In the past week, here on Fstoppers, we've been talking a lot about blogs for your business. But recently Joey L sent us over one that caught our eye called The Client Blog. It has been started by Andy Baker, Group Creative Director for the National Geographic channels. Andy has been writing, editing, producing and Creative Directing promos and print ads for the last 19 years. Andy decided to start the blog as more of a personal creative project and it's starting to evolve into something much more.
Soon after putting the blog together, Andy realized "it would be a fun site to create as well as to help give important takeaways about that client/vendor relationship that can be so confusing or frustrating sometimes. I really wanted the blog to be sort of a positive voice about how collaboration between the 'sides' can be really productive, effective, and fun. I just hadn't seen that dynamic really discussed anywhere, so I just started writing." The Client blog discusses all aspects of the collaborative process. From the drawing board to the post production and everything in between.
His blog comes from a client prospective that is mostly on set, but the transfer over to the photography industry is very similar in the fact, as Andy states, "ultimately, the client/creative relationship learnings & challenges I discuss are more or less the same whether it's shooting a commercial or a print ad, so hopefully the takeaways are more universal than medium-specific." But he explains, they "do print and outdoor work for our biggest priorities as well. I have a post planned to talk about the Killing Lincoln print and billboard campaigns from earlier this year, and some other posts in the next few months that focus more on photography as well. I think that telling the story of how our campaigns go from pencil sketches to full blown Times Square billboards would be interesting to readers."
Andy's first post was on the Boy Scouts with Joey L. The campaign was TV-only but the cohesiveness and collaboration of the client-creative relationship is still apparent in the few images shared from Joey. "I'm starting one on Killing Lincoln," Andy says, "which was one of my favorite campaigns ever – and that entire campaign started with just a still image idea I had in my head."
Andy hasn't always been a client. During the beginning of his career with National Geographic he held many hats, but "only in the last 8-9 years as the Channels have grown (we have 2 channels) have we needed to bring in outside help." Andy explains. "That also shaped HOW I am a client, because I know what was frustrating when someone was directing me. Knowing what works and what doesn't really informs how I work with all creative partners whether they are on my internal staff or external agencies. I have an internal creative team that produces thousands of pieces of creative materials every year, and they have the same philosophy as I do about collaboration with agencies. Of course, we also tend to hire agencies that understand how we work and will listen to us as much as we listen to them. It takes both sides understanding the other to make great work, and I think sitting on both sides of that table has been very beneficial to the process."
While these pertain mostly to commercial settings, Andy has sections in the blog Andy as Tips for Creatives that include:
1. Assume they have a creative background or an understanding of how production works until proven otherwise.2. Know that they have a lot of pressure on them from their own internal politics.3. Clients don’t always need formal presentations, check-ins along the way can save both sides time and resources.4. Don’t sugar coat. If there’s a problem on-set or in production, be honest and let the client help solve it. (when applicable)5. Leave your ego at the door.
And tips for the clients stating:
1. Don’t look over everyone’s shoulders. It makes people uneasy.
2. Smile from time to time. It’s lets people know you’re happy with what they’re doing.
3. Stay off your cell phone. If you do have to take/make a call, walk away.
4. Help out and offer to move gear. Especially when you know the production team has pulled strings to pull off the budget with a smaller crew.
5. Say ‘thank you’ more often, and talk to the crew.
On the set of Brain Games
One show Andy features on the blog is "Brain Games" which is a hosted show, which can sometimes provide challenges that filming a documentary wouldn't. It was not just using someone who was the perfect personality fit, but trying to bring to life the entire concept that it was designed around. According to Andy, one thing he noticed when he became more of the client was timeliness from both sides. He explained "It's so easy to get back to your creative vendor/partner/agency with prompt feedback." He "would sit and wait for days or weeks not getting any notes. So we try very hard to get approvals or notes to our partners quickly. On the other side, it can be really frustrating when working with creative agencies that view you as a traditional 'client' and they want to sit you in video village on set and keep you away from the director or photographer." Andy also explains within each blog he posts what the specific challenges were. Be it either individual challenges with the project or understanding things within the creative process.
The most important aspect people should take away from reading this blog is that "We may be clients in the sense that we're paying for the production," as Andy Says, but "we like to view ourselves as Creatives with valuable insights and ideas. I like the term "Client-collaborator" because that's what we are, really. I think the industry has gotten much more collaborative over the years, and hopefully The Client Blog helps shed light on both sides of that relationship."