What if an agency could look out for the interests of both the artist and the client? Founder and director Jeremy Wortsman started The Jacky Winter Group (JWG) in 2006 with a vision for changing the way business was done: Creatives should be able to make a living and develop their craft while clients can fairly gain access to their services.
The Jacky Winter Group chose Slack, a secure messaging app for business, as a “shared brain” to simplify and speed up its work. “Slack’s really the backbone of so many things that we do at Jacky Winter because our business has lots of different arms to it,” says Wortsman.
Whether it’s running a brick-and-mortar gallery in Australia or custom-made apps that automate the boring bits of being creative for a living or making and selling one-of-a-kind merchandise and souvenirs, the The Jacky Winter Group team wholeheartedly believes in inspiring, supporting and championing people who work in the creative industries.
As the business grew from its Australian headquarters to three offices in three time zones—Melbourne, London and New York—JWG’s globally distributed team could field and deliver briefs on a 24-hour workflow and work faster with auto-saved and searchable knowledge sharing.
Bianca Bramham, The Jacky Winter Group’s managing agent and producer (North America), remembers the old way of working: when sending one-line emails back and forth in the Melbourne office or burning files onto a disk and couriering packages was the norm. It wasn’t the most efficient way to tackle complex, creative work. Now Slack makes collaborative file and document sharing from any device easier.
“Slack helps us ‘handball’ things coming in from all hours,” says Wortsman. “We get a brief from L.A. overnight, then we pick it up in Melbourne in the morning.” The Australian team then pins the message in the relevant channel for the New York team, who then can easily find and unpin the information as it gets actioned.
As transparency becomes the default, decision-making is in the hands of the people who make the work happen. “The more that we use Slack channels, the more it becomes valuable. We can search for and find what we talked about later too,” says Wortsman.
Channel-based platforms keep everyone in the loops that matter to them. What does that mean for agency agent-producers tasked with looking after both sides of the commercial equation?
Craft and creativity are as respected as the brief, time and money involved. That means fewer details get missed, expectations are clearer and everyone involved from brief to artwork clearance knows exactly what’s written up in the commercial agreement.
Automating admin to increase creativity and collaboration with Slack channels
Today’s leaders are actively integrating and automating to make work smarter and more accurate, freeing people to do what people do best. For a global agency in the business of realising a creative and commercially sound vision, it’s critical to speed up approvals, remove human error and choose documentation over guesswork.
“As the conduit between the artist and the client, agility is a core function of our role,” says Bramham. “As agent-producers, our team spends a lot of time wearing an organizational hat—recapping information, communicating, facilitating. But we’re all inherently creative people. Slack allows us to be both at the same time and gives us a competitive advantage.”
Slack channels can help triage client requests and enlist the right cross-functional experts to help manage issues or build out teams for the right project. “We can also build out templates and implement automated systems and processes for running creative projects. It brings some objectivity to the subjective nature of illustration and animation,” says Bramham.
Solving issues faster means that people can focus on what they do best regardless of their role in the company. “One of the biggest things we do for our artists and clients is to try and ease any decision-making or roadblocks, so they can take the next step and make something happen,” says Bramham.
As an agent-producer at JWG, you might find yourself in Slack channels such as:
#incoming-briefswhich acts as a group inbox to review client requests for feasibility, recommendations and potential workarounds
#blessedto highlight things the team is grateful for and encourage banter
#check-into celebrate wins and review weekly happenings
#in-and-outto share team availability during their working hours
Whether they’re using Slack’s search function to track down important information or sharing in the moment, the Jacky Winter team agent-producers can listen better and respond faster to artist or client needs as they come up.
“As agent-producers, my team spends a lot of time recapping information, communicating, facilitating. But we’re all inherently creative people. Slack allows us to be both at the same time and gives us a competitive advantage.”
Using Slack for real-time knowledge sharing among hundreds of artists, clients and agent-producers
The Jacky Winter Group has over 120 artists on its roster who practice in everything from animation to typography to storyboarding to children’s book illustrations.
