Working with WPP’s Production Agency Hogarth Worldwide
June 20, 2018
Josh Goleman shot video and stills of farmers for an integrated campaign for Gerber. “This felt like making a documentary,” says art producer Sabine Rogers.
An image by Lisa Corson, shot for a campaign for French food brand Sodexo. Rogers, produced the ads for creative/production agency Conspicuous Productions.
Hogarth Worldwide, the WPP-owned production company, specializes in producing advertising and marketing campaigns alongside WPP’s creative and media agencies and in collaboration with outside, independent creatives. As a “decoupled” production agency, able to work with clients directly, it aims to bring campaigns to the market “efficiently and cost effectively.” As the Senior Integrated Art Producer/Art Buyer at Hogarth Worldwide, Sabine Rogers has produced ads for creative agencies including Grey, JWT, Ogilvy, 72andSunny, Y&R, Havas, Wunderman and Deutsch. Previously she worked with Publicis, AR New York, and Moving Image & Content, contributing production and art direction to print and digital campaigns. Prior to her involvement in advertising, Rogers served as a magazine photo editor and photo director, working for titles including Vogue, Interview, Spin, Out and The Wall Street Journal, with freelance stints at Rolling Stone, Esquire, Culture + Travel, People and New York. Rogers talked to PDN about her work and how the agency works with creative agencies and photographers.
Senior Integrated Art Producer
PDN: Can you tell me about your role as art producer and art buyer?
S.R.: Hogarth is a WPP company, serving as its production agency. As art buyer and integrated art producer, I’ve worked with 12 of WPP’s creative advertising agencies.
When working with JWT, Havas, 72andSunny, Grey and other agencies in a “decoupled” production model, I perform all the functions that an agency creative producer would, recommending photographers or photographer/directors, strategizing and managing the production. Hogarth also works with outside, independent/boutique creative agencies.
I originally come from the world of magazines, and my job here has similarities to the pace and approaches of magazine production. It’s a challenging and fun set up.
PDN: So how does Hogarth work?
S.R.: Hogarth was founded ten years ago in London and, working with global brands, was mostly focused on the translation of advertising campaigns for international markets. WPP acquired Hogarth the following year. [They] saw that it had a smart way of doing things, and didn’t have the baggage and bulk of traditional agencies. Hogarth’s services soon evolved into primary and integrated production. We’re a more streamlined operation, and able to produce with a speed and efficiency that advertising isn’t traditionally known for.
PDN: Why, how small is the company?
S.R.: We’re a large company and in many countries, but in terms of who’s involved in the creative process, we’re small. Here in New York, there’s just a few of us integrated art producers in an ever-growing broadcast department.
[At] Hogarth, I think my background, my knowledge of creative production, line production and art direction helps me to satisfy the creative [needs] and produce a project affordably and efficiently.
PDN: Can you give an example?
S.R.: In working on the campaign for JDate [a dating site for Jewish singles], it took five weeks from the time we got approval [of the concept] to the time it was up on billboards, including time for printing. From idea to post-production took three weeks.
The client, Spark Networks, which owns JDate, came to Hogarth and said they wanted to work with creative director David Roth, who is also a comic. He was working with his art director, Shaun Bruce, and copywriter Yuriy Mikhalevskiy, but the client said, “He has no infrastructure behind him.” So Hogarth became that infrastructure.
JDate were willing to do something a little out of the box, something humorous, a little absurdist and actually very sweet. I had a fun time thinking who could shoot this. I thought of all the photographers I’ve worked with who do humor well. We had to be smart about how to do this, because we were doing it quickly and cheaply. [Photographer] Randal Ford’s team was really smart, and his producer, Toni Bashinelli, was incredible about thinking about the money we had and how to get top talent and resources. For instance, she brought on Kindra Predmore, a combined prop-and-wardrobe stylist. We shot it in a co-working space that we tricked out. [For talent,] we thought we would get actresses. We got real grandmothers who were closer to 90 than 80.
