Continuing the Conversation with NYC Art Producers. Part III: The Dessert

For those of you just joining us, welcome to Community Table  NYC  – the latest 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.

To see the two previous posts , please link to the  Appetizer and Main Course  portions.

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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. The first question in the Main Course portion of our series was addressed to Hilary Jackson of  Saatchi & Saatchi.

CONVERSATION STARTER #7: The Power of Pay to Play Events

There is a rise in the “pay to play” events where photographers pay a fee or pay into a program that allows them direct access to creatives and/or art producers.  The organizers sometimes offer compensation to the reviewers in an effort to elevate the seriousness of the event and show a respect for the reviewer’s time.  Have you participated in these events in the past?  If so, do you see this as a positive trend and if not, why?  What is it about these types of events that are most successful and what do you feel could be improved upon? 

“I’m new to New York so I’ve had a very positive experience with this because it allowed me to meet with a lot of photographers I hadn’t met before because I was primarily a West Coast art producer. I’ve been doing a lot of FotoWorks and was paid $100 for 3 hours. For every terrible photographer you meet, you meet someone you think you might be able to use for something. It could be someone you would never have come in contact with or ignored on email or promo and actually had a face-to-face with them. And I thought it was a good event. The more you can face-to-face with an art buyer or producer I think it’s a win/win. And it’s a good way for artists to connect and get feedback on their portfolio, especially those with no rep.” Hilary Jackson, Saatchi & Saatchi

“I’ve been to the Art Director’s Club photography and illustrator reviews. It depends. I think it’s a good way to connect with art buyers, especially if they don’t have an agent and don’t have a lot of opportunity to get a lot of feedback on their work. It can be awkward when you don’t like the work.  Overall, I thought there were so many passionate people and it made me realize I loved the industry I’m in because there is so much passion. Ultimately it’s art.  And when they followed up with me, I had a connection and stayed on top of them.” Unattributed

I had a moral sense that I couldn’t take their money for something I would have done for free, but I did do it. So felt I had to be very honest.”  Jackie Contee, Uniworld Group Inc.

The amount of money is not a huge sum, but the idea of compensation is more about being respectful and so you take it seriously.” Heather Elder, Heather Elder Represents

“I have found that when the people I’ve found through these events have followed up with me I’ve been attentive, have responded and followed them. You kind of owe it to them. If you’ve asked to see me in this forum, I’m going to give you a little bit more.  I also think people are very stretched and don’t have the luxury of time that they had in the past to sit down and take appointments. Everyone is understaffed. If you can donate a day of your time and give something back, it’s a good thing to do.

And it’s a great thing for photographers. I think they need to do their homework and find out what kind of work reviewers do. And if they go, they should take advice and make changes before going again. It’s not the place to get work necessarily. It’s about feedback as well. And if they come back and sign up with you again, they should make the changes you recommended.”  Lisa Oropallo, Digitas

Our time is valuable. I remember asking for a bottle of water and was given a Dixie cup.” Andrea Kaye, McCann

Julia Menassa, Amy Zimmerman, Jamie Applebaum

CONVERSATION STARTER  #8: Email marketing

Cheryl Masaitis, Deutsch

The use of email marketing has greatly expanded in the past few years.  As email campaigns are something that we all encounter on a daily basis, how do you currently view email marketing? What type of email blast breaks through the clutter in your inbox and entices you to open it?  Will you provide thoughts and experiences on successful and unsuccessful email campaigns?  Is there a general consensus with your creatives on how they view email promotions. Do you think they evaluate email campaigns in the same way that you might or do they have their own criteria?

“I feel like this was touched on earlier. Email marketing is something we obviously get overloaded on, but it’s ingrained as part of our work and we go through promos every day. It’s very personal as far as what catches my eye because it’s what I like or is relevant to what I’m working on which I don’t think people can necessarily target. Do your research and send to relevant art buyer or producer. This is the best you can do and there is nothing else that can be done about the volume.” Cheryl Masaitis, Deutsch

“Do you think the fervor over people who have gone crazy over too much email has gone down?”  Heather Elder, Heather Elder Represents

“I think when things get slow, people tend to market more and we end up with hundreds of emails in our inbox and I delete, delete, delete, especially when they have large attachments.” Cheryl Masaitis, Deutsch

“I assume you would rather get an email from a photographer saying they liked your work on a specific project with some relevant images. It says a bit more about what they are thinking about.” Matt Nycz, Brite Productions

Sometimes I’ve deleted things with big attachments and then five minutes later will get another one. Do people track who opens their email and re-send if you haven’t opened it?” Unattributed

You can’t see who has deleted it, so if it’s resent it is generally a mistake.” Matt Nycz, Brite Productions

“Would you be more apt to open one email from a rep with news from all their photographers? If I know you’re deleting a lot of emails and I send from all eight of my photographers separately, then you may get to see one of them.” Heather Elder, Heather Elder Represents

“I personally like the newsletters. I look through them, click and take the time because it’s got everyone in one email. I can click right through to what I want to read more about.” Cheryl Masaitis, Deutsch

CONVERSATION STARTER #9: Pro Bono Work

When hiring a photographer for pro bono work, is there an expectation that the photographer will cover some or all of the expenses as well as donating their time to the project? When you are given a pro bono project to manage, do you normally assign it to be artists you have already worked with or are you open to new artists?  Do you think it is a positive thing for a photographer to mention their willingness to shoot pro bono work? 

