The Marketers Guide To Creative Production with Jillian Gibbs

Our guest this week is Jillian Gibbs, founder and CEO of Advertising Production Resources. Jillian discusses the changing landscape of video production and shares insights from her new book, “The Marketer’s Guide to Creative Production.” Addressing how brands can improve their content creation processes and implement more sustainable techniques, we also discuss the first Production Ready Masterclass, which provides marketers with practical, hands-on learning experiences.

Episode Transcript

Adrian Tennant: Coming up in this episode of IN CLEAR FOCUS: 

Jillian Gibbs: The book teaches the foundational principles of shooting film, video, and photography. So it dissects the production process into phases for the marketer. We want to empower marketers to really be effective contributors to the creative production process when working with their agencies.

Adrian Tennant: You’re listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS, fresh perspectives on marketing and advertising produced weekly by Bigeye, a strategy-led, full-service creative agency, growing brands for clients globally. Hello, I’m your host, Adrian Tennant, Chief Strategy Officer. Thank you for joining us. Over the past few years, the US television landscape has experienced a dramatic shift marked by the decline of traditional broadcast and cable TV, known as linear TV, and the rise of digital streaming platforms. Linear TV’s viewership dropped below 50% for the first time in July 2023, due in part to the appeal of platforms like Netflix, Disney+, YouTube, and Amazon Prime Video. This shift has challenged traditional TV advertising, leading to a reallocation of marketing budgets to digital channels. However, the production of video content for brands has not slowed. Instead, there’s been a surge in production for platforms, such as connected TV, as well as the integration of video content into brands’ owned channels, including their websites and social media. In this new environment, brands need to reconsider their production processes to deliver more video content that’s high quality, timely, and cost effective. Our guest today is an expert in guiding brand marketers through this new production landscape. Jillian Gibbs is the founder and CEO of Advertising Production Resources, the world’s leading production consultancy specializing in optimizing content creation ecosystems for marketers. Before founding APR, Jillian worked at Unilever and Molson Coors, where she developed her expertise in advertising production and cultivated a passion for optimizing the creative production process. Now, with over three decades of experience in marketing production consulting, Jillian advocates for sustainable production and women in leadership. Jillian is also the author of “The Marketer’s Guide To Creative Production,” which aims to bridge the training gap in creative production for marketers. To discuss her work with APR and her new book, I’m delighted that Jillian is joining us today from Carbondale, Colorado. Jillian, welcome to IN CLEAR FOCUS!

Jillian Gibbs: Thank you, Adrian. Thanks for having me here today. I’m excited to be here. 

Adrian Tennant: Could you set the scene by explaining what your company, Advertising Production Resources, does and the types of problems you solve for your clients?

Jillian Gibbs: Sure. You know, the marketing world has gotten more complex and brands today are producing more and more creative content and more assets to reach the consumers. So in order to produce more, they either have to spend more, which is really not an option today. They either have to produce more for the same or less budget. So for APR, as subject matter experts in all areas of production, like video and photography and digital and experiential and so on, we help mitigate risk, reduce costs, streamline processes, and, importantly, provide some data and some analytics on all agency fees and production spent. So we have a bird’s eye view, which is really a unique position that we sit in, in the industry. Because as you know, most of the scopes are given in silos to agencies and production companies. So APR can see when given access, all of a brand’s production activity. So from that seat, we orchestrate change and innovation, giving brands confidence into their decisions and visibility into what and how they’re spending and with whom.

Adrian Tennant: Got it. Well, before founding APR in 2000, you’d worked in-house at Unilever and Cause. Jillian, how did those experiences shape your work at APR?

Jillian Gibbs: At Unilever, I was an employee in New York on Park Avenue. Great office with a great window view. And at Coors, I was a contractor in Golden, Colorado. Both companies had multiple brands using multiple agencies, producing many, many assets. And I had a bird’s eye view of all the production activity across television, radio, and print production back in the day. So I created APR to sit in that unique position to help make sense of the silos and create sound synergies, like preferred partner deals and repurposing assets and creating overall value for the brands. Like, for example, a smaller brand could leverage the budget of a bigger brand, just with a little coordination. That was the genesis of production consulting, which is a term I coined back in 1997, and I ultimately founded APR with that premise.

Adrian Tennant: What does an engagement with APR typically look like from a client’s perspective?

Jillian Gibbs: APR’s clients are marketers or their marketing organizations. So we have strong relationships across their centers of excellence, their marketing procurement teams marketing operations, creative operations, and their in-house studios. And we are TRACE certified, which is a certification that ensures we only work with clients and get paid by clients. We don’t get paid by agencies or production companies for any referrals or introductions. I’m not sure anyone else in the ad industry has that TRACE certification, and many companies do get paid, especially procurement companies, for referrals or preferred partnerships, and we don’t do that. 