We showed what can be done when some of the layers of approval are stripped away. The client was fully on board, fully supportive of the creatives’ vision. [The campaign, photographed by Randal Ford, was selected for the PDN Photo Annual 2018.]
PDN: How does your experience as a creative and line producer help?
S.R.: To be creative in a time of decreased budgets for advertising, it’s essentially a matter of knowing the process in full, knowing where you can cut costs and where you can’t and still fully support the creative. It’s essential to be ambitious—but ultimately realistic—about what can be shot in a day.
I think of the scrappiness of an editorial shoot…and how best to move the process and approvals along. It’s a matter of saying to the client as well as the creatives: This is the schedule, this is when we need the approvals, and this is how we’ll produce the job in one week. This is the timeline that makes it all possible, but also ensures that no one feels short-changed…within the confines of an aggressive production schedule.
Pharmaceutical ads are different because there are so many regulations and legal approvals, but even that can be done faster. I did a job with Y&R for a Chantrix ad. It was tongue-in-cheek, asking: What do you use your ashtray for once you stop smoking? We got approval of the concept quickly. We had a nice, very collaborative creative team, everyone was on board and we put our passion into it. We chose to shoot with Eric Helgas, a cool, primarily editorial still-life photographer who was not necessarily an obvious choice for [a] pharma [ad]. We chose well; Eric did excellent work.
With Ogilvy, we did an [integrated] campaign, making photos and filming the farmers who grow the food [for Gerber]. I have been a documentary producer and this felt like making a documentary. The director was Josh Goleman, a photographer who is also a filmmaker. We had a small crew of maybe five. We were traveling in Central Michigan in a mini-van.
PDN: Are you regularly looking for directors, photographers, or photographers who do motion?
S.R.: Increasingly, a lot of our projects require both stills and video, so I have a long list of photographers who are also very comfortable as directors.
PDN: How do you find new photographers, and what are you looking for?
S.R.: I’m loyal to photographers who always deliver creatively and are also easy to work with, flexible and collaborative. I have a list of 100 [rep] agencies and know who’s on their rosters. I read magazines. It’s easier than ever to stay engaged and stay current.
I use social media and art buyers’ forums on Facebook, for example. I think Instagram is fine—there are some great photographers who have made their names on Instagram, though I also feel that Instagram photographers shoot their own lives…in very specific ways. Advertising photography needs some flexibility.
PDN: When choosing photographers to work with, are you looking for something besides great imagery?
S.R.: I try to really listen to the creative directors I’m working with, and find out what the client needs. I always ask for a job kickoff meeting with the creatives, where we look at visuals and then try to tune into what they’re seeking for the specific job. I don’t just say, “Here’s my list of food guys: Take it.”
There are photographers who come up over and over, shooters who creative teams are consistently drawn to. If I’ve not worked with [them], I’ll reach out to fellow producers and find out what their personalities are like, how they are to work with. Personality and approach is crucial—I try to look at how someone shoots but also how they respond to cues and assert their vision. During creative calls and when I’m looking at their treatments, a lot of the photographer’s personality comes out.
PDN: So a photographer’s treatment is important to helping them land a job?
S.R.: It’s very important. I admit that the creative calls are performative: The photographer wants to be authentic, but it’s basically selling yourself.
I’m going to work hard to translate the photographer’s vision to the creatives, but the photographers have to contribute to that process by listening to how the product is spoken about, listening to the creatives’ vision. It’s more than OK for the photographer to have their own interpretation of that.
I recently had a great photographer whose treatment was so phoned-in, she echoed what the clients wanted so exactly, I wondered: What is authentic here?
It’s important for the photographer to think through the job, be on board with the project, and then communicate that in the creative calls and through the treatment. And I think that if a photographer can’t pull together a compelling treatment, they should get a consultant or a rep who can.
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