Sign up here for the latest articles
By Maddy Smith
As CRC celebrates 26 years as a Women Owned Business, Randall discusses her journey to international expansion, the importance of clear communication, DE&I and their benchmarking tool, CLARITY.
Women Owned Business
“I am extremely proud of the company, the reputation we have, and what we stand for”
Claire Randall’s dream may have originated in the world of acting, but after studying French and Drama at London University & Central School of Drama, alongside commercial voiceover work and some appearances on local radio to get her equity card, Randall became disillusioned and got in touch with a friend at Saatchi & Saatchi to see if they had any opportunities available.
Randall landed an unpaid role in the TV department to work as a Production Assistant under Jim Baker, Head of TV at the time. After just one month she was offered a job, which was ultimately her first step into the industry. “I loved it from day one”, she explains, “because it gave me the opportunity to be in control of my destiny”.
“Producing just suits me because it’s just all about making things happen, solving challenges, organising things – that’s really my forte”, Randall says. After 6 months, she was made the Production Assistant to Baker himself and under his wing, she learnt quickly through working on big shoots and major accounts, and within two years she became a producer.
Claire Randall Consulting (CRC) started almost by accident. While at Saatchi & Saatchi, Randall worked on a number of major brands, regularly bringing jobs in under budget. One of her clients was a global FMCG advertiser that increasingly wanted to take greater control of production costs, though they had little knowledge and understanding of production internally.
As such they needed external expertise to understand the processes and the costs. The client approached Randall with a view to working exclusively with them on a consultancy basis, helping the marketing procurement team to better understand the production process, how their agencies worked, analyse production costs and recommend more efficient ways of working.
But it wasn’t all plain sailing, Randall recalls. A member of the client’s commercial team suggested that while she may be a good fit for the role, she may not be taken seriously due to her age and her gender. This made Randall all the more determined to succeed.
Her plan was to work with the client for a couple of years in order to gain more experience and then return to agencyland. “That was the plan – but 26 years later and here I am still doing the same thing. But it was an amazing baptism because they were doing 200 shoots a year and initially it was just me and a production assistant”, she explains.
Claire Randall Consulting
Randall is rightfully proud of being a successful female entrepreneur, creating a world-leading global consultancy and a Women Owned Business.
CRC has developed from a heritage of cost control to production consulting. It’s now a much wider remit, working with around 50 leading advertisers across the globe, with a combined production expenditure under management of £225 million in 2021 alone. From a team of four when Randall had just the one client, CRC now has 45 consultants worldwide, all of whom are subject matter experts.
Essentially, CRC offers a third party independent perspective on production processes and costs. Randall says that If you don’t get the process right, then costs will escalate.
Most importantly she adds, CRC has no skin in the game, so can be completely objective. “We work mostly on an annual retainer rather than project basis and never on a percentage of savings, which leaves the industry open to malpractice” Randall says.
“I want to make sure that we have aligned with the stakeholders at the outset”, she summarises. Randall says it’s important to establish from the start what the budget is and what the client is trying to achieve with that, as well as, for example, what markets is this campaign running in and where might it be used for the next three to five years as this can inadvertently create rights issues further down the track?
By aligning everyone at the start, you know exactly what you’re trying to achieve, you’re not getting too far down the line and realising the proposed idea is way too ambitious for the budget – which is common in Randall’s experience.
International expansion – removing silos
During the seven years in which Randall worked exclusively with her first client, a global FMCG advertiser, her remit extended only to European campaigns across all of their Business Units. However a co-production with one of the clients’ US agencies revealed a huge opportunity to manage production globally.
Randall approached the client explaining that they could create a lot of added value if they were to take on the US, as they could identify production inefficiencies, duplicated work and inflated costs. “It took me about a year or so to convince them to give us North America, so we started working [there] about five years into the seven”.
It is critical to have one central source of truth, explains Randall. This is invaluable to production in order for all parties to benefit from the clients overall buying power in the market and identify areas of opportunity. “There’s so much duplication within many major global organisations and they struggle to identify what they’re spending, where and with whom”.
