Eira Ellis heads up the primary production team at marketing implementation agency, Hogarth Worldwide and since joining in 2013, she’s seen the department tripled in size.
Using the de-coupled Hogarth model, all media content is produced alongside creative agencies for clients including Heinz, Purina for Nestlé, Johnson and Johnson.
Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role
I was brought up in a council house in rural North Wales surrounded by muddy farms and beautiful mountains. I was educated in a small Welsh-speaking school in Wrexham where I was good in art and just about got away with everything else. I didn’t stay on for A-levels, but aimed for the closest thing possible to what I really wanted to do at the time, which was a BTEC in AVS Photography at Cartrefle Art College. I excelled in this course and thanks to the encouragement of fantastic course teachers, I decided to apply to study animation at Farnham Art School. To my delight, I was accepted and became the first person in my village to get a degree!
While I was in Farnham, I realised I preferred the production side of filmmaking to the creation, so in the early 1990’s, I took my first job in Aardman Animation in Bristol as a PA. I stayed in animation production for a few years, enjoying the steep learning curve and the wonderful people I got to work alongside such as Dave Sproxton, Peter Lord, Nick Park and Jill and Richard Purdum.
I then decided to jump into the advertising side as I imagined it was much more diverse, better paid and rather glamorous…I’ve learned a bit more since then!
I now head up the primary production aspect of Hogarth Worldwide, mainly looking after the EMEA region and working in partnership with our APAC and Americas offices.
Did you ever sit down and plan your career?
I always knew I wanted move to London and work in the TV industry, however I was very naïve about what my job in TV would be. I had absolutely no idea where I would end up, though am very happy to be where I am.
Have you faced any challenges along the way and if so, how did you deal with them?
Challenges in this industry crop up all the time, mainly because there’s a new change every day, such as a development in technology or a new creative trend. However, although I’m proud to have been brought up within the discipline the UK advertising and production industry perpetuate, there does tend to be a resistance to change. The global reach we have at Hogarth demands that we’re more open to adapting some of our practices, particularly when it comes to international resource and cost efficiencies.
The sector needs to think more strategically about all the varying production demands.
Given we now work more directly with key client stakeholders, we need to understand one another’s challenges more deeply, and respond with bespoke solutions that ensure we’re producing the ‘best in class’ work for our clients in the most efficient ways.
On a typical workday, how does you start your day and how does it end?
My days begin and end with my children. I have to get them to school in the morning, nag them about homework in the evening and generally carry out day-to-day Mum stuff. Once the children are off to school, I aim to go to the gym before starting the working day at 9am. I try to leave the office by 6pm so I can get home in time to spend some time with my family. Despite this I’m usually still checking emails in the evening as we have a lot of communication with our international offices in New York and Singapore in particular as we share a lot of the same clients. There’s a need to regularly update each other and make sure we’re all providing the best service continuity internationally.
My days are always different. I may be shooting abroad with one of our international Hogarth shoot centres or a third party production company; or working at base in GPS on production strategy, RACI’s and supporting the wider team. I meet with production companies often, from all over the world, as we’re keen to know the latest news and trends. We also have regular team meetings where we share news and information, and I ensure our training and due diligence is all up to speed.
Tell us a little bit about your role and how did that come about?
After 15 years as board director at JWT and as a more traditional senior producer, I moved to the Central Office of Information (COI). Here, I was introduced to new ways of working; particularly the de-coupled production method process – this is where the client chooses to do all their production directly with a production implementation agency who then work in partnership with, rather than through, the creative advertising agency.
This was a revelation to me and I loved working directly with clients and agency creatives. We also supported the different agency disciplines, so rather than just ATL creative agencies (meaning ‘above the line, or advertising that’s going to be deployed to a wider target audience via mediums such as television, radio or online), we produced assets for whole campaigns, including ATL, PR, digital and direct mail etc., all in partnership with the relevant agency.
Following the demise of the COI, I just couldn’t go back to being a traditional agency producer. So when Hogarth asked me to join them on a project with Betfair using their de-coupled method, I was really excited. Hogarth are very open to adapting to suit the client’s needs – we always start with asking what they want and work from there.
Now as head of primary and agency production for Hogarth Worldwide, my role is all about production strategy and building the right team accordingly. We listen to the ‘end-to-end’ requirements from our clients and plan the creation of assets with the long term in mind. This requirement might be a huge international multi-brand scope of work or a one-off television commercial, so we have to make sure the many facets involved in production are considered, scheduled and costed out so our clients can achieve the planning and objectives they need for their business to build.
Have you ever had a mentor or a sponsor or anyone who has helped your career?
No, but I was trained brilliantly by great producers such as Jill Purdum, Joan Arnott and Nigel Foster.
If you could change one thing for women in the workplace, what would it be?
Parity – not only in equal pay, but with attitude as well. Women are given a label as soon as they walk into a room that responds to their age, looks and wardrobe – by both men and women. If only we could be more kind to one other! I recommend every young person entering the business world reads ‘Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead’ by Sheryl Sandberg, who’s COO of Facebook.
Sandberg addresses the fact that although all women would agree to equal pay rights, how many of these women would ask for a pay rise?
She draws on her own experience working in some of the world’s most successful businesses and suggests ways women can make small changes to their lives that could effect change on a more universal scale. I really wish I’d read it when I was a bit younger!
How would you encourage more women into STEM/ the digital industry?
I would pay everyone according to skill set and experience, but also offer everyone the flexibility to work remotely when required as I don’t think you need to be a parent to ask for flexible working. I would encourage diverse knowledge and different skill sets, which is helped by flexible working hours.
If you were to look back in five years, what would you see in terms of your achievements?
As a woman, I’m proud to be managing an imperfect balance between my family and work lives. Hogarth has a considerate and loyal senior management team who are very supportive of the fact that I am a female senior member of their team as well as a mum – both really important jobs! I’m also very proud of our team at Hogarth. Everyone’s always ready to muck in and get on with getting the best job done, which at times can be tough. They do an excellent job and we’re always continuing to refine and improve projects as we’re given new challenges.
Tell us about your plans for the future?
Our team has a huge remit to grow the very best production implementation here at Hogarth. I personally feel very invested in growing our offering in the best way we can on a global level, and I definitely feel I have the support and ability to do so.