Adrian Tennant: Jillian, what are some of the ways that you’ve seen the role of production change over the past few years?

Jillian Gibbs: Gosh, the industry is – it’s evolving so quickly. And at this pace of change, things have to change, right, in order to keep up. And it’s created a lot of operational challenges, particularly as it relates to creative production and content creation. So we’ve seen a global rise in streaming content, social video development and a shift away from the traditional TV ads. We’ve actually seen a 24 percent decline in U. S. media spend since 2020. Conversely, digital media spend is projected to reach 63% of total video-driven media in 2024, which is up 29 percent from 2020. So that means that for the first time ever, the social video content is more than 50 percent of a brand’s budget. Today, marketers are responsible for more content, they have more complex scopes to coordinate, and a seemingly perpetual explosion of content creators, like influencers, celebrities, real people, all the things that are creating content and managing that is very, very challenging. Budgets are even tighter, right? We’re expecting for budgets to be reduced or maintained at the same level, but for brands to have to produce more with their creative agencies. So planning is key. In the past, production used to be thought of at the end of the process, but now production has to be brought up earlier into planning, and a production strategy should be part of a brand strategy in order to optimize their spend and their investment, and what they’re producing. Brands of today are producing in a more thoughtful way, in a more coordinated way, so that they can get more value out of their shoots, out of their production partners and the tools that they’re using.

Adrian Tennant How has APR’s approach evolved to meet these industry challenges?

Jillian Gibbs: Well, there’s three things that I can say that I should highlight. First is data. That’s one area where we’ve leaned in and invested to meet these needs. There’s such a lack of visibility to data, because everything is siloed in the industry in terms of how creative and production is managed there’s very little visibility to it, but Still, I think that investment in data from all the parties in the industry is an important direction to go in. So we’ve invested, we’ve built a platform called ACERO that tracks a thousand data fields across the projects. And with this, both qualitative and quantitative data, clients can understand better their investments, their performance, allowing them to kind of make decisions about where they should send the work. So we’ve made so much progress in the last three years on that, I’m super proud of my team. The second thing that we’ve done to meet the industry challenges is we’ve defined programs to support our clients, ESG commitments. So developing targets with them and planning and improving diversity behind the camera and sustainability in production approaches. That’s really important. And then the third thing, and the final thing I’ll share in terms of what we’ve done is, we’ve developed a proprietary methodology to measure the maturity of a market’s creative production ecosystem, making it the first of its kind. Management consultancies, for example, they don’t have enough knowledge as practitioners in creative production. So they don’t have the tools to do this in the way that APR can. And that is, to create and form a model that helps a client go from where they are today to where they need to go to improve and innovate as the industry changes.  

Adrian Tennant: You lead a thriving global consultancy. So what motivated you to write “The Marketer’s Guide To Creative Production“?

Jillian Gibbs: Well, it’s something I’ve worked on for many years. It took about, I don’t know, 30 years to write it, but four years to put the book together. You know, with the growing content needs that we were just talking about and the tightening budgets and all, of course, the introduction of AI capabilities, one thing that’s fallen by the wayside in the ad industry has been training. And there is also limited mentorship and upskilling of the people and the talent, within the creative production space. So addressing all of these challenges is crucial for enhancing the efficiencies and the effectiveness of the creative production landscape. And you should really be seen as an opportunity to invest in the industry’s greatest resource, which is its people. And so I wrote the book for that reason, to say, this is something you normally have to learn on the job, and we don’t have time for you to learn on the job. So, you can leave this book at your desk. It’s got notes pages on the insides, and you use it for every phase of the production process to help you navigate the best way through it.

Adrian Tennant:  So, can you tell us a bit about the book’s structure and content?

Jillian Gibbs: Sure. The book teaches the foundational principles of shooting film, video, and photography. Specifically, director-led and photographer-led projects. So it dissects the production process into phases for the marketer. It highlights how and when the marketer can influence the process, and it provides practical tips and tricks formed by years of experience by me and my team, so that they can navigate their way through, you know, their project, being on set. We have a special section called Set A Kit and it’s written with the marketer in mind, for clarity, we want to empower marketers to really be effective contributors to the creative production process when working with their agencies.

Adrian Tennant: Jillian, can you share a favorite tip or trick from the book?