The ideal situation is where production is centralised through one hub. “Where you’re the glue that connects all of the different agencies, production companies, suppliers and brands, suddenly you’ve got some real opportunities to drive efficiency through the organisation”, she considers.
In 2003, Randall expanded her small team to become an independent production consultancy as she recognised that she had all her eggs in one basket and needed to expand her client base.
CRC then went on to pick up three other clients that same year, who are still clients 18 years later. “So we’ve got a very, very long term client retention”, she explains.
Working with a budget and managing client expectations
Randall explains that she does not have an issue with agencies presenting ambitious ideas, but they must meet the budgetary restrictions, so as to not corner a client into signing off something more expensive than what they’ve given the agency to begin with.
“That’s why I don’t see us as cost controllers, but rather as an ongoing and integrated part of the marketing team”, Randall says. Conversations need to be had to establish the limitations before the work develops too far. “We try to manage expectations very early on”, she adds.
Savings are not just hard numbers, she explains. But they can also be risk mitigation, cost avoidance, damage limitation and added value.
Clarity is the key
CRC has over 25 years of experience across multiple sectors, brands, advertisers, markets and types of work. On average, the consultancy handles 800 projects each year and alongside 26 years of experience are able to determine what might be considered reasonable costs and terms for any particular campaign.
All production data is retained and collated, which is entered into CRC’s cloud-based tool named CLARITY™. The system was essentially designed to help consultants in their roles, but ultimately, this granular data has proven invaluable to clients.
CRC consultants can look, for example, at photographer’s and director’s day rates across locations and time periods. Randall says, “So let’s say we might be working with the same production company in the US as we are in the UK, it enables us to compare rates, it’s a very valuable benchmarking tool”.
CRC consultants enter the data and write additional commentary regarding all aspects of a production, particularly where time or cost came under pressure and why. This is then exported in a report and sent out to the client.
Randall goes on to highlight that for clients with multiple brands, agencies and production partners, it isn’t easy to track spend because often there is not solely one central financial system.
Clients don’t usually have this visibility, but Clarity records all of this information, which enables them to make data-driven decisions, she says. “A client [once] said to me, I know we are spending around $100 million on production, but beyond about $50million of that – I have no idea where it’s going”.
Astonishing as this may sound, it’s a reflection of the challenge facing global brands that work with a very decentralised marketing structure, something Randall highlights and says CRC works hard with clients to improve using Clarity to centralise and monitor production spend. Randall goes on to say that decentralised marketing structures can lead to duplication, increased costs, lack of synergy and often a lack of alignment with the overall company strategy.
Clarity is ever-evolving, explains Randall, and is now helping brands drive their DE&I agenda by tracking use of female or other under-represented minorities in the bidding process.
If an agency is struggling to find female directors for example, CRC has the resources and people to connect to, helping clients to push and track progress with their stated objectives.
CRC also helps brands meet sustainable quotas by having strong connections to all leading organisations, whether the client wants to partner with organisations such as Green the Bid or AdGreen to help with reducing plastics on shoots or minimising the carbon footprint on location.
Clarity has also been able to keep track of the cost of Covid, which revealed that clients actually spent 10% more in 2021 on Covid-related costs, demonstrating a considerable increase. This included the necessity to have a backup cast, crew, cancellations and postponements.
Trends and Challenges
As well as the challenge of decentralised marketing structures, Randall says that the proliferation of marketing channels, whilst creating increased opportunity for customer engagement, requires more and more content and the challenge is how to produce the quality and volume in multiple formats for the same, or a reduced, budget. This domino effect then impacts on the amount of time for production as brands need to create more deliverables for TV, digital, social, PR and so on.
Randall says the only way to meet the twin challenges of time and money is to have a holistic view of the total production ecosystem, from beginning to end, in order to reduce duplication, improve creative repurposing through increased digital asset utilisation and a cohesive communication policy for all stakeholders and production partners. This is a role that Randall says CRC fulfils with tremendous effect for brands because of the insight and expertise of their consultants and, most importantly, being independent as they work exclusively for the brand.
