A blog for the New Zealand creative advertising industry, now at www.campaignbrief.com/nz. Email news to: michael@campaignbrief.com

Monday, January 15, 2007


So after thirty-three years Silverscreen Productions has announced its voluntary liquidation - sad but not surprising.
Silverscreen started as a one-director company with the hugely talented Geoff Dixon working out of his living room. It eventually grew into an amorphus group of companies with fingers in many pies: production, design, post-production, Internet, TV and feature films: all many steps away from its core business…
What is the core business of a tvc production company? I thought it was to offer the services of a talented and experienced director to the advertising industry in order to make iconic commercials that capture the audience’s attention for their clients’ brands.
However, the current trend with production companies is to spruik the fact that they are the biggest, the best, have the greatest flashest offices, are the most awarded, sponsor the best lunches/parties etc ….
Production companies seem to have forgotten that they work in the world’s second oldest profession and that it doesn’t take flash offices and hundreds of staff to run a successful production company - it takes talented, experienced directors supported by producers who can bring good work in, on budget.
The current trend is to offer a huge roster of mostly mediocre directors, one for every mediocre script!
Even if there were that much talent around, the investment in promoting planeloads of directors and the cost of on-the-job training is huge. Problem is, clients have slashed budgets and margins, while expectations have stayed where they’ve always been: high. It is simply not possible for these two trends to continue side by side.
In Silverscreen’s case, it has not only hung on for dear life in this unsustainable environment, it has added more volatile and unpredictable businesses to the mix with its forays into special effects post-production and feature films.
Its demise, as I said at the beginning, is sad but not surprising. But there are many players that owe it a huge debt of gratitude, myself included. The list is long of those that have benefited from their association with Silverscreen, however brief: LeeTamahori, Richard Gibson, Matt Murphy, Mat Palmer and Messer’s Prince, Noonan, Long, Whyman and Douglas to name but a few…
….. and if I were one of the many poor souls owning a production company, big or small and worried that the next call is going to be the bloody bank again I’d be looking very very carefully at the bottom line (I know I did…in the end!!)
Happy New Year.

Roger Tompkins


Anonymous Thenumbersman said...


What you have highlighted in your article is interesting and well put. Your points are also been reflected in agencies. Silverscreen is just the beginning and not alone.

While budgets are being slashed for TV production this is reflected also in agency salaries. They to are going backwards. The creatives and accounts people get paid today nothing like what they use to.

So forget those pumped up Aquent and Recruitment agency surveys. There is no glamour in advertising anymore (along with no benefits). And no big money.

But that is not all. I think your comments are a reflection of the whole wider creative industry. And it's alot bigger problem than the our industry realises. (CAANZ are they doing anything? "Cut the courses back guys") Here are a few areas I think are suffering:

1. Agency Creatives and Accounts staff.
2. Photographers.
3. Illusration.
4. In-house Designers.
5. Studio Staff.
6. People working in film production.

They are all earning less than what they did 7-10 years ago - it's just not directors and productions companies. I have highlighted these because I have heard it first hand from pretty much all these groups over the last 3 years on too many occasions.

The simple truth is that "The problem" is one created by agencies. But how can that be? Simple really and it all comes down to selling out their own industry they work in.

1. First they sell out to clients, they can not say "NO", if they do, they are worried they will lose their client. Industry standards go down as budgets go down.

2. The new "Don't leave us" trend was created resulting in "we can do it cheaper". And this has huge flow on. How many agencies have held clients on cost cutting?

3. The pressure on the global outposts in NZ is becoming greater from abroad, with over the top margins to make year on year. One of our biggest agencies Singletonogilvymatheradworksmetromearestane
growth strategy is aqusitions. Oh did i miss any? When they should be encouraging their clients to spend more through showing them the success that great creative can achieve. Building small clients into large ones is a start.

The question is then what will pop next? Or who will pop? Silverscreen is an example of one. There is going to be more mergers and more cut backs, rumour has it they are happening in a few agencies around Christmas.

I know the answers but that i will not be telling.

Any thoughts bloggers?

8:38 PM NZDT

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interesting how his picture changed from slightly overweight guy in office to stylish mogul...

5:09 PM NZDT

Anonymous Anonymous said...

And what happened to his hair ? Did he pull it all out running a production company ?

9:41 AM NZDT


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