Film producers are built up to be idolised as superstars for their imperative work in their industry. Yet for some reason, something’s been lost in the transition from analogue to digital, and an entire demographic of integral individuals are going without the recognition they deserve for their hard work. It is time to think critically about the respect we pay to the increasingly pivotal role of interactive producers: those individuals that steer a digital project from start to finish. Why do they so frequently go underappreciated and uncredited for their digital endeavours?
It makes sense for movie producers to be celebrated. Since the Gutenberg press, no medium has had a bigger impact on the format of storytelling than film. What’s more, as a central cultural filter for contemporary society, our perspectives and expectations of storytelling are likely to borrow from the expectations we have of what makes a great movie, regardless of the medium of the tale in question. This makes sense, expectation by default is based on experience.
However interactive producers, more so than their movie-making counterparts, are at the whim of technological innovation – the exact opposite of the tried and tested experience. The last few decades have underlined that digital technology is now in a constant state of transition, in such a way that ‘transition’ itself has become a sustained logic of contemporary life. It is the interactive producer’s duty to master the art of keeping pace. With the boundaries of what can be achieved constantly changing, best practices are never quite established before technology moves on once again. If persistent progression in digital media is the framework for the foreseeable future, then the interactive producer will only become more integral to our everyday experiences.
Working with formats and mediums that evolve quickly has the potential to create significant difficulties in setting comparative benchmarks for assessing quality. In spite of this, many of the advertising awards and festivals are managing to critically assess the creative output of digital media, and have been regularly celebrating the innovation to be found within for some time. The Cannes Lions Festival for example, added its ‘Cyber’ category in 1998, and D&AD have been celebrating digital creativity since 1997.
Yet the winner’s credits consistently and worryingly lack a formal recognition of the individual that has nurtured the production and its team throughout. This makes little sense. If we were to show the same neglect towards our producers at MediaMonks, it would have a devastating impact on the quality of work we deliver to our agency-partners. The reason for this is simple: a first-rate interactive producer can polish a project to perfection, crafting a concept into a class of its own. In contrast, a poor interactive producer can just as easily force a monumental idea into the fold of mediocrity. As such, we would never entrust our digital endeavours to anyone that isn’t up to the task. And the fact that all of this holds true for the film producer demonstrates that, if – like film – digital work gets the recognition it deserves, the interactive producer should receive his or her fair share.
This is by no means an attack on film or the film producer. After all, MediaMonks has its own in-house film production team who continually create amazing work that we are extremely proud of. What’s more, as a specialised team that frequently works on both traditional and interactive campaigns, integral individuals at MediaMonks Films often go uncredited for their hard work, too.
Therefore, rather than deprecate the respect we hold for film, this article is a call to elevate our appreciation of the interactive producer. To openly acknowledge the other individual who spends so much of his or her time ensuring projects and teams stay on track, on budget and on time. All the while managing to maintain a firm grip on the creative vision.
Starting and sustaining a dialogue on a subject such as this can often be the first steps towards change. However, we can also take other forms of action to correct the balance. Highlighting the best interactive projects regularly online, alongside a precis of the producer’s perspectives, could help draw attention to their contribution. Or alternatively, an entirely new awards event specifically for interactive producers could start to bridge the gap.
Ultimately though, I’d like to see the interactive producer included alongside his colleagues in the winners credits for a campaign, regardless of the awards competition. Once this happens, we’ll have been successful in making his or her name as synonymous with the success of a project as his counterpart in film.
Coen Doolaard is head of mobile at digital production agency MediaMonks.