“You Brits have really got this branded content thing going on.” It’s a phrase that Quite Frankly Productions owner and MD Jez Frankel has heard more than once in meetings in New York. It’s also a good fit for his company’s expertise.
Film producers in the UK are pretty good at this branded content thing, if international awards are a guide. London-based Quite Frankly aren’t waiting for the global market to come to them. Following the pattern of the Bangalore operation they set up three years ago, they opened their New York office in early September.
Why New York? “We are hoping to bring branded content savvy to New York for clients who want to look over the oceans,” says Frankel.
So are they an agency?
Jez has always hated the term ‘corporate video production’ as he feels ‘corporate’ suggests dull grey suits rather than the creativity and storytelling that is central to great work. He sees Quite Frankly as a creative production company rather than an agency. Far from being boring, brand video is the most exciting area of the moving image industry today.
‘There’s a view among our clients that if you are a FTSE 100 company and you haven’t got your digital agency, your production company, your seeding partner, your influencer agency in place, you’re doing something wrong,” he says.
He is not a fan of the full service agency solution, although it can work for some comms professionals. Instead, Quite Frankly work with other niche experts. They believe bringing together a mixed bag of agencies works out better and is more cost effective for the client. ‘We are very happy to bring good people we have met into projects, we know what we are good at.’
Quite Frankly are featured in Moving Image Directory, the unique invitation-only list of verified brand film specialists.
It’s the team that counts
The core members of Quite Frankly Productions have stayed together as the company has grown. Initially a vehicle for Jez to make programmes for the BBC while freelancing for Medialink, the company’s heart is ex-Medialink people. 2007 was a big year as Frankel personally guaranteed financing that lifted the business to the next level. The timing was interesting, as no-one knew at the time the global economy was on the edge of a precipice.
Two years later they reached critical mass when Commercial Director Lucy Charlesworth joined, bringing a business development skillset that Frankel didn’t have. Jez is generous in his praise for his colleagues. “Had Lucy and Clare Goodwillie not come on board, it could have gone pop in the early days,” he comments.
2012 was a wonder year. They won the tender for the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Torch Relay. “It was the biggest project we had ever won,” says Charlesworth. “We were ringside.” New client relationships were triggered by the Olympic work, a tradition that still applies.
So how did Quite Frankly survive and prosper in such challenging times? “We have been good at smelling the air and deciding how we have to change to stay relevant,” says Jez. Change, when needed, is about adapting fast – and deciding what not to offer.
The Medialink roots meant there was an emphasis in the early days on broadcast PR projects. This has evolved into a focus on brand communications in consumer goods, including fashion and luxury. Diageo has been a client since the beginning and the client roster also includes Omega, Coca-Cola, Nike, Tabasco, Mishcon de Reya and Louis Vuitton.
Now, 11 years on and with a healthy balance sheet, Frankel recently submitted a six-figure budget for one short film that will only go on Instagram. A year ago that was unheard of, but Instagram is now the number one selling vertical for some of Quite Frankly’s clients. “I hope that’s where we will continue to see what’s going on, and respond quickly.”
New York, New York
With the Madison Avenue office now open, Frankel jokes that his mum thinks he’s Don Draper. Mindful of the uncertain times with Brexit around the corner, he is confident Quite Frankly will find its niche in the US. Combined with London and Bangalore, it gives them a global footprint from which to tell global brands’ stories.
It’s also about finding the right people. Catherine Crowe, the new Managing Partner in New York, and Sitara Menon in Bangalore already had track records with Quite Frankly before coming on board in the regional hubs. They have both hit the ground running.
Looks like the branded content thing has landed in New York too.