Unlimited Usage Rights Are Forging A Golden Road To Better Client Relations In Advertising Photography
Photo, we’re not in Kansas anymore — the yellow brick road of the digital age now leads us all to a land overflowing with digital visual delights. And it’s time the advertising photography industry got the picture. So listen up, Scarecrow.
Here’s the reality: Anyone can take a picture and upload it in seconds, and rights-protected work is easy to access for free. The digital realm is full of imagery and equally full of people working on projects that require visual content. For these folks, a little flick of the right click, and—voilà! Their stuff can be good enough. But good enough is not what we want for our clients.
Yes, downloadable images of anything are all over the Internet for the taking. And while there are amazing lawyers out there who have dedicated their lives to protecting content, try as they might to end all photo filching once and for all, ain’t nobody got time for that! At least, not yet.
In the interim, then, should we accept that advertising photography has lost its artistic sacredness? “Good enough” work is captured in seconds on cell phones or downloaded in a flash. So, it’s all a done deal, right? Silly Cowardly Lion, no! Digital media is not the Wicked Witch of the West. Sure, decent pictures are everywhere. But great pictures take a little something else. A trip down the road of social media will demonstrate the point. And that’s where the temptation of point and click loses its power. Our creative is our ruby slippers.
We could almost say, then, that digital media is our Glinda the Good Witch, making us better photographers by raising the standard of what defines a work of art—and any real artist knows that raising the bar is always a great thing. Not to mention that we’re operating in a global advertising photography market estimated at $230.9 billion in 2013, which any real business owner would agree is a very great thing. The problem is many photographers and ad agencies have allowed the old-school business model to become the Little Darling, holding them back and squashing their creative mojo. What we have to remember is that, in the 20th century, print ads dominated the advertising world, and a publication’s use rights were generally restricted to a specific outlet or geographic location. So it made sense that photographers collected fees for individual images, each one licensed for a particular use. But then came the Internet, where photographs are displayed through almost countless channels, across international borders.
So, granted, the Web has made the advertising photography industry a tough place. It’s become difficult to determine and enforce the copyright usage boundaries of the photographs we create and sell. And the Internet has certainly added to the sprawling field of options out there. But I think we ought to start listening to the good witch: Stop focusing on the bottom line and start focusing on the creative. The ruby slippers will work.
As soon as it opened its doors in 2007, Echo-Factory, with its in-house photography studio, strapped on the slippers, taking a forward-thinking approach to managing the evolution in the business of pictures by offering clients unlimited usage rights to custom advertising photography the agency creates for campaigns. Echo-Factory President Michael Schaffer believes this is the simplest and best approach to meeting the challenge of change. He said, “This model allows Echo-Factory to focus on the creative — what we do best. It eliminates the hassle of contracts, and instead of concentrating on single-use images — and single-image customers — this agreement typically results in the production of a body of work over the course of a long-term relationship. Our clients get the most out of their investment, and we don’t have to spend time and money chasing our best work all over the Internet.”
Looking up the road, we see a highly competitive advertising Oz dominated by visual appeal. But have no fear, my pretties; the ruby slippers are within reach. Agencies in the advertising photography industry just need to spend their energies making outstanding images — an effort that will allow them to seamlessly adapt to the changing market and render them able to maintain the fine balance between profitability and the creation of great art.