Santa Monica, CA–Therapy Studios, and Stopp Inc. teamed up to bring producers and technology companies together for a Summer 2010 Digital Roundtable. Additional presenters included Venables Bell & Partners, Textopoly, FEED Company and Blush/LA.

Each company got a chance to introduce its services and products. Mandi Holdorf, broadcast producer, and John Eagan, senior interactive producer from Venables Bell & Partners showed the “Green Police” Audi spot they did for the Super Bowl; it earned over 1.5 million impressions and drove a 300 percent increase in traffic to Audi’s site.

“From an interactive producer’s standpoint, my job was to control the conversation about the Green Police, which had Nazi associations,” says Eagan. “The biggest challenge was to get the best partners in the room and teach them how to deal with messaging around Super Bowl.  That’s when my job shifts from doing a site to controlling the flow of media.”

Jesper Palsson, partner/CEO of Stopp in Stockholm and Los Angeles, introduced his company. Stopp has produced interactive work for Hal Riney, Publicis, Goodby Silverstein & Partners, Sterling RIce Group and Creative Artists Agency. He discussed the company’s evolution from production/post into interactive production, with expertise in creative development, Flash development, back-end programming, film production, mobile applications, and 3D and social network campaigns and applications.

Therapy Studios‘ executive producer/partner Joe DiSanto said his company represented the traditional editorial facility in the conversation about new media. “With  the pervasiveness of broadband and video online, there has been no time when the skills of online editors have been called upon to such a degree to make content compelling,” he said. “The difference is that in addition to creative talent, you need a solid technical understanding of what’s going on, and what the processes are in an integrated campaign and production.”  What he experienced that motivated him to put together the roundtable event was the number of clients who asked what they needed to know what to ask of traditional companies so they would contribute to an integrated campaign.

Textopoly is a mobile engagement agency that creates dialogues between brands and their consumers using the mobile SMS/WAP channel, said CEO/founder Naushad Huda. “Mobile is like high school sex,” said Huda. “Everyone’s talking about it but not everyone is doing it. And if they’re doing it, they’re probably not doing it right.”  People think SMS is too basic, but if you infuse creativity into it, it can be quite effective, said Huda, who noted that they also do augmented reality, barcode scavenger hunts and other “more advanced” mobile applications. Mobile also needs online media, print to support it. “Mobile needs love,” he concluded to applause.

Feed Company was described by Josh Warner, president/founder. “We’ve been in business four years which  makes us old as a viral video company,” said Warner, who noted that they prefer the term “video seeding” rather than viral. The company has seeded videos on the web for major brand advertisers, including Goodby, Silverstein & Partners and Interpublic Group’s Deutsch/L.A. “Every year the attention span gets shorter,” said Warner. “You could own the attention span for an online video for 3 or 4 weeks. That’s getting shorter and shorter every year, so you have to work harder. You really have to plan for these types of social video seeding campaigns. They have to be integrated, thought out and, most importantly, budgeted.”

In the following conversation, moderated by consultant/journalist Becky Ebenkamp who was previously West Coast Bureau Chief of Brandweek magazine, participants shared war stories and information about best practices for producing digital content and interactive campaigns. Participants around the round table came from David & Goliath, Y&R Irvine, A Common Thread and other companies. They all  discussed how to operate as an integrated or new media studio, how much is handled in house and how much out-sourced.

Venables Bell’s Mandi & Eagan talked about job descriptions and how it depends on the job and the skills needed. “It’s bullshit that one person can do everything,” said Mandi. The idea of a broadcast producer running a social media campaign is crazy. It’s finding the right skill set and knowing how to work with the vendors,” said Eagan.

Ebenkamp asked what special skills are required to work on augmented reality. “There are a lot of misconceptions about augmented reality,” said Eagan. “Very few vendors provide the plug-ins to run AR. You need to run one of those plug-ins and the difference between a Flash or local version. How to build deliverables for each plug-in will be different.”

Beckenkamp noted that Palsson said that workflow for interactive is much less linear than for traditional media. Does that make it harder to find talent, or can you teach it, she wanted to know.  “You need a basic level of skills including knowing all the terminology or people will think you don’t know what you’re doing even if you are a great producer,” answered Palsson, who said he learned by asking questions of people who were good in that area.  “There are more components and more things that can go wrong on a big website with hosting and banners. It’s all about collaboration and asking questions.”

Textopoly’s Huda discussed the mobile space, saying that “it has gotten better how much people know.” “But people still don’t know about the number of handsets and all the technology behind it,” he said. “They think it should all be done quickly. Mobile has a production timeline like everything else does.” Eagan reported that many clients cannot yet understand mobile campaigns and it’s been impossible thus far to get them interested in it.

“We’ve lived in a world with a rigid timeline and set of processes that you don’t have to think about anymore,” concluded DiSanto. “Now you have a dozen digital cameras, there’s no timecode, and metadata is the new master of making things seamless. You see where people get nervous…There is no standardization anyumore.” The solution is that the right companies will fill in that gap and extend it into interactive. “Everything will be interactive eventually,” he added. “Online will be the source of everything and, if there is TV, most likely people will watch it off the Internet and there’ll be some interactivity. If agencies and production companies don’t learn to produce elements that live in the online world, it’ll be tough for them. We’re proactive about learning interactive and how it gets done and learning that you can build interesting things in an infinitely more dynamic way.”