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"From the Flightdeck"

As the mood strikes, I often feel like expressing some random ideas to the team. Usually it's something that has been rattling around in my head looking for an excuse to get out. These notes usually happen when I'm stuck on a long flight and stem from too much caffeine and boredom.


A couple examples:

"The Deflavorizing Machine"

I have always been a proponent of quality over quantity. Last week I wrote about the effects of compression on music/audio quality. I have several Beatles albums on my iphone that were ripped uncompressed from the CD. As such they are enormous files but they sound amazing on my good headphones. I think it’s totally worth it.  Try it sometime.  


The same guy who wrote the article on compression also wrote an article about the state of modern recording albums. 


“A few engineers talked about superstar vocalists who record literally hundreds of takes of a single song, then leave it to the editors to assemble from these a single "perfect" performance, a fraction of a second at a time.”


Wow. What does that sound like? We’ve all sat in a VO recording sessions like this. He goes on to say that using these modern techniques, the work of James Brown, the Beatles of Zeppelin would have been worse not better. It would have been technically perfect but soulless. (Yes I guess I am comparing what we do to Zeppelin so sue me.)


This reminds me of the Photoshop abuse in modern fashion photography. It’s so bad sometimes it can trigger an uncanny valley reflex. Sometimes it’s comical or worse, disturbing.  The end effect is the same; by using tools to “perfect” a piece of work so much that it loses part of its humanity. It is a computer representation of something human. 


Humanity helps connect people to our characters and their stories. Let’s not let the fact that we can perfect a performance dictate if we should. 



This morning I was reminded about something that happened a couple weeks ago. I got in a heated exchange with Tom over beers. I know, big surprise. It happens and I always enjoy it. We were discussing the difference between “doers” and “thinkers.” I was adamant, almost angrily, that we (producers) weren’t only doers. That felt like a huge insult. To me that's what we’ve been fighting against. The idea and misunderstanding that producers are mere button pushers. Factory drones who only write POs and order lunch for the creatives. In truth many producers fall into that mindset either from apathy, poor leadership or maybe no one ever really explained what we really “do.”


If you are reading this, you know me well enough to know how well I reacted to that implication. Not well at all. 


But I was wrong. I failed to recognize Tom’s real insight. He gets it. He doesn’t want “doer” producers any more than I do. He knows the value of production leadership and experience. His point was Production is one of the only departments that actually “did” anything. Who else in the agency actually “makes” anything? Media? Planning? The Creative department generates ideas (sometimes brilliant ones.) But without us, they will never be more than words on a page. “Matt, listen to me. It’s in your job title, ‘Producer.’ You produce things.”


Oh…well, when you put it that way. 


In truth, that’s one of the best things about our job. We make stuff. We take an idea and make it into something real. See that spot/site/app? You made that. People will see your work, for better or worse and they may or may not like it. But you made it. Not them. And make no mistake, not everyone can do what you do. So you have my blessing to be a Doer.


Now go do something brilliant. 

"Remix Redux"

I was just watching one of a dozen interviews with Jon Favreau about his new movie opening this month,  HYPERLINK "" Cowboys and Aliens. While explaining the film’s plot (it’s about cowboys and aliens), he goes on to say, “people want to see something they’ve never seen before.” Uh, what? You’re telling me that a movie named after two of the oldest film and literary genres is something “never seen before.” If you say so Jon.  


Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big Favreau fan and this is one of my most-anticipated movies of the summer. I just happen to think that was an was an odd statement.  After thinking about it for a few days it started to make more and more sense. I remembered the web series  HYPERLINK "" Everything is a Remix. In it, Kirby Ferguson uses music, films, even the computer industry to prove that most of the best ideas aren’t original. They are usually derivatives of another idea, “remixed.”  


Looked at through this lens, Favreau is right and Cowboys and Aliens is a completely new idea. Few have crossed genres like that before. Although Shaun of the Dead did a good job of remixing the zombie movie with a British comedy. But I digress…


So how does this apply to us?  The role of Creative Technologist falls on us. We are familiar with the capabilities of current and emerging technologies. What happens if we mix and match new and old- i.e. Google+ and outdoor?  Or new and newer? (Anyone have an idea on what’s coming  after social?) and don’t say mobile.


My point is, we don’t have to wait for a creative team to ask us if something is possible before we go to work. We can be/should be seeking new avenues for them to explore before they ask. We’ve always been expected to be aware of new and upcoming, directors, developers, platforms, etc… The next logical step is to think about how to bring those pieces together in ways no one has thought to before. That’s where we’ll find something no one has seen before.


A couple of examples of remixed advertising:


The Wilderness Downtown:


















"Of Fear and Loathing"

Why were you last afraid at work? When was the last time you did something that made you feel fear? I doubt it was while you were doing something you’ve done a thousand times before. Fear happens when we try to do new things. So I’m suggesting a new approach to fear. Instead of avoiding it like we’ve been taught our whole lives I suggest we embrace it. Fear can be an amazing indicator we are growing as individuals and as a group. It’s not something to be avoided but to be sought out. Have you heard the phrase, “pain is weakness leaving the body?” It should be the same with fear. Fear is our inexperience leaving us. It’s a good thing if unpleasant at the time.


I picked that up early in my career and have since sought it out.  I noticed that when I was most afraid, was when I was doing to the best work or stretching my ability. Since then, I have begun to seek out the fear or at least not avoid it. I think it’s an indicator you are doing something right. 


The same can be said for a company, brand or organization. Take Production for example. We are in an amazing situation where we can literally write our own future. We can redefine the roles we play in the agency.  If we were trying to avoid fear, we would wait for someone to define those roles for us. That’s the safe route. Follow the leader. Who does the leader follow? We have the opportunity to redefine what “production” means in our agency (and why not a larger sphere?) 


That is not to suggest we take wild risks on the client’s behalf. Our job is to make the work better not to jeopardize its completion for our own benefit. It must get done- on time and budget. That is a given with us.  In five years, no one will remember if it was late or over budget. But they will remember if it’s brilliant… or crap. 


Here’s one way to look at it. If you get handed an absolutely brilliant script/comp/whatever, and you have plenty of time and you can afford the best partners- do you really deserve the inscription on that piece of lucite? 

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