TV commercials – love ‘em or hate ‘em, they keep a lot of animators in jobs. That 30 animated seconds that just flashed past on your TV was the result of weeks or months of meetings, brainstorms, blood sweat and tears. A typical pre-production meeting might have 20 people present in the agency boardroom - so it's useful to know what they all do, and which ones are important. Here's how it usually works:
The Client is the advertiser. They have a product they want to sell. The product may be great (or it might be crap), but it doesn't matter how good it is, if nobody knows about it then they can't sell it. The person with the responsibility to make sure their product moves off shelves is called the Marketing Director. The Marketing Director considers herself the "guardian of the brand" and makes sure the "brand values" are upheld during the advertising process. Marketing Directors may delegate responsibility to their Marketing or Brand Managers, who in turn may delegate to fresh-faced young Marketing Executives.
As a general rule when making an animated TV commercial, the Client is always correct (after all they are paying the bill), no matter how absurd their suggestions or requests might be. Bear in mind that the Client is not an animation person, and is more concerned about how much screen time their product gets in the 30 seconds they are paying squillions for, than squash and stretch. Be very nice to them, and don't talk in animation jargon - they won't get it.
The Client appoints an Advertising Agency to work out a strategy to create desire in consumers to buy their product. The Client sets aside a good part of their money for their advertising budget, which can run into big $$$'s and can involve multiple media such as TV, Cinema, Outdoor, Social, Radio, Print and so on. The Client places trust in the Agency to cook up the best way to tackle this. This can be a very creative process, and so the Agency employs a lot of creative people ("Creatives") to come up with these ideas, and they also employ a lot of executive types ("Suits") to take briefs, strategize, plan and generally act as the interface between the Client and the agency Creatives.
Coming back to the commercial - there will be a reason why animation has been chosen by the Client or Agency as the most appropriate medium. It’s often because they want to appeal to children for products such as snack foods, toys or breakfast cereals. It could also be because the product is associated with a cartoon mascot (such as Michelin Man, the Raid mosquito or the Trix Rabbit). It could be it’s because animation is just plain awesome and appealing. Whatever it is, remember that the particular segment of the audience the Agency wants to influence is called the Target Audience, or in agency speak the "demographic". Animators and Animation Directors need to be mindful of the demographic of the commercial they are creating, as this will influence the design and the discussion during pre-production.
The Agency will have a whole gaggle of people on the project. Here's the people you will likely meet on a TV commercial production:
The Creative Director (CD) is the creative whiz who sits in the big office with the view and dreams up ideas to advertise the product. The CD mostly wants to make sure the commercial meets or exceeds aesthetic expectations, while simultaneously meeting the Client's marketing requirements. Basically he's holding the hand of the client through the mysterious creative process. He's a seasoned pro, can talk your language and is usually pretty easy-going to work with.
The Art Director is the person tasked with fleshing out the CD's ideas into artwork, storyboards and sketches. In some agencies, the CD is very hands on and gets actively involved in the creation process. In others the CD might take more of a back seat, giving the Art Director a lot of leeway in developing ideas. Art Directors can sometimes be more pedantic that their boss as they climb the ladder to creative advertising awesomeness - but be nice to them because one day they're gonna be a CD, calling the shots on which animation studio to use.
Keeping a close eye on all proceedings will be the Agency Producer, who's on a mission to get the job done on schedule, on budget, with as little grief as possible. She's the go-to person for everything and won't stand for any nonsense that gets in the way of her mission. She has a phone permanently glued to her ear as she co-ordinates her five other projects, so don't give her any grief of you might never work with that agency again. By the way, if you do want to bring up any problems or gripes, don’t do it in front of the Client, who at all times must have the impression that the job is totally under control.
Agency Creatives usually look cooler and more hip than their suited cousins, the Account Service people, nicknamed Suits, who are, from the top down:
The Account Director - She's the one who has to schmooze the client, keeping them as happy as possible, while making sure the Creatives don't go off on a tangent with the Client's brief. The Account Director has been in advertising for years and knows the drill inside out. Be nice to the Account Director, because she's close with the client and good to have on your side if the road gets rocky during production - which it sometimes does.
The Account Manager - He's an aspiring Account Director working his way up through the account servicing ranks. On some productions, you might only see the Account Director at important meetings, and be dealing with the Account Manager most of the time. They are sometimes jumpy and nervous, as they try hard to keep their client happy. Be nice to them, in fact just be nice to everybody.
The Account Executive - That’s the person who when the Client says "jump", they ask "how high". They are entry-level account servicing general dogsbodies who probably work harder than anybody else in the room. Be nice to them - pity them. I've known eager young Account Exec's to sometimes get creative and pipe up with a bizarre suggestion during creative discussions - curve balls can come from places least expected.
Suits are generally doing whatever it takes to keep the client happy, are often worried and nervous about the slightest hiccup in a production, because it will be their ass that's first kicked with a multi-million dollar account at stake. Because of this the servicing people don't always see eye to eye with their creative counterparts, especially when their creative ideas are perceived as a bit risky or straying from the brief into "I want to win an award" territory.
What's all this "Account" stuff? Well it has nothing to do with accountants or accounting. An "Account" is agency speak for the contractual relationship they have with a Client.
OK are we all clear on that stuff? Had to get that out of the way before I talk more about writing a Treatment in the next post.