Welcome back to the Community Table; a Conversation with NYC Art Producers. Part I: The Appetizer
Welcome to our second series of blog posts sharing conversations held directly with our community leaders about top of mind industry issues. Community Table was formed from the collective efforts of Matt Nycz and Kate Chase of Brite Productions and Heather Elder and Lauranne Lospalluto of Heather Elder Represents with the idea that there is nothing more powerful in our industry than education.
Community Table was inspired by LeBook’s Connections; an industry trade show which was founded with the vision of bringing together the worlds top reps with producers and creatives from the worlds leading agencies and clients for a day of sharing and connecting.
And so it was through this bringing together that we found ourselves headed again to Connections, this time NYC — the media capital of the world, a city overflowing with a legacy of first moments in the history of advertising in America – and to name but a few: The first convention of advertising agents; J Walter Thompson inventing the position of account executive; NW Ayer hiring a first full-time copywriter and establishing a Business-Getting Department; Doyle Dane Bernbach inventing “the creative team” approach; David Ogilvy publishing “Confessions of an Advertising Man”; Mary Wells as the first woman to head a major agency, establishing Wells, Rich, Green; MTV; Mad Men…
Though we could go on, more to our point is photography and more specifically is that advertising photography and that it would come into its own here in the 1920’s, through mass-circulated magazines employing photographs — and where the agencies eagerly sought work from Steichen, Penn, Avedon, and others because they recognized their distinctive photographic visions as effective selling tools — where advertising agencies, clients, and magazine leverage the photographs power to sell a story or a product. And for most agencies now that seeking work from a photographer is influenced strongly by an art producer – a person whose job it has become in bringing the advertising photograph to life. And in NY, the culture of Madison Avenue is demanding and the art producers we work with some of the world’s best.
So in working with these clients for years now, we knew we’d get the straight story in response to our questions, that their feedback would be invaluable so we invited them to a seat at the Community Table. What we weren’t prepared for was the exponential effect of bringing them together in one room for an evening roundtable discussion of the things that matter most to them. The result was fierce opinions, deep camaraderie, and the complete candor that is pure New York. In short, essential reading for anyone interested in and motivated by the hard truths as told by some of the most influential art buyers in the country.
As a reminder, each Conversation Starter was directed to one person with a general discussion ensuing. Not surprisingly, many of the answers were similar to those of our LA colleagues. Therefore, rather than sharing the entire conversation, we included the original question and then the quotes and notes that were most relevant. Please note, often times the person leading the conversation spoke most often.
Participating Art Producers:
Julia Menassa, TBWA\Chiat Day
Trish McKeon, The CDM Group
Robin Daily, The Cementbloc
Jackie Contee, Uniworld Group Inc.
Jamie Applebaum. Mcgarry Bowen
Andrea Kaye, McCann
Lisa Oropallo, Digitas
Helen O’Neill, Y & R
Betsy Jablow, BBDO
Robin Daily (The CementBloc)
Hillary Jackson, Saatchi & Saatchi
Jenny Read, kirshenbaum bond + partners
Cheryl Masaitis, Deutsch
Amy Zimmerman, mcgarrybowen
CONVERSATION STARTER #1: Marketing Over the Years
Julia Menassa, TBWA\Chiat Day
Marketing over the years has gotten more complicated and more expensive for photographers. Not everyone can afford to participate in every option. So knowing that not every photographer has the means for hiring out for marketing consults, which of the marketing channels are most effective at getting your attention and what are some of the best practices?
