When I first uprooted from Richmond for my new home in Charlotte, I got a ton of questions. Here is a transcript of a conversation I had about a trillion times in the weeks leading up and following my big move to the Queen City.
Them: Why Charlotte?
Me: To be closer to my precious baby nephew and (less importantly) big sister.
Them: Do you know anyone in Charlotte?
Me: Not a soul.
Them: Where are you going to live?
Me: I found a roommate on Craigslist.
Them: Where are you working? My-what?
Me: Untold. No capital J. No space. A brilliant digital shop that does amazing things for the likes of Regal Boats and NAPA.
Them: And what exactly will you be doing?
Me: I am joining Untold as a Digital Producer.
Them: A what?
Me: A producer. Just like Timbaland.
It was mostly a joke. Partly because they were still afraid for my life after finding out that I signed up for a Craigslist roommate and I needed to lighten the mood. Partly because explaining all the roles and responsibilities would take ages. But mostly because I didn’t fully know what I was getting myself into.
The term Project Manager, Interactive Producer and Digital Producer seem to be popping up all over the digital (and now even traditional) advertising world.
So what does the ambiguous title mean?
Turns out, it means a lot.
Producers run projects from start to finish working with clients, internal teams and vendors. It is a diverse and engaging job that will always keep you on your toes and sometimes make you pull out your hair. It’s a fulfilling, exciting, and stressful role for Type-A personalities who work well in teams and strive constantly to improve process and product.
So what’s the day-to-day? Producers keep an eye on budget, timelines and big-picture strategy. Producers are risk managers who work across disciplines to make sure the final product, whether it be an iPad game or a new website, meets client expectations. Unlike an Account Manager or Executive at a traditional agency (see: Pete Campbell on Mad Men), producers can handle all aspects of a project from client communication to keeping the team on task and under budget. The difference depends on the project. Digital projects — because of the ever changing nature and many-faceted options — are typically more complex. As Joe Burton, EVP, Chief Operating Officer for McCann Worldgroup’s San Francisco operations put it: “Digital projects typically do not provide the same level of predictability as found in traditional productions. To a large extent, digital lacks the repetitive development that can exist in a print or TV production where known inputs can generally provide an expected output at a consistent and predictable price. Interactive producers are handling significantly higher volumes of assets that require cross-disciplinary collaboration ranging from the highly standardized to the highly complex.”
So, yes, producers are sometimes cat wranglers, sometimes babysitters and sometimes decision makers. A producer is a catch-all who knows a little bit about a lot of topics and clearly communicates from one team to another. Producers set deadlines and expectations. They are diplomats with a keen social IQ who can figure out how to motivate a diverse team of designers, copywriters and developers.
So, yeah. I am a producer who leads a team of artists to work collaboratively to the beat of a single drummer and create an amazing product. A lot like Timbaland, actually.