“It can seem like there’s a lot to keep up with, but we’re constantly sharing information about how our artists are doing, what they’re up to. Are they really looking forward to doing a certain kind of work? Are they traveling? What have they been up to recently? We can get that information really quickly. It’s there on Slack,” says Bramham.
If you’re searching for a message in Slack using a general phrase that returns too many results, try to remember one of these details:
- Who said it?
- What channels might it have been in?
- The approximate date it was shared?
- If it was a file, do you recall what kind of file it was (e.g., PDF, email, spreadsheet, image)?
Using Slack’s filters to quickly find the information you need, you’ll ultimately enjoy doing a lot less searching and a lot more actual work.
“As producers, we use the search tool on Slack every day. Just type an artist’s name into search and find out what they’ve been up to. I might also pick up some insight that someone’s recapped about booking a scissor lift or going through the insurance process. Slack becomes a knowledge hub for us,” says Bramham.
Traditionally in the agency world, producers are sometimes seen as the barrier to getting great work done. The solution? Show clients you’re there to lay the foundations for a project going well. With Slack, you can bring teams together with increased visibility and knowledge sharing.
Project management is generally accomplished with Slack through:
- An established set of processes, best practices and workflows
- A suite of project management tools, such as a task manager (Trello, Asana), a database manager (Airtable), a calendar (Google Calendar, iCal, Outlook Calendar) or some combination of the three (Kyber)
- An outstanding degree of organizational expertise
“Having a forum where clients can get more immediate and real-time access to an artist as well is really important for us,” says Bramham.
The shift to hybrid work also allows agencies to tap into a more diverse talent pool, with less proximity bias and fewer one-size-fits-all practices. This means more flexible hours and working locations, quick, informal check-ins and collaboration platforms as the new work hub.
With Wortsman in Australia and Bramham in the U.S., they typically talk for only 40 minutes face-to-face once a week. The rest of the time? “We’re constantly in a Slack thread, either ideating, sharing ideas or trying to figure something out,” says Bramham.
With Slack’s reminders feature, the pressure to make snap decisions eases. “Maybe it’s in a month, maybe it’s in two weeks. I’ll set a reminder to make sure it’s on my mind again when I’m ready to fully explore it,” says Bramham.
“As producers, we use the search tool on Slack every day. Just type an artist’s name into search and find out what they’ve been up to. … Slack becomes a knowledge hub for us.”
Staying connected, productive and engaged with the right apps and integrations on Slack
Many companies are rapidly experimenting with distributed and asynchronous ways of working, helping to write the playbook for how to thrive in this new world. For JWG’s globally distributed team, Slack feels casual, natural and not bound to one place anymore.
One of the agency’s Slack channels connects them to all of its 120 artists at once. “They’re all around the world, so sometimes it’s about starting a quick back-and-forth about a project that’s happening,” says Bramham.
For JWG’s agent-producers, this year has been an experiment rethinking what’s possible in the workplace—and how to keep communication open with their creatives and clients. “Maybe we’re on a Zoom together. Sometimes it’s about checking in and seeing how they’re going in a way that’s more casual than a formal email that comes with an overwhelming pressure to respond,” says Bramham.
With the DailyBot app integration, the Jacky Winter team shares a question (such as, “What’s your goal for the week?”) and regroups at the end of the week to acknowledge what went well, how their colleagues helped, or just celebrate a work or life event. “It’s a really nice way for us to continue to support each other from afar even though we’re distributed across three countries,” says Bramham.
Other app integrations help JWG get tasks done faster and review consultation inquiries. “We have a Kanban board in Notion. If you add a new task, it will pop up with a Slack notification. One of our co-production teams will pick that up and make sure it’s done.” There’s also Airtable, which the team uses like a Content Management System to approve or reject requests. “It’s an Airtable form that comes in via a Slack notification. You can say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ in Slack, and that gets recorded in Airtable.”
We’re coming off of one of the most challenging times in business history. But The Jacky Winter Group has embraced the opportunity to find a new way of working, making sure creativity isn’t held back by physical boundaries or traditional communication methods.
“We always need to be thinking ahead and creating things that move the agency forward, and make sure that we’re on the forefront of how marketing and technology helps our industry thrive,” says Bramham.