Behind every great project is a great producer

Jack Blog

October 11th, 2010 By Jack Morton

Some places don’t call them producers, and in small agencies someone else might double up on the role. But someone will always be in charge of the making. Otherwise things don’t get made. Over the past years I’ve noticed what the best producers do, and in recognition of their awesomeness here are my Seven Habits of Highly Effective Producers.

Appear to say yes a lot. It’s not responsible, healthy or right to always say yes, but there’s an art to making it seem like you never say no. Often your job is to save people from themselves, to take the idea they’ve massively (over) invested in and shape it into something better, decent and doable. To do that you have to steer and manipulate their idea without letting them notice what you’re up to. This might sound manipulative but they’ll thank you for it later (if they notice).

Be a smart listener. When someone’s explaining an idea to you, you need to be able to translate that and distil it into something that resembles a common ground. Deconstruct the central idea so you can rebuild it in a more robust form. You need to be able to hear past the words they’re using. This is especially true when you’re dealing with more traditional colleagues or clients who may be lacking precise vocabulary and references.

Appear trustworthy. The more I work with people from traditional advertising, the more I realise their ideas are their livelihood. Without a book full of well-executed ideas, their career is finished. So ideas are like a creative’s children. And creatives are like the worst kind of anally retentive, paranoid and fearful parents. But over time, when they see their kids develop healthily and well-adjusted when you’re babysitting, they’ll start to look forward to you coming round to pick up the nippers.

Understand the whole picture. Someone needs to know how everything fits together. That’s the producer in a nutshell.

Be a little pushy. You need to be able to push yourself, internally and externally. Internally, make sure you’re in the loop on everything, and externally you can’t mind asking complete strangers to do crazy things.

Be encyclopedic in your references, so you know if something has been done lots before in the last two years and can suggest alternatives.

Be ingenious, tenacious, spontaneous and fearless. You need to be quick, smart and never give up, and always think of a Plan B and Plan C. But you also need the confidence and balls to see through a project with no Plan B, but make everyone believe there is one.

You’re like a super-impressive blend of creative, sleuth, psychologist, project manager and that guy in Pulp Fiction who sorts out the brain-splattered mess in the car. Producers everywhere, I salute you.