A common perception is that boutique post houses struggle more, but I have a feeling it's actually the larger companies that are struggling the most lately.
It comes down to scalability. We can adjust by combining the appropriate talent from both in and out of house like so many businesses are doing in digital, design and even light manufacturing. No matter what type of project or budget we're dealing with, our regular clients know that we can adapt our post-to-finishing capabilities or even take on production. Larger houses, however, have more overhead and more complicated day-to-day logistics, which can make it difficult to adjust scale efficiently. But to scale efficiently, you need a core foundation of strong talent at every level, creating a team that is both lean and powerful.
The bigger challenge for us remains: skewing the perception that bigger is better, and the only way to qualify that is through the quality of work. Unfortunately, these days, quality is suffering across the board. Whether you're a nimble shop or publicly traded, there is a more-for-less demand that's trending, and it is trickling down from the client to the agency to vendors.
Responses to this trend are varying, but the common solution is for content creators to do more of everything under one roof. Agencies are responding similarly by opening their own in-house production and post facilities; but I am not convinced that they benefit as much in terms of quality without the specialized services, experience and perspective that many vendors and boutiques bring to a project. When you create a situation where you control all of the players all of the time with a long term goal of saving money, your talent pool inherently shrinks and quality becomes the lowest common denominator — and I don’t believe that you can nurture talent at the same level of care and detail that we do.
Why does any of this matter? We are all essentially in the creative idea business. Our ideas come from sensibilities, our experiences and our passions. Commerce has always played a part, but when all of the creative decisions are being made based on the question: “How cheaply can we produce this without getting in trouble,” ideas are going to suffer.
Meanwhile, large or small, competition is up, and we're all busy trying to elevate the quality in a bottom line-driven industry; moreover, everyone is scrambling for the same dollar, as the volume of work goes up with digital media. Brands want to produce more “content” within the same ad budget.
But I honestly think that these things are going to ebb and flow, and there will be a shift. People will ask, "Am I getting the best work for my money?" Because, at the end of the day, you're not buying bricks in this industry, you are buying ideas; and when you can buy the same bricks for half-price from China, it’s a no brainer. But great ideas and experience come at a premium, and without them, your creative house might just fall down with everyone inside.
Kane Platt is President and Editor at creative post boutique Hooligan (http://hooligannyc.com) in New York City.