It's all love for our creative agency friends when we dedicate an episode of The Creative Operations Podcast to in-house teams, especially seeing as they often still share work with agency partners. For this episode, host Daniel Jester keeps the banter in-house with Vera Bradley's photography director, Doug Wallstrom. Doug has been in his position since 2015 and in that time transitioned Vera Bradley from exclusively product photography to in-house editorial. He's learned a lot about getting the most out of in-house creatives.
Doug and Daniel's full podcast is available in full on Amazon Music, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or ourwebsite, but read on for a few main takeaways.
Allow for Whimsy
Doug is a big believer in letting those late-night creative musings receive attention in the light of the day. "Our biggest hope, and we say it all the time, is we want to have a graphic designer, an art director, a creative director that had a dream, came in the next morning, and the first thing they did was run into the studio and say, 'I don't know if this is crazy or not, but what do you think?'"
Giving creatives space to express and workshop ideas—from the easily executed to the highly impractical—encourages people to care enough about their work that they'd ponder possibilities for it, even on their own time.
Leave Time to Ruminate
Speaking of time to contemplate, Daniel suggests that in-house teams talk with their internal clients about getting product samples or project details as early as possible. That way the creative team has ample time to ideate the best possible looks for content.
"We said that a lot to our clients, 'When you have a new collection and you do your big season presentation to your organization, we'd love to get a copy of the slide deck or even be included in a meeting because we want to be as excited about the new things in your collection as you are,'" he says. "We want to feel that energy and bring that to the photography."
Getting that advanced start will give your creatives more time to mull over upcoming assignments and conceive fresh ideas.
Do What it Takes (and Meet the Seagrass Guy)
While a lot of content teams would consider the act of shooting photos and videos to be the quintessence of their work, Doug sees that stage as being such a small fraction—like 5 to 10 percent—of his Vera Bradley team's work. Much more time goes into problem-solving surrounding a shoot.
That's where the fun is found, Doug says. "We were asked to do a campaign out in the Great Lakes region at the sand dunes," he says. "But it rained, and we got washed out. We ended up turning it into a studio shoot. We rebuilt sand dunes in the studio and got some grass from up in Michigan. And actually, now I know the guy in Michigan—if you ever need seagrass, I know the guy. So I got my seagrass guy. Really nice guy. And we came back into the studio and shot it in the studio with a natural-looking light and then went back and photographed the surroundings where we'd really wanted it, merged them together, and ended up saving tens of thousands of dollars in crew time and travel expense."
Part of the beauty in this industry is taking on challenges you could've never imagined would pop up when you went to work that morning. But you find yourself making it work, and even meeting a seagrass guy or two along the way.
Go ahead and listen to the full episode or stream Daniel's other studio-based true crime podcast, It Happened in the Equipment Room (it'll all make sense if you hear the chat with Doug). As always, it's on Amazon Music, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or ourwebsite.