes to educating producers how does your agency like to approach this? (I know we’re always hearing about how much easier it is to educate or train oneself on tech etc, but what areas do you think producers can benefit from more directed or structured training?)
Anne> No production is ever the same, hence, producers must always learn to adapt first of all, to think on your feet and make decisive decisions.
LBB> Should production have a seat in the c-suite - and why?
Anne> Not necessarily, everyone has to be responsible.
LBB> How have you approached integrating data with production workflows and processes? And, generally, how has data and the fact that we have constant live feedback on content performance changed production?
Anne> Clients and the agency must align 100% before a production house is briefed.
LBB> Clients’ thirst for content seems to be unquenchable - and they need content that’s fast and responsive! What’s the key to creating LOTS of stuff at SPEED - without sacrificing production values? Is it even possible?
Anne> Nothing is impossible, yes speed is the key to every client’s vocabulary, so having the right partners – production house, crew, talents and even clients to work with is important.
LBB> What’s the most exciting thing about working in production right now?
Anne> The end of a great shoot – when the director shouts “IT’S A WRAP!!!”
LBB> And what advice would you give to an aspiring agency producer?
Anne> You must love your job.