“I can only speak from my own experience with the two agencies I’ve been with…the gimmicky promos get tossed. The true strength of the image is what matters. Photographers can spend a lot of money but they don’t really need to. If it is a strong image, it will end up on our walls. “ Julia Menassa, TBWA\Chiat Day
“I know this is picky, but I am not a fan of promos that are wrapped in plastic. It slows you down when you’re looking fast through a stack of promos and they are not environmentally sound. I understand that photographers use them because they don’t want the card to get damaged, but I would advise against it. “ Julia Menassa, TBWA\Chiat Day
“My vote is for something that is simply designed that just needs a few images. Think clean. And please remember that we have limited spaces at our desks. I love the huge posters that some photographers are doing which can work if you want to keep them. But sometimes these are not always the best approach because they get tossed and it’s heartbreaking to think they spend so much money on them. Julia Menassa, TBWA\Chiat Day
WEBSITES, BLOGS & SOCIAL MEDIA
More and more I’m looking at blogs and less at source books. For me it is more about photography and art blogs. It’s Nice That is one I’ve been looking at recently. “ Julia Menassa, TBWA\Chiat Day
“Remember, we all have a limited amount of time. We gravitate towards sites that are fast, easy, and simple to go through; simply designed.” Julia Menassa, TBWA\Chiat Day
“I also know a lot of photographers are using Social Media. I prefer Linkedin because it’s professional. I don’t mean to be rude when they try to add me as a ‘friend,’ but I keep Facebook for personal use. “ Julia Menassa, TBWA\Chiat Day
“Sometimes I don’t always accept photographers on LinkedIn either. I like to know who they are and like their work before I accept them. I like to meet them as well.” Julia Menassa, TBWA\Chiat Day
“There was a period of time when PDN and the ad world was all about Facebook. Photographers wanted to get on board and enthusiastically and started adding art buyers to their friend networks and then realized it was tricky. It might be better to keep your personal life personal and your professional life professional.” Matt Nycz, Brite Productions
“Email is a good way to reach us. Remember though, we all get thousands of emails a day. The simpler the better. Short and sweet. One image will tell me if I like their work or not. One image. Website. Click. If it’s a novel on what they do and their background, not so interested. “ Julia Menassa, TBWA\Chiat Day
“Click on this link to see my work is all I need. You said it was the strength of the image and that makes me pay attention. I am a big fan of Vincent Dixon – ridiculous fan – and he did a great thing. He asked me (and many others too) if I wanted to be on a list to receive a photo of the day. I said yes. It is always amazing.
I have to say, with all due respect, he’s top of mind. And that’s it. That worked and it was the strength of his image. So don’t make us click a link and another link. Just send me an image. “ Trish McKeon, The CDM Group
“ If they are going to email, I don’t like the ones that try to trick you into thinking they’re a co-worker sending you an email and you’re on location and trying to click on something. “ Robin Daily, The Cementbloc
“When I think about the shows like Fotoworks and Photo Plus and what the photographers spend for one show and the number of people they get to meet, I think it would be worth the money. I’ve used photographers I’ve met at these shows, both new photographers and photographers showing me new work.” Jackie Contee, Uniworld Group Inc.
“Photographers need to know their market and the ads that inspire them as well as the creatives they would like to work with. I always feel badly when I get a stack of promos that I know someone took the time to create and send, but they have nothing to do with anything we work on at our agency.” Julia Menassa, TBWA\Chiat Day
“It’s nice when I get an email that is personalized. They need to own their list and don’t buy 5,000 names. To buy a list of 5,000 names is unreasonable. I taught at Art Center for years and I was a rep. I would make the photographers do their homework and figure out whose work they loved and who they wanted to be working for and pick 50 people and make a relationship with them. 5,000 is a needle in a haystack when a new business proposal crosses their desk and you need a miracle. You don’t want the miracle. You want “I know their work.” Jamie Applebaum. Mcgarry Bowen
If you get a job from targeting those 50 people, I bet the 5,000 other people will get to know you sooner. “ Heather Elder, Heather Elder Represents
“To play devils’ advocate, suddenly you have a food account and never did before. And you’ve been getting a food promo from someone and now that person is top-of-mind for you.” Unknown
Or some art director decides to look at someone’s product photography and apply it to food. Or their food photography and apply it to product. You may not have a food account, but someone at the agency might like the way they treat objects.” Andrea Kaye, McCann
“We don’t give lists out because the agency doesn’t want headhunters. So the lists are misleading.” Lisa Oropallo, Digitas
CONVERSATION STARTER #2
Helen O’Neill, Y & R
When researching photographers, where are you finding inspiration and does that differ from where your creatives are finding it? When they show you new work where are they directing you? Are you and your team utilizing photography websites such as At Edge, Le Book, FoundFolios and Workbook for your searches? Or, is there a reliance more on individual photographer websites, micro-sites, blogs or other unique sites?
FINDING INSPIRATION AND SOURCING PHOTOGRAPHERS
“To prepare for this question, I took this to a lot of my creatives and asked them where they find inspiration. A lot of them are looking at photographer and rep sites and places like Found and Tumblr. It’s very individual. And that’s the great thing about the Web—we each have our individual pathways down the rabbit hole.
But I love hearing the creative’s say that they rely on us. I think they’re pulling a lot and looking for inspiration for comps, but when it comes time to shoot they are relying on their art producers to find the right person to bring that ad to life.
As an art producer, I was lucky enough to have inherited a great set of bookmarks. I love blogs: Tiny Vices, Nowness, and Behance. I also brainstorm with other art producers. It’s very democratic these days.
