Deborah Schwartz – The Art Of The Keeper Promo

- - Marketing

by Heidi Volpe

Deborah Schwartz of DSReps is well known for sending out impressive promos that can’t possibly be thrown away. When I heard this years was a box of prints representing each of her photographers I had to see it and ask her a few questions about it.

Heidi: Would you say you are pretty sure all your promos get opened?

Deborah: Yes, especially for this particular promo. There was a great amount of hype from last year’s similar promo, so people were excited and anticipating the arrival of this years’.

How did you select who got a box of prints?

I spent the most time that I have ever spent on a list for this promo. I gathered a combination of lists that included our clients from the last few years, adbase lists and a targeted list of people who we want to have as clients. We then called each and every agency and magazine and design firm on the list to check the names and make sure that important Creatives were not left off.

Was it agencies first and then editorial and then studios?

I would say that it was more about a gathering of lists of clients (editorial graphic design, client direct and advertising) and then adding wish lists of clients found through research. And we printed a few extra boxes of the promo so that we can still give some away to new clients or new potential clients throughout the year – and before the next promo comes out.

Are you concerned about offending someone who doesn’t get one? Was it like making an invite list for a wedding?

Yes and YES!! Which is why I specifically made the list 200 total short of our total number of promos. And over the next few months, we will send promos out to anyone who did not get one and should have – and then add them to the list for next years. Even when we call and talk to a reliable source at each agency, some names get left out inadvertently. There is no way to avoid human error.

Do you have a less expensive promo to give out to reach a larger audience?

Yes – each of the photographers do a much larger run on a smaller promo each year so that it can go out to more clients and potential clients. We try to space it out so that it is sent out at least a few months after the DSREPS promo.

How are your 2011 promos different from last year?

A slightly different package, the NEW office in New York City is listed on the promo, a few changes to the roster and a newly curated group of images for our photographers.

How much editorial vs commercial work do you think this promo garnered from last year?

A good mix of both. We sent the promos to ad agencies and magazines alike, and got great response from both parts of the business.

Is this the second year you worked with Perfect Holiday? Why them?

Yes – Bryan (the owner) is very creative and collaborative and he has a great design style. I think that his style and our style are a good fit.

What was some of the feedback you’ve gotten?

It has been so nice for me to get such great feedback. Everyone is so thankful and excited to receive the promo – and it has been referred to multiple times in thank you notes as a “gift”.

Did the photographers have a voice in the the final edit?

Yes – we all work together so that they are happy with the edit in the end. Sometimes there is some back and forth, and in the end – both sides are happy with what is picked.

I like the fact that is titled “ready to hang”, it has a more casual feel to it. More longevity then a post card but less precious then a fine art print.

Where do you hope these promos end up? Do you think they are shared with respective staff?

Yes they are being shared based on feedback that I have received. And they are apparently ending up on many, many walls – both in offices and homes. From what people have said, there are framed DSREPS promo images everywhere. Which is nice. ; )

Is the cost of putting something like this together off-set by new work you receive?

Believe it or not, the promo was actually cost effective. The promo costs are split among the 12 photographers, and it is costing less than a spread in a sourcebook per photographer – including design, printing, box construction and mailing of 2,000 pieces. Having only made 2,000 total pieces did force us to do a much more targeted mailing, but I feel that the specialness of the promo makes it worth that sacrifice.

Have you ever had a promo cost more then the results yielded?


Was it hard to edit the individual prints and then string them together as a series?

No – this is the part that I love the most about my job. It IS in the end a commercial business – but I love to be able to have this opportunity to curate something of theirs that is more about their art work. I feel like Creatives really love to see artistic images. And then we sell the photographers’ ability commercially by showing “work” on their sites in order to sell them through to the client.

What lead you to this type of promo? Did you feel you weren’t having success with your book series you did years prior?

Not at all. The book series was very successful, but I got to a point last year where I felt that I wanted to make a leap into something a bit more bold. And I have been wanting to curate something for a long time – so this became my outlet for that. I hope someday to have the time to open a gallery.

What other types of promos do you do? And how often?

I do one big DSREPS promo per year, and I encourage my photographers to do at least one of their own each year. And we do still send out e-promos, but I am very aware of the sensitivity around these since so many Creatives feel bombarded by e-mailings. Although I will say that from my experience, if an e-promo is great, it is VERY well received. An example of this is the e-promo that we did for Jason Nocito after he shot the MTV Skins campaign. This campaign was all over the place, and it was so cool. When we sent out the e-mailer, so many people were excited to receive it and had been wondering who shot it. The percentage of people who opened that e-promo was off the charts compared to others. The other e-promo that had that same level of success was Chris McPherson’s Microsoft Windows 7 campaign. Again, the billboards had been everywhere, and people loved them and were excited to know who had shot them.

Aside from yours, what has been the most memorable promo you seen distributed?

Commune did a really cool newsprint poster promo that I absolutely loved.

There Are 13 Comments On This Article.

  1. Interesting to note how well such a simple idea was received.

    Speaking for myself, I definitely get caught up in aiming to surprise promo recipients with clever, creative, unique pieces. Maybe, as usual, I’m over-thinking it.

  2. Hey Rob,

    You did an article like this on Casey Templeton’s very clever promo around a year ago. Could you check in with him and see what kind of luck he had with it?

  3. I was in NYC last year doing the rounds shortly after Deb’s posters had gone out and literally 20+ of the photo editor and buyers I met with had Deb’s promo leaning on their desk, with the box open and a print nearby. And they were talking about it. The collection of work was super nice, something for everyone. Nice, Deb % co.

  4. Good, simple, cost-effective promo that’s all about the picture.

    Every time I see one of those ridiculous promos like custom-made cigar tins that cost $3000 or disposable cameras with a name on it, I think “too much time on their hands”. The pictures are never very good, also.

  5. It is apparent that even with todays technology the non-virtual wins out. I can’t help but think a well crafted print curated into the right story package will get the job done every time. It can be just as fluid as the iPad (even though costs are higher, but then how many places can an iPad be at the same time) plus a promo packaged like this where everyone is talking about it at the same time is a coup.

    Nice Post.

  6. When I worked at an agency I saw this at every creatives desk. It was interesting to see who kept and hung which prints. It looked really well done and stuck out from all the other promos. Good call on checking to see who else is important. Also if it’s a big agency, check to see if certain people are still there. It’s a shame to see promos like this piled up in the mail room with no destination.

  7. A beautiful promo, but what is key are the wonderful photographers DS has working with them. Seems like a wonderful relationship between rep and artist. Well Done!