February 17th, 2010

Project Manager Aliases and the Evian Roller Babies

Project Managers are everywhere. The thing is: sometimes the Project Manager is disguised by another title, so that they can be hard to recognize. Sometimes they go by an Alias. (Not to be confused by that awesome TV show).

This Evian Roller Babies ad was circulating the social media circles last summer and I must have watched it about 45 times. No, it did not give me a desire to drink bottled water (we switched to tap water several years ago for ecological reasons) and, frankly, were I to drink bottled water, I’d hardly drink something imported from across the Atlantic when I live in a province with a gazillion lakes (that pesky carbon footprint argument again.)

No, I watched this video because, like a typical project manager geek, I wanted to know “who made this and how?” Actually, what I really wanted to know was: “Who was the Project Manager?” Because I knew there was someone who actually made this video happen: took the creative idea and turned it into reality.

Wouldn’t you know it, a few keystrokes later I was able to find the companion video “The Making Of”. Truth be told, I think I enjoy this even more than the original.

As I watched “The Making Of”, I was stunned (though not really) at the number of people that it took to make a 1 minute video. Did you catch the room full of software geeks (I counted at least 12 of them), the guys with the jig in the park, the contact sheet with the many baby pictures, the storyboard, the dude drawing next to the laptop, Suit Guy, Black Tuque Guy, and Ever Present Woman? How about that cool roller skater dude? How about all those parents with their babies?

But the question I have is: who the heck is the Project Manager?

We are taught to look at Project Management as a collection of five processes: Initiating, Planning, Executing, Monitoring & Controlling, and Closing. Certainly, someone was leading each of these five processes to make this video actually happen. Someone had to understand the creative vision for the ad (“let’s do a video showing what Evian water does to babies: when they drink it, they dance to Rapper’s Delight”), then break it down and execute the steps to make that vision happen; steps such as getting that jig in the park, making the fake baby, directing the roller skater dude, hiring and photographing all those babies (with their parents), and figuring out the dance moves to mimic in the software. That someone is the Project Manager.

Without any intimiate knowledge of the advertising industry, my vote is going to the Director, whom I strongly suspect of being Black Tuque Guy: you can see him everywhere in The Making Of video: directing the roller skater dude, attending meetings, sitting next to the software geeks. He’s in the video from beginning to end.

I suspect Suit Guy of being the Global Executive Creative Director and Ever Present Woman as being Art Director. I’m mapping these roles in my industry to those of Sales and Marketing: they define the creative vision for the ad campaign ie the requirements for the project (the customer requirements), to be executed by the Project Manager, the Director in this case. At least, that’s how I see it. Without actually having worked in the advertising industry and watching these people work firsthand, I’m just guessing.

So, Advertising Video Director is a Project Manager Alias. See? We are … everywhere.

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