Jillian Gibbs: Absolutely. As I mentioned, what’s in the book typically is learned on the job and they don’t teach this in MBA school or in film schools. So for anyone wanting a complete overview of the production process for director-led or photographer-led shoots, this is where you’re going to find really practical tips like what to wear on set when you go to a shoot and when to ask certain questions and to whom do you ask those questions. My favorite part of the book is that I deliberately added note pages so that the book can be a resource that one can leave on their desk and access during each phase of the production process, like a utility book. 

Adrian Tennant: You’ve also developed a course that reflects the book’s content. Jillian, can you tell us about the Production Ready Masterclass?

Jillian Gibbs: Yes, yes, yes, I’m so excited about this. It’s a master class that takes the principles of the book and turns them into an immersive, hands-on learning experience. And Jonathan Weinstein, who is a professor of film at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, and I have put this course together on a virtual production soundstage so that the attendees can actually walk on set and experience it.

Adrian Tennant: This is an in-real-life course – this is not an online course, right?

Jillian Gibbs: Yeah. I mean, maybe one day it will be an online masterclass, but the idea is to bring the book to life and empower our attendees with the tools and the expertise and best practices, and real-life experiences. So, the class takes place over two and a half days in person at NYU Film School’s virtual production soundstage, and attendees can expect a mix of class time, interactive exercises, role-playing, and even some quizzes, which would lead them to develop new skills, that if they pass the test and the quiz, then they get a certification that they are indeed production-ready and can go out into the world and attend their own shoot.

Adrian Tennant: So the inaugural class is going to be this year, correct?

Jillian Gibbs: Yes, it is, it is currently scheduled for the end of May and the next one will probably be in September. So we’re excited about that.

Adrian Tennant: Let’s take a short break. We’ll be right back after this message. 

Adrian Tennant: Each month, in partnership with our friends at Kogan page, the Bigeye Book Club features books by industry thought leaders. Our selection for April is “Sustainable Advertising: How Advertising Can Support A Better Future,” by Matt Bourn and Sebastian Munden. 

The book is a manifesto for the advertising industry, highlighting why we need to change the way we work and to change the work we make. 

Sustainable Advertising” incorporates best-in-class case studies and practical guidance, from the ways ads are made and distributed to the products, services, and behaviors they promote. 

You can save 25% on a print or electronic version of this month’s featured book using the exclusive promo code, BIGEYE25. This code is valid for all Kogan Page titles, including pre-orders, and their free paperback and e-book bundle offer. Shipping is always complimentary to the US and UK when you order directly from Kogan Page, and it supports the authors as well. 

So to order your copy of “Sustainable Advertising” go to ​

Adrian Tennant:  Welcome back. I’m talking with Jillian Gibbs, the founder and CEO of Advertising Production Resources, a global advisory firm that works with brand marketers, to optimize content creation processes. Let’s change gears slightly and address an area you’ve been a vocal advocate of for several years, sustainable production. Jillian, how do you define sustainable production? 

Jillian Gibbs: Sustainable production means examining legacy processes and driving behavioral change throughout the entire project from concept through to execution. So in order to embed an effective carbon reduction strategy, for example, and reduce the footprint of the production, you need to start way upstream at the planning stage. ​The advertising industry has a great opportunity to really help influence the adoption of more sustainable practices and this has to happen both in front of and behind the camera. 

Adrian Tennant: What are some of the ways that brand marketers, agencies, and their production partners can take a more sustainable approach to the production process?

Jillian Gibbs: Good question. Well, some common areas for brands to tackle are eliminating unnecessary travel, utilizing local resources, minimizing waste, and reconsidering how we power out productions. So, you know, most people in the industry just jump on a plane and fly wherever they need to go, and usually, there are several people from the agency, several people from the client, lots of people from the production company, unless you’re using all local crews and directors. But this way of working is very, very impactful in the way it affects the carbon footprint. So 65 percent of the carbon footprint is attributed to the travel to a shoot location. You can imagine if we just think again, think twice about how we travel to shoots, we will make a big difference in the industry. The other thing is that over the last couple of years, virtual production has become extremely popular for the listener you know, it’s shooting in a studio with LED screens where you project the video on the background, on the ceiling, on the floor and you create an environment using these led screens rather than getting on a plane and flying to a shoot. So with a little bit of coordination, a brand can maximize their shoot attendance, reduce their carbon footprint, and get a better value out of the one-day shooting just because they can get through so much in a day because they don’t have to do a set move, you know, from one location to another, they’re just there changing the backgrounds. So it’s quite amazing technology and more and more brands are working with us to create these strategies. to include virtual production, which helps reduce the carbon footprint. And one last thing, those LED sound stages, also known as volume stages, use a lot of energy. So those stages that use solar power or other forms of electricity really do, serve the formula when we’re calculating the carbon footprint in a much better way.

