Production decoupling began in Europe in the 1990s and was, originally, only for print services. As marketers began comparing agency production costs, they started to identify low-cost solutions in segmenting certain services. At that time, print was a primary means of marketing communications and high-quality print work was sought after. Independent print agencies emerged to meet this demand and required a lower budget than traditional creative agencies. In the end, advertising agencies continued developing creative ideas and strategies, while print production houses took care of the assets. The argument stands that just because an agency is an expert at ideation does not mean they are the best choice for executions, such as production. Therefore, specialised production houses began working alongside agencies, and were proficient in particular areas, such as video production or translation, amongst others. Later on, media buying, planning and delivery was also a responsibility taken from traditional creative agencies and put into the hands of media agencies.
”In decoupling, production houses take on the role of “brand guardians”, establishing dedicated creative production teams, providing completed assets, implementation of brand guidelines and more.”
As previously mentioned, traditionally, agencies provided clients with ideation, production and media buying. However, clients wanted more control, efficiency and transparency over their campaigns. Unbundling ideation from production helps them better manage the costs involved in each creative process to get a better view into their overall production costs.
Centralised production came into play only several years ago. As procurement departments started to emerge, production and creative development began to split since big brands focused on cutting hefty production costs. The “global versioning adaption” developed in Europe (especially with the onset of the European Union), aided in streamlining the production and distribution of marketing communications, providing adaptations and campaigns in one or several languages.
“Day and date” launches are yet another driver for production decoupling processes. Traditionally, launch practices involved a phased approach. For example, Star Wars launched in Los Angeles in 1977. It was not released in the UK until 1978, and in Japan the following summer. Film reels had to be physically moved to different territories and, at that time, media companies were happy to roll out movies according to their own timelines. Today, many companies take on a Netflix-style approach, where audiences can access episodes at the same time from anywhere in the world. In order to successfully execute this “day and date” approach, marketers must make sure that all assets are ready, in every language, by the launch. Hence, the demand for specialist skills arises in order to manage the complexity of global communication and the degree of materials needed.
While many companies enjoy savings by decoupling only certain production areas, like media and pre-press, some have implemented a fully decoupled model. In this approach, brands continue to collaborate with agencies on their big ideas, but the creative production agency is responsible for the spending on all channels, including TV and print.
Currently, production decoupling also involves digital and broadcast services and has become increasingly popular in the Americas, EMEA and APAC markets. In decoupling, production houses take on the role of “brand guardians”, establishing dedicated creative production teams, providing completed assets, implementation of brand guidelines and more.