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October 2017
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  • The Facilities 50
    Jon Creamer launches Televisual's 30th exclusive annual Facilities 50 survey featuring the top post production houses in the UK and 52 pages of analysis of the sector
  • Interview: Grant Mansfield
    Hiring top talent and investing heavily in development have been key to growing his Bristol indie Plimsoll Productions, says founder Grant Mansfield
  • The clear view: lenses
    What ever genre you work in, you need to be lens savvy. Here three DoPs guide us through the lens market, picking out the models they like to use in drama and factual
  • Over the top
    The growth of Netflix and Amazon is proving a boon for UK indies, but broadcasters are starting to panic. Tim Dams reports
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    The producers of Blue Planet II tell Tim Dams how tech advances and military planning helped them capture the secrets of the deep
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Reports&
surveys

Commercials 30 2010 Back to Reports & survey Listing

Times are certainly still tough with budgets tight, pitches long and jobs hard to win. But most production companies reckon the clouds are clearing a little. And although the TV ad is still the main game, all producers are keen to try new things too. Jon Creamer reports

Congratulations to Rattling Stick, which spends another year at the top of the Commercials 30 after sharing the winners' podium last time with Gorgeous.

Rattling Stick had another standout 12 months creatively winning the BTAA production company of the year award for the third time in a row on the back of a host of top spots from its very small, but very high quality, roster of directors. Danny Kleinman shot the Plane Stupid Polar Bear spot along with the new Peter Kay John Smiths ad; Ringan Ledwidge directed the Department of Transport Eyes spot and the Virgin Media Backlot ad and Andy McLeod shot the Thinkbox Harvey spot.
This year's second placed company is Blink, up from fifth last time on the back of some great commercials including Dougal Wilson's John Lewis Always a Woman and Heinz ketchup's bottle ads. Gorgeous, in third place this time, also shone with spots including Barnardos Turn Around, Miss Chief for Hovis and Football Evolution for Visa.

At the time of last year's survey we were in the very midst of recession. This year, the recession's officially over - right? Wrong, of course, but there have been a few slight glimmers of sunshine breaking through the gloom, especially in the latter half of the year it seems. RSA reports "autumn bringing a sudden rush of scripts” and HLA comments that it's been "tougher than ever for the first six months but easing over the past six months." There's "still a lack of creativity generally in the scripts but at least a desire to advertise again on the part of clients." And that's a feeling echoed by HSI: "There's been a noticeable improvement in board flow since the beginning of the year with some months being the busiest on record. Creative quality, however, seems to have dropped off."

The slight upturn in business (though not necessarily creativity) felt by our respondents is reflected in the survey's figures, with the average company making an average of 64 jobs compared to 60 from last year's survey. The average production budget for a 30-second ad has improved slightly too, from a figure of £143k in last year's survey to £167k this time, although even that has to be seen in a longer term context considering the average budget was £177k back in 2007.

The average turnover of a commercials production company has, though, risen substantially to £9.7m from last year's £7.6m with most of the bigger players reporting substantial turnover increases compared to a year ago. The average number of directors on the roster of the average production company has risen too to 22 from last year's average of 17. Is this a symptom of the sector's bigger fish getting bigger and gobbling up a lot of the smaller jobs that the industry's minnows used feed on?

And if clients and agencies are pushing more work towards the tried and tested big name directors at the big name companies that wouldn't be a surprise. A distinct lack of risk taking is a complaint that runs through the responses of most of our survey senders. "The recession has clearly dented the confidence of clients, causing a palpable aversion to more adventurous creative work," comments HSI. The year's been tough due to "risk averse clients" says Bare Films in a typical response.
And that aversion to risk is evident in the demands coming from agencies and clients before the job has even been awarded. "The expensive endless pitch process is never ending with a lot of agency initiatives which have come to nothing," comments 2AM. "Pitching standards are exceptionally high," agrees Picasso. "Seemingly clients would like to see finished commercials before they decide to make them!"

And they're taking longer to make that decision and leaving ever-shorter amounts of time to produce the finished article. There are "shorter lead times," and it takes a "longer time to confirm a job," reckons Gorgeous. And, even when a client does confirm it, the tightness of the budget means "procurement [departments are] producing ridiculous cost questionnaires without help from their inhouse TV department," says Great Guns. The demand that production companies come up with new ways to cut costs can only go so far. "Shooting video with digital stills cameras doesn't negate the need for quality crew that need to be paid commercials rates. We still need locations, art department, editors etc," says Epoch.

Many production companies are also noting that the middling budget ad is disappearing with only the blue chip and the very cheap now up for grabs. "It has been a case of feast or famine," comments Independent. "Projects have either been well funded or, at the other end of the spectrum, not properly funded. The former have been highly competitive to secure and the latter very challenging to deliver creatively in light of financial restrictions."

But the lack of bread and butter middle ground TV work is something that's been increasing over a long period and production companies have opened up to new opportunities. The survey shows that our respondents still derive 77% of their work from the traditional TV spot but almost all are doing, or trying to do, business outside of this. For some that's shooting the stills for the print campaign too, or making interactive online ads, or creating installations, or longer form 'branded content.' As Hotspur and Argyle puts it "The opportunities are everywhere right now and everyone's becoming a potential client."

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