I never expect the photographer to pay part of the expenses. We expect a skeleton crew and we pay the crew.”  Betsy Jablow, BBDO

I’m going to tie this in to the subject of awards. I think the creative directors really go for the people they want to work with. They come with a half-baked idea and then it gets more expensive. And then the photographer might be expected to pay for it. Agencies want to win awards, so call important photographers who want this as well.

A pro bono  account has a moral responsibility to support their client’s cause. There’s a huge pressure for awards. You’re not going to work with someone who might be good at it. They want to win awards, whose really good and they have confidence in. You’re basically calling in favors from photographers who also want to win awards.

I just did a project where I wouldn’t have expected the photographer to put in any money. But their reality is that it took three days instead of one day. It can also be a way for a photographer to work with a creative they are interested in working with.

I’ve seen photographers go all in and have it turn to nothing and also some who have had their careers reinvented.” Matt Nycz, Brite Productions

QUESTION FOR ALL: Collaboration

What one word would you use to describe a successful collaboration?

Happy

Trust

Enough time

Powerful

Iconic

Flexibility

Inspiring

On same page

Communication

Creatively inspired mutuality

Satisfying

Uneventful

Happy Enthusaism

Synchronicity

Powerful

Honesty

Connected

QUESTION FOR ALL: State of our Industry

What one word would you use to describe the state of our industry right now?

Rebirth

Opportunity

Upheaval

Encouraging

Flexible

Uncertainty

Changing

Fluctuating

Evolving

Young

No rules

Uninhibited

(chaotic) Dynamic

In flux

Rocky

Recovering

Exciting

If you would like to read  insights from the Community Table LA or our Community Table NYC Appetizer and Main Course posts, please link here.  And, stay tuned  in 2013 for our Community Table San Francisco.  We will be totally changing our questions so please submit any you would like for us to consider here.

And, as always, thank you  Allison McCreery of POP Blog for your flawless transcription and partnership on this project.

 

Kate Chase, Heather Elder, Lauranne Lospalluto, Matt Nycz, Alison McCreery

Continuing the Conversation with NYC Art Producers. Part II: The Main Course

For those of you just joining us, welcome to Community Table  NYC  – the latest 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.

To see last week’s post , the Appetizer portion, please link here.

——————————————–

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. The first question in the Main Course portion of our series was addressed to Jamie Appelbaum of  mcgarrybowen.

CONVERSATION #3: The Value of Photography

It used to be that print was often a strong choice for clients when it came to promoting their brand.  Now they can choose from so many other vehicles for their communications and often times other media rather than photography is the chosen solution.  Knowing this, how do you see clients utilizing photography most nowadays?  And, along those same lines, how important is it that the photographer be able to shoot video?

“Each client has their own set of circumstances so I can’t generalize. Photography as it stands now is used in every medium: I’ve bought stills for broadcast, a photo library that is a QR code and for an interactive website. So I think photography is more vital now than it has been in a long time.”  Jamie Appelbaum, mcgarrybowen

“An image sells a product. And what photographers sometimes lose track of is that we are in a commercial industry. And as much as we’d like it to be fine art, there are those moments when it is the perfect storm and you get to create art. But basically we have big corporate clients with big budgets and you need to facilitate the product’s need. We are the middle person and are caught between art and commerce.” Jamie Appelbaum, mcgarrybowen

The art directors want to use the best photographers they can find and they are not often applicable to the project. The value of photography is a single image as opposed to broadcast where people are moving and telling you. But a photographer has to tell you in one image. So the impact of a visual if it’s used in online gaming, a Facebook application or social media or a web banner, it’s still a still image.”  Jamie Appelbaum, mcgarrybowen

In terms of the value of video, it is valuable but not for every shoot. You still want to wind up with that single image that is saying what the client needs you to say. And this is the strength of an agency. How closely they can interpret what the client wants and how forcefully they can make the image beautiful.”  Jamie Appelbaum, mcgarrybowen

“I come from video and I hear the rumblings that print is dead and dying, that you can pull a still from the video. Omnicon tells us that video is the future and should be sold into all spaces—the iPad can hold a lot of video. There is a ‘sell the client video’ push at Omnicon. So I loved your message and hope it continues.

