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Shifting landscape challenges reps to stay ahead of trends and innovations

Posted on May 13, 2022

What’s the biggest challenge facing the industry’s production and post production reps? Where is new repping talent coming from? And how have the industry’s ultimate influencers been able to stay connected with their extensive lists of agency and brand contacts?

We wanted to know. And if you run a production or post production company, you probably want to know, too. A healthy and productive repping corps translates into a steady flow of leads, projects and bids. As the people on the front lines of marketing creative talent to agencies and brands, reps are the industry’s pulse-takers; they see the trends from the board flow that comes across their desktops, and they work with company owners and EPs to best position their rosters to respond to changing tastes and fads. 

So what matters to reps should matter to everyone who’s in the business of working for clients. That’s why Simian is now a sponsor of the Alliance of Independent Representatives, the recently launched trade association for the industry’s independent repping firms. Collectively, AIR’s members represent hundreds of production, post production, music and sound, visual effects and animation studios, not just in the US but abroad, too.

We recently surveyed AIR members to get a read on some of the issues that are top of mind as this always fast-changing industry shifts into post-pandemic hyperdrive. But first, a bit of an overview. Of the repping firms that took part in the survey, fully one hundred percent reported having an animation studio on their respective rosters, with two-thirds also having live action, visual effects and the category’s close cousin, design and motion graphics. Almost half included post production (i.e., creative editorial) or studios specializing in music, sound and audio post. Far fewer had experiential studios on their rosters. 

Their primary software tool these days – no surprise – is Zoom. They use all the major reel building and video sharing services, with Simian having a slight edge. They’re big users of Google Drive and Dropbox, too, but can live without Microsoft OneDrive, thank you.

Most of those responding said they weren’t required to regularly submit activity or sales reports to their roster companies, with a few saying they weren’t particularly inclined to do so even if asked. Of those that tracked activity and sales outreach, the primary method for reporting such was via spreadsheets or Google Drive docs. Interestingly, the desire for an industry-tailored CRM tool was expressed by a number of respondents. We’ve heard something along the same lines in our from agency Heads of Production who’ve taken part in Simian roundtable; they’re pining for a CRM product that can help them keep track of reel links and directors.

Ranking the power of reel building analytics was also on the survey. The ability of services like Simian to provide reps with data on how reels were received was seen as valuable, for sure. “The better the analytics are, the better I can realize what people are viewing and what’s important to them,” was one of our verbatim responses. “It ultimately helps me understand what’s best to send, and helps curate reels in a way that would be most useful to a typical advertising viewer.”  That being said, there was some ambivalence about the accuracy of analytics, and some reps who say they don’t spend too much time digging into the data that they can reveal.

When it came to their most pressing challenges, much of what the reps had to say dealt with communication with roster partners, managing relationships in a shifting world and the perceived value of reps to serve as resources for their agency contacts.

The landscape is being altered, too, by several factors pressing in from multiple sides: a decreased amount of traditional commercial production work, the move towards more project-based assignments for agencies versus AOR designations and the pull of in-house work, coming from both agencies and brands themselves. “It’s a different world now,” said one rep. Added another, “we can only cover so much ground.”

Connecting with producers, and getting them to respond, is seen as harder than ever. Keeping track of frequently-moving freelancers on the agency side has also created problems. And the trends towards agencies hiring producers irrespective of where they’re based geographically – thanks to the new remote working matrix – is skewing the old concept of a rep covering certain territories. 

And as always, there’s the paltry budgets attached to grandiose scripts “It’s always such a big stretch,” noted one rep. “At least 25 percent of the time, I don’t have a director or company to fill the ask. They’re also dealing with what’s basically a pervasive knowledge deficit. As one noted, “Try training a 23-year old producer who hasn’t had any training, while you’re also bidding on their jobs.”

Another challenge is closer to home: training and developing the next generation of reps and agents. “There’s no real way to explain what we do,” noted one rep. “Right now in order to succeed, you need years of experience and connections to convince people that your idea of how to execute their script is the best.”  Another noted that the structure of representation may need to change, with reps being compensated for consulting or pitch fees when undertaking complex, time-consuming bids for production companies and post houses

There are also more freelance directors out there than ever before, hustling for work and wheeling and dealing as they look for their next project. It’s created an environment that the reps say can lead to confusion, or worse. “There should be a course on how to navigate our industry ethically as a freelance director,” said one respondent.

So many other issues are swirling around, it's no wonder reps have banded together to form AIR. The association gives them a forum to exchange views and opinions, and a means to share best practices. It also provides a unified voice that can speak directly to their partners on the agency, production and brand sides of the business.

“Independent sales repping has changed drastically,” one rep noted. “There’s less in person contact, less information that’s shared and less of a community feeling with clients. We need to be able to break through the digital noise, engage with agencies beyond just a specific director search and demonstrate our value to our roster companies.”

Sounds like they’re juggling buzzsaws. That’s why Simian – and AIR – are here to help.