Smashing Spotlight: Amy Davis, Producer
Wonder what makes Smashing Ideas so smashing? Our people! We sat down with Amy Davis, Producer, to talk shop, how she helped take one of our most innovative projects from research to realization – the Philips Sonicare for Kids connected toothbrush – and precisely why she has more in common with Red Fraggle from The Muppets than meets the eye.
You help run one of Smashing’s largest and most innovative clients – Philips – and manage our work with them on oral healthcare. What has it been like to work on projects that have a direct impact on the health and wellbeing of consumers?
I love the challenge of combining entertaining and educational content into a single product! I started out life in film school, hoping to provide the world with pure entertainment, but quickly fell in love with kids’ educational television. Media and technology offer continually evolving ways to reach and motivate different types of learners. It’s hugely rewarding to be part of a team that finds different ways to grab people’s attention and keep them coming back to learn a new skill or refine a technique. It’s exciting knowing that the work I have done might have helped someone learn to read or made a trip to the dentist easier!
Production plays such a critical role in the creation of digital products that positively impact behavior. How would you describe your role in the big picture of a project?
I’m sort of what Alfred is to Batman. It’s my job to make sure that everybody knows what they are building and that they have everything they need to get the job done. I may not always have all the answers, but I always know who does. I also make sure that the team is aware of our clients’ goals – and that our client is aware of what the team will be showing them next. I keep everyone pointed in the right direction.
What is the magical methodology mix you use to run a successful project?
For me, it’s a combination of communication and enthusiasm. On successful projects, it’s important that every member of the team knows what our goals are and how they contribute to achieving them. I also like to tap into what each member of the team is passionate about and make sure that they feel empowered to use that passion to create the best product possible. I am also uber enthusiastic about my projects and hope that my passion is contagious.
You’ve been working with one client – Philips – for some time now. What advantage is there with long-term strategic partnerships between clients and consultants?
Being lucky enough to work with the same group for a long time means that we understand what’s important to them – and that keeps us in sync and agile. The teams have figured out how to best support each other. We each bring different things to the table and each team respects the skills and passion of the other teams. We are fortunate to work with a team whose passion rivals our own.
Rumor has it that you have a certain affinity for The Muppets. What is it about them that resonates with you, and which Muppet do you most strongly identify with?
The Muppets embody joy. When they succeed, they succeed big, but they aren’t afraid to fail, and when they do, they get right back up again. They constantly overcome obstacles as a team and learn with joy and love.
I wish there were a slightly less obvious answer to this but I’m basically the human embodiment of Red Fraggle – and not just because of my hair color. I don’t quite possess her passion for playing sports, but I can go toe to toe with her energy and enthusiasm. That being said, I do have my Statler and Waldorf moments…
What was your last truly smashing idea?
In April, I convinced my husband to fly to NYC and pay an outrageous amount of money to see Hamilton on Broadway with the original cast. About 35 seconds into the show we knew that it was worth every penny. It was one of the best works of art I have ever experienced and not just because Lin-Manuel Miranda (the creator and star) is a genius and the cast is fantastic. The energy of the audience was nothing like I have ever experienced: 1,300 people who wanted to be nowhere else in the world were gathered in the same room. That level of joy and energy was something I have never experienced.
We’re starting to near the end of 2017. Is there a particular tech gadget you hope finds its way under your Christmas tree?
The NES Classic! There are 4 gaming consoles currently hooked up to my TV but they are mostly used by my husband. Full disclosure, I still have my original NES (with the Power Pad) but it’s very temperamental. I am so excited to revisit the games I grew up with and know I will be able to get through them before the console sputters out.
As a producer, you’ve worked on a variety of projects over the course of your career. What 3 pieces of advice would you give to a newbie just getting started in the digital/tech industry?
I came to tech from the television industry and while there are a lot of overlaps, tech moves at a lightning pace that TV can’t match. It can take a little getting used to, but it is equally exciting.
- Keep learning – Tech constantly changes. Whether it’s the newest gadget, development platform, or project management framework, there’s always something new to learn. The more you know, the more you have in your arsenal to help move a project forward.
- Take risks – Failure is often a better teacher than success. Don’t be afraid to fail fast and move on. One of the major benefits of tech moving so quickly is that it’s easier to pivot if something isn’t working.
- Cultivate a vision – Keeping your eye on the big picture will help keep a project on track through numerous changes. Being married to a specific design or implementation could prevent you from seeing when it’s not working. It’s important to focus on the vision, not to the specifics of how it will be achieved.
One of the projects you’ve been involved in – the Philips Sonicare for Kids connected toothbrush and companion application – helps kids learn healthy habits that will last a lifetime. Part of what makes the experience so engaging is Sparkly, a cute little furball in desperate need of brushing help. How did Sparkly come to fruition and why do you think Sparkly resonates so well with kids?
There were a lot of ideas for Sparkly, but this design and caregiving game resonated instantly, and strongest, with kids (and everyone who saw him!). I could go on about how kids in the target age group are developmentally ready to start thinking about other’s needs and how digital caregiving is a great way to empower them, but in the end, just look at him! From our Creative Director, Jessica Barnes’ design, and our Senior Animator, Jason Medisky’s animation, he is one of the cutest critters out there. Who wouldn’t want this fur ball as a friend?!
Part of your role as Producer is to make sure projects stay on-time and on-budget. If budget weren’t an issue, where would you go on vacation and why?
No question – I want to go to space. In my lifetime it’s not likely that I will be able to hop on a rocket to Mars but I think there’s a chance I could fly above the atmosphere and see the earth from a perspective only astronauts have been able to enjoy… so far.