Call it the brainstorm versus the bottom line.
The concepts versus the cash.
The creative dreams versus the budget nightmares.
Whatever you want to call it, when art and commerce meet, there’s always a tangible tension between big creative ideas and limited budgets. In the event production business, where variables are more numerous, direct costs are much larger and client expectations are in the stratosphere, the struggle can take on epic proportions.
In this corner is the creative team: brimming with confidence and cool ideas, ready to bring their brilliance to life. In the other corner are the producers, punching away at their calculators and pointing bleakly at the bottom line. With a combustible mix like this, the resulting carnage can sometimes lead to bruised egos and bad vibes.
Who’s in charge? The producers or the creatives?
At most event production companies, the producer is in charge of the proceedings, and the creative director is subordinate to him or her. When dollars are tight, the producer is the one who gets to decide what stays and what goes. That means, at many event production companies, someone is often saying “no” to the best and biggest ideas.
At Corporate Magic – a leading event production company in Dallas – that situation is reversed. This company is unique in that its owner, Jim Kirk, is from the creative side, and has a reputation for delivering amazing ideas that are always on target.
“We’re all about delivering the right message to the right audience,” said Kirk. “And the creative side carries that message. Creative is what the audience sees and hears. It’s not the icing on the cake, as some people think. It is the cake.”
In other words, at Corporate Magic, creative is king.
However, that doesn’t mean other members of the team have no influence – quite the contrary.
“It’s a very collaborative process,” said Stephen Dahlem, senior creative director at Corporate Magic. “The account manager, the producer and the creative people all work very closely together, like a three-legged stool. If any one of them isn’t part of the process, the stool is out of balance and it falls over.”
Brian Greenway, director of alliances and business development at the company, agrees. “It’s not so much about one side working against another,” he said. “The struggle is really all about putting the best possible product on the stage.”
In its history, the company has staged some of the most memorable events ever, including the Tournament of Roses Parade, the Republican National Convention’s Welcome Event, the state of Oklahoma’s Centennial Celebration and the 100th Anniversary National Jamboree for the Boy Scouts of America, in addition to corporate work for Coca-Cola, Prudential, Mazda and Land Rover.
It all starts with a clear blue sky.
One of the first steps for any Corporate Magic event is a “blue sky session,” where the creative director, producer and account manager sit down together to talk about the project.
The account manager lays out the details of the show, from the size of the venue to the number of people in the audience to an overview of past productions. The most important part of the discussion is the message: the overarching piece of communication that the client wants to deliver through the event.
“We talk a lot about the primary and secondary messages, and how we want people to feel when they walk away from the meeting,” said Meg Lohr, senior international account manager for Corporate Magic.
In blue sky sessions, there are no dark clouds; it’s important for ideas to be free and unfettered, with no regard to the budget. That way, even the most outrageous and innovative ideas can emerge.
“We go into these meetings and dream the big dreams,” said Dahlem. “But it’s never about ‘wow for the sake of wow.’ We look for ways to deliver the correct message and do it with emotion. People remember how they felt long after they forget what they heard.”
If the ideas are straying from the major message, the account managers and producers speak up. “That’s a big part of our job: making sure the creative ideas are on point with the client’s goals,” said Greenway.