At the end of the day, an advertising agency produces a product. That can come in many forms, be it in print, on television or the radio, online, mobile, outdoors, or anywhere else an ad could be placed. It is the production director’s job (sometimes called “media production director” or “print production director”) to make sure the ads make it to those specific places.
Working hand-in-hand with the creative, media, traffic (which is sometimes part of production), and accounts departments, the production director manages a team of skilled production specialists who are experts in getting all kinds of ads created and published. If it’s a piece of direct mail, it may require something to be specially fabricated. If it’s a billboard, it could require unique placement or a custom build. If it’s a television spot, the production director may have to oversee all aspects of the production, including casting, set builds, wardrobe, permits and more.
In short, it is the production director’s responsibility to ensure the vision of the creative department, and the client is brought to life in the best possible way, whilst also making sure budgets and timelines are met.
As you would expect, the production director oversees a team of skilled individuals and has a wealth of knowledge and experience. To that end, production directors have a median income of $148,696, with the bottom end being $99,666, and the top end a very generous $176,293. When you add in bonus and benefits, the Salary.com median comes out to $232,571. It is one of the most highly compensated jobs in the agency but comes with a great deal of pressure, and you must be available day and night, 7 days a week, to make sure the needs of the agency and the client are met.
Production directors have to be great leaders and motivators of people. They also need to excel in problem-solving and be good at negotiating. Many production directors will be required to haggle with vendors to get the pricing that both the agency and the client will benefit from. They will also have to find creative solutions to some of the requests being made of them by both the creative and media departments.
Education and Training
Any job at this level with requires a high level of career experience, on top of the usual academic qualifications. As a production director, you should have a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in a related field, including business, marketing, art, design, or even engineering. It will be your practical experience at agencies that will be of most relevance to your future employer.
Don’t expect to sit at your desk shuffling papers and browsing the Internet. The production director has a hectic job, and will often be seen running from department to department to get information, show samples, or check in with creative and media. Here is what a typical day can involve:
- Meeting with creative teams to be briefed on potential projects
- Pulling together quotes for ad campaigns and individual tactics
- Meeting with current vendors, and establishing a relationship with new vendors
- Making phone calls to vendors, clients, media buying firms, and more
- Speaking with clients about media strategies
- Overseeing a team of production specialists
- Attending press checks, shoots, and VO session
Getting a Job
At this level, agencies may well seek out a production director using a headhunter, or via word of mouth. It’s a key role in the agency, and requires many years of experience, with the accompanying successes. You may be able to work your way up to the position, first as a junior in the production department, then a manager, and finally director.
The biggest benefits are travel, and being courted by vendors who want the agency’s business. Production directors are asked out to dinners and events constantly by printers, media buyers, and other suppliers, all wanting to be in on the agency roster. You cannot accept bribes or “gifts,” but you will often be given tickets to shows, sports events, and even ski passes once the vendor is on the books. These can, and should, be passed out among the staff of the agency. You will also get to travel on various shoots around the country, and even the world, and will also attend conferences. The salary is also a very nice benefit of the job.