Breakthroughs & Bedlam: My 14 Years at drp

So, let’s start at the beginning. Smart phones, Facebook and Netflix didn’t exist. Bin Laden was still hiding in the mountains and the highlight of Donald Trump’s year was being interviewed by Ali G.  Blu-ray was still in development, as was HD video, and even the art of blogging was merely in its infancy. 2003 also happened to be the year I started at drp, December 1st if memory serves correctly.

Fourteen years on, and the world has really changed: technologically, socially, economically, and of course politically. From bizarre presidential elections, to Brexit mania, and that’s just the last 18 months! Meanwhile, the pound sterling has dropped so much that my holiday euros aren’t worth the plastic they’re printed on, but it’s not all doom and gloom…I didn’t lose my job for starters. This, despite a chronic recession in 2008, a flurry of high street brands being swallowed by the black hole of online consumerism, and banks ceasing to exist, in the ensuing economic crisis.

Aside from the world on its grandest (and scariest) scale, what about the world of corporate communications? This world I chose to become a part of in 2003, joining the other thirty people who already worked at drp (yes, a measly 30 back then). I started as a video production assistant, supporting shoots and overseeing duplication. In layman’s terms this involved making VHS copies of internal comms videos to send out to clients, and logging large Betacam SP tapes – the going currency for film-making back then. Who’d have thought we’d now be filming entire shoots on one tiny memory card?  In fact, 14 years is so long ago that our Group CEO was still operating a camera back then, which – I’m sure he’d admit – was not his natural domain for the future, and he himself was starting to make significant strides in an industry that had taken a significant beating in the wake of 9/11.

2003 was, I suppose, the calm undercurrent before the drp revolution, when anything’s possible was just another phrase doing the rounds, the entire events team consisted of about 8 people, and our only web developer was the spider in the kit store. Meanwhile, I’d also found a niche as a drp scriptwriter (the role barely existed before), using my skills from years of reading and essay-splurging at college and degree-level, and then re-aligning the words so they now made some sense out of M&S product promotions, recruitment training voiceovers for Adecco, and presenter scripts for Thomas Cook’s regular internal programme. All written up on an early iMac computer, large enough to swamp my ample desk.

Needless to say, the VCR machines slowly left the building to be replaced by DVD and eventually Blu-ray.  The cameras were upgraded to HD, and I progressed from assistant to director, now calling the shots, as opposed to just logging them.

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So, what’s the point of this meandering essay?

Is it to celebrate my work anniversary and laugh in the face of the youth just embarking on these slick corporate communication shores, unaware of the hardships we faced when technology was, err, older?

Nope.

I prefer to think of this as a blog about the passing of time: about what’s changed – from my personal window on the world – and maybe think about what’s stayed the same in and around the industry breakthroughs and global bedlam.

When 4K projection and holograms initially came into the industry, they made delegates gawp at evermore impressive events, prime lenses and handheld rigs allowed us to be even more sharply focused and aesthetically pleasing on film, and digital began to basically take over the world. Meanwhile, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn have helped us to spread our brand, and allowed us to shout to the rooftops about our industry successes. In fact, social media created a vast community far beyond the boundaries of my own town, and the walls of my company building.

Through all the technological malarkey, there’s only one truly consistent factor – and that’s the people. I’m more or less the same guy, just with plenty of new tech at my fingertips, 14 years of experience, and some pretty great stories to tell. Don’t get me wrong – longevity isn’t always a good thing, and ambition may not always stay within the realms of working for one company. I would say this: in 2003, we had talent and small-time ambition, and well over a decade on we have big time ambition and an abundance of talent. Not to mention a profile that’s the envy of many other corporate media companies in the UK. I’ve been lucky enough to see that genesis, from 30 people to well over 200, and there’s no sign of the growth slowing down…

So, thank goodness for the technology – making our lives, our events, our films, and our brands, ever more accessible, and ever more advanced. Though underneath that magical veneer, the people are the ones who really make it happen so, it’s worth investing in them, not just your 8K resolution.

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FOOTNOTE: You know the really scary thing? If I’d written this about 1993, just ten years earlier than when I started at drp (and there are one or two guys I work with who go back THAT FAR!) then you lot wouldn’t even be able to read this blog – unless of course you were standing over my shoulder, watching me tap out my thoughts on my state of the art typewriter.  And that, frankly, messes with your mind a little bit.

Dominic Allen – Director & Scriptwriter at drpvideo

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