by Anne Ganguzza and Mark Sevi
Question: With all the video production talent here in Orange County why would an Orange County ad agency go to Los Angeles for their production needs?
Answer: We don’t know. Let’s ask them.
That simple and brilliant premise drove the Media Alliance evening event at the glorious Fairmont Hotel in Newport Beach on August 17, 2011.
The Media Alliance of Orange County (MAOC), in cooperation with the Orange County branch of the Advertising Federation, gathered companies who hire video producers for their ad campaigns, and video producers who normally don’t get a chance to compete in that production arena because the ad agencies go to L.A. for their needs. The convergence created, by design, a conversation that would help illuminate the process of why that doesn’t happen and what could be done to change that paradigm.
The evening began right, with one of the more amazing free finger-food spreads seen in recent memory. Rei Strand, media director of the Fairmont, is to be congratulated for hosting the event for the Fairmont. Her and her impeccable staff made the evening really work. The food and setting was, in a word, spectacular, and set the tone for a fantastic open and honest dialogue about the whys and why-nots of ad agencies hiring locally rather than continuing to take their business to agencies not situated in Orange County - more specifically Los Angeles, the undisputed champ of film production in the world.
Current MAOC president Gregory DePetro (CVFStudios.com), himself a local and highly-successful video producer, moderated a panel of notable O.C. video producers and ad people. The panel included:
Panelists from Video Production/Post-Production side:
Jonathan Fackler, The Narnia Group
Brad Hagen, Video Resources
Robb Hart, An Ideal World
Tim Keenan, Creative Media Recording
Panelists from Ad Agency side:
Joe Burke from Denizen USA
Jonathan Gasteiger from OC Media Works
Lisa Marie Smith from Sprint
The panelists were asked to give brief introductions, and then DePetro led the discussion with a few prepared questions, followed by questions from the audience.
“Would the ad agencies represented here tonight take unsolicited demos?” someone asked.
All panel members agreed that they would be more than happy to take unsolicited demos, but they challenged the audience to "wow" them; show them something different; a unique perspective as to why they’d want to hire someone new (and from the O.C.) when they’ve been successfully using other video production companies elsewhere.
In response to a question of why ad agencies tend to look outside of Orange County for services and talent: “Most (of us) are simply not aware of what is available in Orange County, as well as the more ‘global’ aspect of the industry where they can find resources and talent quickly online.”
It was agreed that all panelists routinely utilize online resources in their day-to-day tasks in doing their job quicker and more efficiently with their existing clients, as well as looking for new ideas.
Tim Keenan, a panelist from the production side, mentioned as part of the response that he worked all around the world, not just with O.C. production people, to emphasize that the O.C. is only a location, not a measure of quality or skill.
Discussion and questions regarding savings cost by staying local and working within Orange County were presented. In response it was agreed by panelists that they would rather stay local if they could get the same quality services and talent within Orange County.
Panelist Joe Burke mentioned that he moved from Santa Monica to Orange County for better "living" - and loves it here - but also stated that there was an impression that O.C. people close their doors at 5:00 pm. This is a perception problem and one that needs to addressed industry-wide.
Also mentioned that was still lacking in O.C. are major stages where a huge set could be built. Implicit in that comment was that L.A. has a myriad of stages large and small. This, again, is an O.C. industry-wide problem and perhaps not one that will be resolved any time soon.
One of the panelists toward the end of the evening mentioned that people in L.A. “burn the blue flame” for this business. He said that they do it to obsession and do whatever it takes, and will do a demo to get work.
When the floor was opened to comments, Rick Sherman (Sherman Sound Suite) took slight exception to that statement and spoke passionately to invalidate it. “I am willing to do anything it takes, and I'm willing to work 24/7 at my job, just like the L.A. people you mentioned, but I am constantly looking for more opportunities to place my company in a position to successfully give the client what they want,” he said. “And I know, from working with a lot of the industry pros present in the audience tonight, that media professionals here in Orange County feel that way too.” Many heads from the attendees nodded in agreement, as well as those of the panelists, who knew of and shared Sherman’s excellent and uncompromising work ethic.
Anne Ganguzza (V.O. Peeps/annespeak.com) mentioned that becoming aware of the jobs the ad agencies do on a daily basis increased her level of understanding as to how to compete in the market more effectively. All seemed to be in agreement with this.
By evening’s end, in the balmy Newport Beach night, there was more than a glimmering of hope that there were many more opportunities in Orange County than were once thought of, and that a dialogue had begun that would help foster those opportunities. There was agreement that there really isn’t anything separating the sides, or reasons why an ad agency, at certain levels, would seek to go somewhere else, as opposed to staying local, to get video production and post-production services, voice talent or actors. "Los Angeles may have more but they don’t necessarily have better", was the consensus.
The MAOC has committed to having similar events in the future. I’m sure the participants would agree - and they can’t wait.