The Wild West – Part II

(originally published in Screen Magazine 9/12/12)

About seven months ago, I wrote a little blurb about how the creative industry was starting to look like the Wild West. The thinking behind that article was that If you want success you have to go out and claim it. Nothing will be handed to you. There is no map or trail that will guide those working in the creative industry. You have to draw up your own map.

I love history, and I often wish I lived in the Wild West. It must have been pretty scary for those early settlers, but exciting at the same time. But can you imagine if everything had already been established, lines drawn, and then erased? That is where we are now.

Twenty years ago, everything was clearly defined. Advertising agencies provided specific services, event agencies played a defined role, PR firms applied their trade, and marketing shops tied up all the loose ends. Back then, talent agencies and their famous acting clients didn’t really concern themselves with the advertising world, because there were bigger fish to fry. Recording artists were considered “sell-outs” if they collaborated with a brand, and no one was talking about product placement or interactive agencies back then.

Everything was right with the world. Or was it?

I currently hold a position that didn’t exist twenty years ago. If I told my high-school guidance counselor that I wanted to be a Director of Branded Entertainment when I grew up, he would have said, “Really? What the hell is that?”

So I’d like to expand my Wild West analogy to include the entire entertainment industry. That’s right, I’m here to officially announce that we are all working in one big industry called the entertainment business. In fact, I’d like to take this opportunity to welcome those working in the direct mail sector, as well.

Seriously. Everything is a part of everything now. TV networks are looking to include interactive and potential branding components. Record company execs are talking about how to best brand their artists. Event agencies are producing some of the most visually creative work out there. Interactive agencies are taking the lead on many campaigns. Dogs and cats, living together – it’s mass hysteria!

But don’t let all this change scare you. In fact, embrace it. I think it’s great for everyone involved – especially the brand. Where others may see a duplication of service, I see a creative challenge. Exceed expectations on this assignment, and you’ll get another one. Earn the client’s trust in one discipline, and the door will open to another. But the key is this. If you put yourself out there and offer services that you haven’t offered before, you better be good at it. You better be ready to perform beyond the level that everyone has come to expect. You better improve on client relationship skills, and not just execute the boards. You better be prepared to live up to – and exceed – all of those promises. Because if you don’t, there is someone else out there that’s expanding their services to include your specialty. The Wild West just keeps getting wilder.

The Wild West

The creative industry has turned into the Wild West. If you want success you have to go out and claim it. Nothing will be handed to you. There is no map or trail that will guide us, so we have to draw up our own map.

You’re not going to hear me complain about it though, I’d rather think of a solution. Yes, post-houses are doing production, and production companies are getting into post. Sound design & music have become one. No experience is necessary to purchase Final Cut Pro or After Effects, and advertising agencies are doing all of the above in-house.

And I think it’s great, for everyone involved (especially the brand). But the key is… if you put yourself out there and offer services that you haven’t offered before, you better be good at it. You better be ready to perform at the level that everyone has come to expect. You better improve on the client relationship, and not just execute the boards. Because if you don’t, there is someone else out there that is ready and willing to earn your client’s trust.