A reader sent me the following question:
I wrote to you a while back regarding some agencies who no longer accept printed promotions from photographers. I just came across another agency who has started that policy. It’s really silly when you consider an ad agency not accepting advertising.
I reached out to Anne Maureen McKeating a Toronto-based freelance Project Manager, Art Producer and Consultant, because she worked at an agency that started such a policy. Here’s her answer:
In the spirit of “going green”, a well-meaning senior creative team at my former agency decided that we would no longer be accepting photographers’ promos. It would be a-ok if a promo came directly to me, (the art producer), but any photographer who sent multiple copies addressed to others, would be asked to come to the agency and pick them up.
So what was this new policy really about? In my opinion, it was less about “going green” and more about managing the daily onslaught of sameness. Our mailboxes were crammed full with mailers depicting frosty mixed drinks, smashed cosmetics on plexi and fit, relatable moms made even more aspirational with a sun flare. The promos were showcasing the already familiar and as a result, most ended up in the recycling bin. It was disheartening to see photographers waste their money and resources on a strategy that just wasn’t appreciated.
Agencies are complicit in the creation of the uninspired offerings that set the tone for mailer expectations. However, Art Directors don’t need a rehash of past campaigns – they need to be inspired for the next. As a result, they are turning to social spaces like Instagram, Compfight and tumblr in a hopeful pursuit of the new. Perhaps social media is the new promo?
Some printed promos do manage to achieve the illusive breakthrough. But they do so because they are targeted toward a specific audience and crafted with intelligence. Recently, Toronto-based photographer Derek Shapton sent a promo to a select group of contacts. He had shot four portraits of people sneezing and had them printed onto a box of tissue. The promo was deceptively simple conceptually: sneezing = tissue. But it was the promo’s self-referential commentary that stuck. He was remarking on the “throwaway nature of mailers and the ephemerality of promotions”. Shapton understood that his audience would appreciate his take on the promo conundrum while ensuring that he remained memorable.
I had initially found it ironic that an advertising agency was attempting to regulate the advertising of its potential suppliers. But when I really thought about it, some truths became clear. I was defending the rights of photographers to advertise, while filling the recycling bin with their efforts. I had never awarded a job based on a promo. And even if I liked a promo, it was rarely displayed because I didn’t have room.
Advertising strategies in the current market are branded, social and integrated. It’s vital that photographers also embrace this approach. While the printed promo may still occupy a place in an overall campaign, on its own, it’s passive, old technology.
My hiring practices are influenced by repeated exposure over varied platforms. I become aware of a photographer’s work if they are showing on the gallery circuit, shooting editorials, garnering blog mentions and posting regularly on social media. These multiple exposures have direct impact on my decision-making. The net-net is that yes, integrated marketing takes time, effort and patience. But it is an active strategy that will entice Art Directors and Producers to meaningfully interact with your work on an on-going basis – thereby keeping you top of mind.
Anne Maureen McKeating is a Toronto-based freelance Project Manager, Art Producer and Consultant. Her work is informed by her experience as Senior Art Producer at TAXI North America and as Photo Producer at Instil Productions. Anne Maureen is Board President for Gallery 44 Centre for Contemporary Photography and also sits on the Exhibitions, Strategy and Branding Committees. Her integrated marketing efforts are a “work in progress.”