Reality may bite, but refusal to accept reality bites harder. And the reality is that the Internet has made the digital media industry a very different place to do business. Consider this: Print ads dominated the advertising world in the 20th century, and use rights were mostly restricted to a specific outlet or location. So, back then, it made perfect sense to collect fees for each image licensed for a single use. But then came the Internet, where, now, media is displayed through almost countless channels, across international borders.
Despite the admirable efforts of some incredible lawyers, determining and enforcing the copyright usage boundaries of the digital media we create has arguably reached the realm of the impossible—and has definitely reached the realm of the pointless. (At least for now.) So, there are two ways to deal with this reality: (1) We can refuse to accept it and continue fighting ‘the good fight,’ all the while watching our businesses crumble under the weight of what we perceive as a sort of moral incorruptibility, or (2) we can adapt by refusing to allow an old-school business model to hold us back.
As a lifelong fan of success, my advice is this: Have a good cry (if you must), change your perspective, then move on and get busy adapting.
At Echo-Factory (and, now, Echo-Studios next door), we’ve adapted by giving clients unlimited usage rights to their photos and other digital media over the past 14 years. Scary as it may sound, it’s worked out really well. By eliminating the hassle of contracts and the wasted time spent watchdogging, we’ve been able to focus on kick-ass creative—what we love to do and what clients love to get.
I’ve heard some argue that the online free-for-all is somehow stripping digital media of its creative sacredness. But I suggest that it’s actually helped us become better artists by further defining what makes a great work of art in advertising. Here’s another way to put it: In our digital world, images that are ‘good enough’ to get the job done can be captured on cell phones or downloaded from the Internet in seconds. But great visual content takes a special touch. So you could also say the digital media free-for-all is making us better artists by raising the standard for what defines a work of art. After all, when potential clients have access to a cyber universe brimming over with free or cheap stuff that’s ‘good enough,’ why in the world would they come to us for custom work? They’ll come because the creative is worth it.
We all love clients. How could we not? They are indeed what makes our advertising world go ’round. So, if our agencies are worth their salt, we’ll always seek to do right by them. And we all know campaigns consisting of 100% stock stuff are not right on so many levels.
Instead of concentrating on single-use images (which, by the way, typically go hand in hand with single-image customers), offering unlimited use (by our experience) will earn you lots of love from your clients. Lots of love means long-term relationships, and long-term relationships mean a growing and thriving agency.
Hey! Before you go, swing over and visit our shiny, new Echo-Studios website. There, you can check out some of the awesome custom work we’ve been doing and even schedule a shoot.