I was shown Google reverse search the other day. It doesn’t work for every image, but the art directors were looking for simple images of people looking surprised. In the search bar you can upload the photo you like by hitting the camera in the search bar. It can find the image you put in. The image we had took us to Esquire’s site and saw more images from the same shoot.” Helen O’Neill, Y & R
“At the LA Community Table, we talked about their being a generational gap with the younger creatives bringing them images they found somewhere online and saying that was what they wanted, sometimes images clearly shot with an iPhone. They work backward from there and find a photographer who can recreate it.” Matt Nycz, Brite Productions
“My agency just became award crazy. If it’s in Communication Arts, that’s it. They want to work with anyone who has won an award. It is a wave. Now they hear that another creative used someone and won an award and they want to work with them. Five years ago when I started in art buying, I heard ‘we don’t want to use the same as someone else.’ It’s interesting that they don’t want a different look and the benefit of that. But I guess the answer is no. I hope the award thing is a phase. All of them are different though.” Trish McKeon, The CDM Group
“Don’t you think there’s been a backlash though? With digital, everyone wanted real and authentic, flash on camera, snapshot. But things are shaking out and people seem to want something more. It’s moving back to an appreciation for craft and production. The movement was to move away from an over-produced look.” Lisa Oropallo, Digitas
“Are the younger ones aware of craft? No. They are looking to us.” Kate Chase, Brite Productions
THE BOOK: SEEING IT IN THE BOOK AND RELEVANCY OF PRINTED BOOK
“It’s really about vision and trust. And who is going to see and execute my vision the way I see it. You think you have the perfect person, but I don’t think I see it in the book.” Trish McKeon, The CDM Group
“The client likes to see it in the book. Comps are photographic and clients are so literal.” Betsy Jablow, BBDO
“We make sure to include those images in the portfolio that are so clearly attractive to the creative and the images that the creative’s can use to sell you to the client. It’s can be challenging.” Heather Elder, Heather Elder Represents
“It’s been four or five years since I’ve sent a portfolio to a client. Everything I send is a PDF.” Robin Daily (The CementBloc)
“I think sending books is antiquated. When I worked in film, they wanted to see it on their reel. Now it’s the older creatives, in general, who still like to see the book.” Jamie Appelbaum, mcgarrybowen
BUILDING RELATIONSHIPS WITH ART DIRECTORS
“Creatives build relationships on set and this builds confidence. They want to work with a partner they can trust. So it’s good to build relationships. They know they will make each other look good.”
We struggle with creative directors who want to work with the same people, the same two guys for everything. We present the perfect people who have the exact shots in their book, but they want to go with other friends.” Hilary Jackson, Saatchi & Saatchi
“So that all the photographers out there can understand this, it is crucial for them to maintain the relationships and have the face-to-face with the clients they have made relationships with on set. Do we all agree? When it exists. You can’t force it.” Heather Elder, Heather Elder Represents
“When it exists, you can’t force it. It’s hard but you’ve got to be somewhat sensitive and read between the lines and sense if that person wants to engage. Do they riff back and forth not on creative stuff? The art director will not tell you if they don’t want a relationship with the creative team.
They won’t every really tell you to your face that they don’t want to have a relationship with you because they don’t like confrontation. If you reach out to them and there is a relationship, they will more than likely respond. If you reach out to them and there isn’t a relationship, more than likely they will call us.” Andrea Kaye, McCann
“Photographers need a thick skin. If you shoot a job for somebody and they’re on to their next job the next day, photographers have to understand that the AD has moved on to another job so if you send an email, you might not hear back.” Matt Nycz, Brite Productions
“If they need you, they’ll call you.” Andrea Kaye, McCann
“In advertising, there are no relationships built. When it comes to lifestyle, it comes down to ‘who can shoot my idea?’ No one will get chosen because they are friends. Jackie Contee, Uniworld Group Inc.
It can create bad blood within the agency if an art director sells a photographer to the client. But it depends on the agency and the processes they have in place.” Betsy Jablow, BBDO
“Do creatives get inspiration from a continued relationship from a photographer they’ve shot with in the past that inspire them? Can it be a source of mutual inspiration if it’s sincere?” Kate Chase, Brite Productions
“Judiciously and without expectation.” Betsy Jablow, BBDO
If you would like to read insights from the Community Table LA, please link here. And, stay tuned next week for the Main Course portion of the Community Table NYC where we share insights on The Value of Photography, Cost and Usage Awareness and Cost Consultants.
And, thank you Allison McCreery of POP Blog for your flawless transcription and partnership on this project.