Adrian Tennant: Actors love it because they can feel like they’re in the actual space not on a green screen – there’s just a ton of really interesting things about the technology. Amazing.

Jillian Gibbs: And there’s 500 of these locations now around the world, so that most major cities have multiple virtual production studios now. A lot of investors are investing in building the studios, realizing what a great thing this is for the creative community.

Adrian Tennant: Well, your company, Advertising Production Resources, is, of course, global in its reach. How does the US rank in sustainable production compared to other markets, would you say?

Jillian Gibbs: Well, there’s no denying the fact that the US is way behind, from an ESG perspective. Diversity and inclusion currently rank higher on the agenda in the US. The UK and Europe are really leading the charge in sustainable, business practices. The UK, for instance, is in the process of legislating that businesses track to record their Scope 3 carbon footprints by 2025. And so 2024 is a year that everybody is preparing over there in the UK and we think that the US and other countries will soon follow suit to also require businesses to define targets and report on progress over the next three years.

Adrian Tennant: Yes, and I believe that in Europe, due to their new reporting requirements, any American business that has significant business in Europe also has to comply with the new reporting regulations, right?

Jillian Gibbs: Yes! Isn’t that great? So we’re going to see that transfer over the pond to be more US-based companies who are headquartered, who are doing most of their work here as well. We’re trying to get ahead of it. I hope we can. I hope that we, that corporations don’t wait until they’re told this is a requirement, but this is something that’s important enough to do to start right away.

Adrian Tennant: Right. Jillian, are there any sustainable production practices that are common in other markets that you’d like to see US clients adopt more widely?

Jillian Gibbs: Indeed. Yes. I’d like to see the introduction of sustainable guidelines into production guidelines. Including a travel policy that we talked about to drive a reduction in the number of people flying to a shoot location and more use of virtual production sound stages, and the coordination of all of the resources and sets and equipment that can be recycled or repurposed or stored in a more carbon efficient way. Another great practice is to coordinate the shoots and move more than fifty percent, so make a commitment of moving more than 50 percent of live-action shoots into a virtual production soundstage. So this will help minimize air travel, which represents, as I mentioned earlier, about 65 percent of a shoot’s carbon footprint. But that coordination is key. When a brand works with many creative agencies, including their in-house studios, they have so many sources that are navigating and coordinating various shoots that having someone sitting at the ecosystem level of all of the creative production activity is really key to coordinating the shoots. And that’s a role that APR has sat in, and continues to contribute to in that way.

Adrian Tennant: So Jillian, why does all of this matter?

Jillian Gibbs: I think because brands today work with so many companies. Even in a holding company model, it still has many companies in it that need to drive change. But driving these important things and this change is really going to work best if driven through the brands, training, and ESG initiatives. For example, creating the framework or the infrastructure to capture and enable the benefits of a fragmented, diverse, distributed, creative network, ensuring that brand compliance and consistency of process and cost control at the right level and where it all matters. This is a lot nowadays, organizing influencers at scale, utilizing technology such as AI tools in the production process, continuing to provide transparency to the creative process via unbiased third-party influence, and then, picking up where the big management consultancies leave off. They usually present the plan without the implementation and so I think this is all so important because, left to their own devices, without having the subject matter expertise on staff, or the view to so many different ways of doing things, I think the brands will fail. I think it’s really important to pay attention to all these things.

Adrian Tennant: If IN CLEAR FOCUS listeners would like to learn more about you, advertising production resources, your book, “The Marketer’s Guide to Creative Production,” or the Production Ready Masterclass, what’s the best way to do so?

Jillian Gibbs: Thanks for asking. Information about both of these can be found on our website, www.aprco. com. If you click under Resources, you’ll find both of those items, the book and the masterclass.

Adrian Tennant: Perfect. And we’ll also include links in the transcript that accompanies this episode. Jillian, thank you very much for being our guest today on IN CLEAR FOCUS!

Jillian Gibbs: Oh, thank you so much, Adrian. I hope this was helpful to you and your listeners. I really appreciate the opportunity to share. 

Adrian Tennant: Thanks again to my guest this week, Jillian Gibbs, the founder and CEO of Advertising Production Resources. As always, you’ll find a full transcript of our conversation and links to the resources we discussed on the Bigeye website at; just select ‘Insights’ from the menu. Thank you for listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS, produced by Bigeye. I’ve been your host, Adrian Tennant. Until next week, goodbye.

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