The Drum's 'Unsung Heroes' series is a celebration of the people in the industry who slog hard behind the limelight for their companies, brands, and clients. As they are seldom in the spotlight for their contribution to the success of campaigns, this is their time to shine.
An aspiring dog photographer specializing in adventure-themed shots outside of his day job as an interactive producer at The1stMovement in Denver, Colorado, Chris Fisher compares his job to an orchestra conductor. He also cites a campaign for Cisco as work that he is particularly proud of.
Why is your job important?
Every sort of large orchestration has a conductor, right? They are the lead which everyone follows. Though individuals and sections are experts at their own given instrument, they’re somewhat limited to their own expertise.
The conductor understands how all these instruments fit together and sees them as part of a bigger picture. They are the ones that keep track of each section and ensure its fit into the larger ensemble.
They lead the orchestra by setting the tempo and directing to elicit a particular sound. They also deal with preparation so when it’s time to perform, everything is exactly how it needs to be.
Much is similar to how an interactive producer leads a project. They aren’t necessarily a master of a particular “instrument” like being a developer or designer, but they are well aware of how different teams are able to work together to produce a cohesive product.
By doing kick-offs and setting timelines, they’re able to set the cadence of the project. Ultimately, it’s how well the interactive producer does that determines the success of the project, similar to how well a composer directs will determine a perfect piece.
What is the hardest and most stressful part of your job?
For me, the hardest part about being an interactive producer is the handling of personalities. For the most part, it’s not particularly challenging because people often aim to please one another or are eager to come to an agreement, but every once in a while you’ll get someone that might be tougher or have people that are polar opposites and have conflicting ideas.
Consensus-building is an imperative part of the job because you need to have both your team and the client, and sometimes additional parties, all on the same page in order to proceed. When you’re mired in gridlock, the project essentially comes to a halt. When the gridlock is caused by differences in option and personality, it can be tough to navigate.
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
Launching a project is always a great feeling, but the ultimate satisfaction is when you get to make your client a rock star in front of their own stakeholders.
It’s also pretty cool when you get to make the lives of your team easier. If they’re happy and productive, it means you’re doing your job well and you get the benefit of an easier job as well!
What is the first thing that comes to people’s minds when you tell them your job?
When I tell people what I do I typically get an “oh, that’s cool” remark, but they don’t really understand the scope of the job. I assume they would associate a “producer” with a film or music producer and don’t really understand what an interactive producer does.
How would you correct/explain to them what you do?
Building off the previous answer - after a couple seconds of people’s blank stares, I follow up by saying I’m a project manager for things like building websites and apps. It’s then that I get the “oh, ok” response and a little more understanding.
I think the title of a project manager is a lot easier for people to identify than an interactive producer, even though a producer wears a few more hats than a project manager does.
Is there anything you want to change in your job?
If I had a magic wand, I’d wave it and ask for clients to always respond promptly when you have questions and to provide exact answers for the questions you have. But since I’m not a part of the Ministry of Magic, the most realistic thing I would change is the dynamics of the “client relationship.”
I’d like for our industry to be viewed as more of “partners” than “vendors” so decision-making feels more unified.
Which campaign, that you’ve worked on, are most proud of?
I’m proud of one particular campaign for Cisco that reflects our close relationship with the brand. To promote the launch of its new software solution called DNA Center, we developed an interactive video and storytelling application.
Designed to illustrate the stark contrast of the network administrator/engineer’s life with and without the DNA solution, the video featured a slider in the middle that allows users to scrub back and forth in real-time and watch a “day in the life” of an admin/engineer unfold into two significantly different outcomes.
At the time, however, only a desktop prototype was created and explicitly stated that it wasn’t supported on mobile. Our team wondered how something so well-executed on a desktop wasn’t mobile-friendly. We then had to dig in and develop the technology to enable the scrubbing functionality for desktop and mobile, which was challenging because essentially it is two videos that have to run synchronously.
After a lot of trial and error - and a lot of necessary logic on the processor end - we were able to translate the desktop version to mobile and bring an impossible - if not unprecedented - task to reality.
Is there a person in your industry you’re keen to emulate?
I’m going to be a bit of a homer here and say my chief executive officer Ming Chan. I’ve previously worked with folks that are very talented and have a great vision, but his ability to elicit ideas from people is almost supernatural.
If you weren’t an interactive producer, what would you be?
I’d either be a drummer for a Mötley Crüe cover band or realistically, a dog adventure photographer (for which I just started doing on the weekends).