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Meet the media minds: Emily Marr, chief production officer of Leo Burnett

Emily Marr is chief production officer at Leo Burnett

Adland has a penchant for celebrating creative, but often forgotten are those planning, buying and executing the campaigns. Meet the Media Minds sees The Drum address that imbalance and dig into the models and strategy of the world’s biggest media agencies.

This week Emily Marr, chief production officer of Leo Burnett, shares her wisdom.

What would be your first lesson for a newbie media type?

Work hard, be inquisitive and remember people’s names. Agility is key. As is a sense of humor.

What are the biggest challenges facing the business?

Continuing to react and adapt to Covid-19.

From a producer’s point of view, a production in ‘normal’ times was usually an ever-moving jigsaw puzzle. Production in a pandemic, however, became an ever-moving jigsaw puzzle where none of the pieces quite fit. We found ourselves tackling a multitude of new challenges; cast and crew safety, travel restrictions, remote shooting (to name but a few), while in many cases dealing with our own physical and mental isolation. As we begin to emerge into whatever our ‘new normal’ is, I think it’s going to be crucial for us all to remain open-minded in terms of how we continue to make content.

When it comes to creating ideas and finding solutions, both for our clients and our productions, in a world where the rules are constantly changing, we have to be prepared to change our course. This is something we should embrace. It’s where great ideas and finding new ways of working are born.

What platform or channel excites you the most and why?

TV. There quite simply is nothing like it.

What’s the most clever or innovative use of media you can think of?

The new work for McDonald’s and the launch of the McSpicy. A brilliant example of using the power of media to ignite debate.

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How is your agency evolving and how’s that differentiated from the competition?

As everyone has scrambled to position themselves around the shape of their output – be that consultancy, advertising, experience or tech – we have instead become laser-focused on the shape of our impact: using populist creativity to create brands that connect with everyone, and help our client’s businesses grow as a result.

Using the full creative firepower of Leo Burnett and implementation clout of the ‘Power Of One’ offering, we’re able to deliver populist creativity for clients, in any way or place they require.

The brand relationship: how’s the power dynamic, pay and payment changing?

The relationship between brand and agency in the production space is as dynamic as it’s ever been. Brands have a huge amount of choice now when it comes to where and how they produce that content – whether that’s in-house or direct-to-production companies.

The smart brands know that there is a role for all of these relationships depending on the output, the budget and what the brand is trying to achieve. Of course, this puts pressure on budgets, but as new technologies emerge there is more and more opportunity for speed, agility and efficiency in the production space.

Is tech making your job easier – or complicating matters?

Tech is making all our jobs easier and more efficient. Neither tech nor data can replace the heart of what we offer clients – creativity, ideas and craft – but they have helped us to ensure we can define and execute it with ever greater speed, accuracy and efficiency. And who doesn’t want that?

Where’s the money going? What’s the shift over the years?

Increasingly we are seeing clients upspend in tech, content and data. The pandemic, in particular, has put pressure on investing in e-commerce and content to drive online sales when people aren’t venturing outside. But the more the pendulum swings that way, the more space and standout there will be for film ideas and craft. Brilliant ideas and craft, whatever the platform or execution, will always have a place and will always stand out.

Make a big prediction.

Producers will take their rightful place in the limelight. With Covid throwing all our best-made plans up in the air, our industry’s doers and makers have had to learn to respond, adapt and overcome.

It has pushed our strongest production talent to new heights.

With the pandemic only just now entering its long and continuingly unpredictable ‘Messy End’ phase, if indeed it is even the end, these new conditions and requirements aren’t going anywhere soon. Involving producers from the outset has always been a necessity, and I think one that has finally become crucial over the last 18 months. Producers will continue to shine through for being, in a nutshell, the reason why things get made.

Last week Craig Tuck, chief revenue officer of The Ozone Project, talked us through his beliefs.

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