Randall notes that to meet these challenges there are currently three main trends resulting from the changing content production ecosystem. With the rise of the in-house agency, more and more advertisers are building in-house capabilities and staffing them with ex-agency and production teams, but the type of work being produced in-house varies greatly and therefore so do the production requirements.
As well as this, advertising agencies are increasingly expanding their own in-house production capabilities to retain more of the production work, even building out full service production companies in some cases but transparency can sometimes be an issue.
And finally, Randall says, some clients are decoupling to independent production companies as they become more like agencies increasingly offering creative and strategy. But with it comes more risk and responsibility for the client as agency roles need to be covered elsewhere resulting in the possibility that client servicing may be lost. “All challenges can be navigated”, she states, “[but] it comes down to having a clearly defined strategy”.
“Clients are pushing for greater transparency and more efficiency”, Randall outlines, “and to achieve this they’re increasingly taking back control”. This is achieved through centralising production strategies, which Randall says is really how decoupling first began. She says the need to produce quality content, at speed, during Covid, further highlighted the requirement for more agile, streamlined processes. Traditional agency models are simply no longer viable.
In addition, clients are optimising operating models by designing the right ecosystem of external partners and in-house resources, with the right mix of skill sets, to meet their business goals.
Randall says that as the ecosystem becomes more fragmented, one of the biggest challenges faced by advertisers is a lack of coordination between all partners in the process, as 46% of respondents highlighted in a recent WFA survey. “This fragmentation further increases duplication and risk of rights violations. There’s an urgent need to come up with innovative solutions to deliver quality content at scale”, Randall urges.
Whilst the techniques for producing moving images are more or less the same, what has evolved, explains Randall, is the post-production.
Now, agencies and marketers have a much bigger task. Different formats and channels require different needs. Which is why traditionally it is often decoupled to a lower cost production supplier to create these variations.
Randall says, “I think the point is you’ve just got to shoot everything, optimising every shoot for as many needs as possible, for as long as possible”.
Women Owned Business
As Randall is the sole owner with no other shareholders or external investors she says that CRC is focused on reputation rather than profit, “We’re successful, we’re profitable, we’re growing all the time, but there’s no game plan particularly, it’s just organic”, Randall says.
Randall is very keen to acknowledge the importance of her team. “CRC is made up of an amazing team of loyal and incredibly experienced consultants, many of them working mums and have been with the company for a very long time. We have a very strong and collaborative team culture and spirit that we have built”, she prefaces. “I am extremely proud of the company, the reputation we have, and what we stand for”.
“Women can have a family and still be successful in business”, Randall states. “You can ‘have it all’. It might not be perfect, but juggling is a skill that working mothers have learned. One should never feel guilty for wanting to be successful at both and I think the industry now fully recognises the contribution women make across the board”.
“In 2019, I was asked to take part in a book called ‘Female Entrepreneurs, the secrets of their success’”, she says. John Smythe, co-author, said: “Time and again, we hear from talented women that they’ve been driven from their corporate careers and had to become entrepreneurs out of necessity”.
Smythe continues, “They are then hampered by the fact that ninety-one percent of venture capital money funds businesses founded solely by men. It’s time to get serious about creating and supporting a vibrant culture of female entrepreneurship in the UK and unleash this incredible resource for the good of women and society as a whole”.
There are a number of supplier diversity initiatives that advertisers have put in place over the last few years, to drive growth for minority-owned businesses. Author Smythe also stated that ‘’Concerningly, female entrepreneurship in the UK lags behind other countries, with only 6% of UK women running their own businesses, compared to almost 11% of women in the US. “Young girls need to be encouraged to pursue whatever career they want, with no limits or barriers”, she adds.
And finally looking back, what would Randall’s advice be to herself when she first started out in the industry? “Stick to your core values and what you stand for and don’t deviate. Don’t cut corners. Be passionate about what you do and enjoy it. Don’t regret bad decisions, learn from them”.
You have to admit though, that after 26 successful years in business, it doesn’t appear that Randall has made many bad decisions.
Claire Randall is Founder and CEO at Claire Randall Consulting.
The Women of Influence insight series is published in partnership with Decideware
Thank you for your support in helping to inform our industry.