Production values

Euan remembers a painful effort at internal communication at the Beeb. High production values get in the way. I think it applies elsewhere too. High production values used to be a way of increasing credibility; a lot of times now it’s the other way round.

3 thoughts on “Production values

  1. Liam

    I’m with the school of thought that says slick can look cynical – especially when there are bad times around.

    But people also know what professional looks like – and have higher expectations I think these days. Take intranets – people expect them to function like external websites (and even expect Google-levels of searchability).

    Surely its all about getting the balance right?


  2. Caryn Vanstone

    I worked with Euan on a large leadership development project in the BBC over the last 5 years, and one of the key aspects of the work was the desired shift in mindset from one of one-way broadcast to two-way interaction and co-creation, as part of the digital strategy. We tried to do this through introducing inquiry processes, co-creation exercises and by offering them “half finished” ideas to be engaged with and explored in mixed groups across different levels in the hierarchy. This element of the programme was mostly a painful and only partially successful experience I think.

    For me, the issues created by being “too polished” run right to the heart of whether others feel able to engage. The BBC (amongst others) has a long history of producing and distributing highly polished and beautiful output to a grateful, but passive audience. This continues to be valued by many of us and by them – but it is no longer the be-all and end-all of working in the media world. Until media organisations can start to live with the underpinning principles of “Open Source” type thinking rather than “Finished Performance” type thinking, then there will be continued difficulty engaging and involving those who are interested in co-creating rather than consuming – which by the way includes a whole section of their own employees!

  3. Phil Dourado

    Ooh, couldn’t agree more. I’m SO glad I’ve got you and Euan to refer to for evidence, now, Johnnie. I’m setting up a video blogging facility on a business community site and one of the members asked me how to stop people uploading “low quality”, poorly lit clips from people sitting in their home-office talking to the camera. I replied that if they were saying something new or inspiring they could send in a jerky mobile phone clip if they want. He replied that it would be a very unprofessional-looking site. Er, good.

    We’ve all been so slickly marketed to for so many years that high production values have become packaging. It applies across all media, including music: from the ‘unplugged’ stripped-down trend of a few years ago to the way Indie music has become mainstream. Under-production smacks of authenticity to people today. Raw is real. YouTube is the obvious mass manifestation of this.

    I think the ‘unfinished’ point that Caryn makes is immensely powerful. Life is messy and unfinished. We are all getting better at accepting that, I think. In that context, high production values denoting a finished product that can’t be bettered or tampered with look increasingly anachronistic. We want to help make the world ourselves, thanks. Loose ends seem real and you can play around with them. High production values leave no loose ends to grab onto and co-create with. That’s why people would rather spend $100 in a Build A Bear workshop with their kids making their own teddy bear than $10 buying a finished, packaged one off the shelf.


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