And contrary to what I’ve just said, creative directors feel the way you do to the point where we have discussions with our clients about whether video or photography should be the lead. They often feel they don’t want video on the shoot because it compromises the photography.” Trish McKeon, The CDM Group

“It depends on the project. Sometimes you need all of it. We did a project for Razorfish for a Facebook app and it was almost all video. They needed behind-the-scenes, b-roll and video. What sold it through was the still images that the photographer took that relayed the power of the moment. They hired me as a print producer to come in and make it look like what they wanted it to look like, only moving.”  Jackie Appelbaum, mcgarrybowen

“We’re sometimes asked for video and they’re not sure what they’re using it for. They want it but don’t know where it’s going yet.” Lauranne Lospalluto, Heather Elder Represents

“I was strictly an art buyer three or four years ago. Half of my income right now is from producing industrial videos. There are two different things. Video and motion capture. What’s being used now is being used on the website and these are these motion capture ads. So motion capture is something a photographer should be aware of.” Robin Daily , The CementBloc

“Two years ago clients thought there would be no print or broadcast and it would be a purely digital campaign. We’ve had a financial client for two years. When it came time to executing the first campaign, they needed someone to actually create the content, a bunch of still photos for banners and their site. The challenge was not trying to convince my creatives about who to use, but about the cost because of where the images were going to be used. Because digital photography is seen as disposable, clients don’t want to put in the same amount of money they used to.”  Jenny Read, kirshenbaum bond + partners

“When it comes down to executing a print campaign, it comes down to cost. Everyone comes to me and asks how we can do it really cheap. I just got a request to do a BMW campaign for 14 shots in 14 locations for $50,000. My boss said ‘we can do that’ and I said there’s no way we can do it unless I’m shooting it.”  Jenny Read, kirshenbaum bond + partners

“When it comes to automotive, product and beauty clients, photography has weight and value to them. If the photographer can bring more to the table in addition to that, and I think everyone has to be able to do several things in order to stay relevant, a photographer who can come in and bring something additional to the table can help the agency and the client succeed and will be somebody who stays in people’s minds.”  Jenny Read, kirshenbaum bond + partners

I am the only traditional art buyer at my agency and rarely do print these days. I do a lot of TV and not video. I’m doing broadcast. We’re completely integrated now and we’ve been this way for four years. When my boss came in, he let my art buyer boss go and brought in everyone else from a broadcast background. So because of that I’m the person everyone is coming to and it’s hard because I don’t have anyone to bounce anything off of.” Jenny Read, kirshenbaum bond + partners

“Everyone is multi-tasking now and breaking into new territory. We’re asking for broadcast teams who can shoot stills because that happens unsuccessfully a lot of the time. Photographers need to be able to learn video or offer it. And to offer quality is another thing. They need to have their own resource to ‘have a guy.’” Cheryl Masaitis, Deutsch

“I don’t mind an integrated shoot, but I do mind if a photographer says they can do video and they don’t know how. If the photography is the lead asset, you should hire a skilled cinematographer that makes everyone comfortable on set and have the photographer take the lead and act as DP.  That will make you comfortable and protect you as a producer. I’ve had the experience of having a photographer say they shoot video, seen their reel and then when we’re on set realize he couldn’t do it.”  Trish McKeon, CDM

Photographers are very hands on and used to being involved in everything. Directors are used to having a staff beneath them. I think photographers have a hard time letting go. I’ve talked with art buyers who passed on a photographer who rushed to get motion up and it wasn’t top notch.

Also, the client thinks they can save money by shooting on the same day. But it’s best to use shared props and print/video over two days. The client will think the photographer can show up for 15 minutes but the quality isn’t the same.”  Matt Nycz, Brite Productions

Andrea Kaye, Jackie Contee, Betsy Jablow

The bottom line is that what has made a bid for a beauty client I’m working on more difficult is that we’re shooting a video. Our talent manager went to a SAG class and came back and said “I saw a beauty client shoot a video for $10k last summer.” But this year SAG changed the rules. If the video is selling something, then it’s a commercial and no longer just a video. So the cost went from $683/day to $14,000 per video for a video that is going on the internet. My talent fees are $30k for two actors/models.” Jackie Contee, Uniworld Group Inc.

From a reps point of view, based on everything I’m hearing, the more conversations we as reps and producers can have up front about what the client is valuing (inexpensive, big production, or a photographer who can accomplish something specific) the more information we have about how they perceive a positive shoot and how we can deliver this.” Heather Elder, Heather Elder Represents

“You’re assuming we know that. (laughter) Can I respectfully ask for patience on that notion? I just had three months with a client discussing “Should it be a print lead or a video lead? 50/50? 70/30?” And they ended up with a print lead because I had brought in a print producer and she had recommended a cinemagraph which allows for a small amount of motion. So it can be a print project with some motion. It took three months to analyze what photographer and what producer.

It’s a disservice to the client if there are budget and quality issues. A lot of times there is competitiveness between the broadcast and print producers. Broadcast has huge budget and if there’s a print component, they have the director hire the photographer. It depends on the client and what they expect from the print assets.

Sometimes there’s not a huge savings and it’s sometimes a disservice to the client to do them as one. The director’s job is to get as much footage as they can. If they’re running behind, the photography gets cut.”  Lisa Oropallo, Digitas

Kate Chase adds:  “Show of hands – of those who feel that photography still has value.”  [Unanimous show of hands]

CONVERSATION STARTER #4: Cost and Usage Awareness

Since you have joined the industry, has there been a shift in clients’ awareness of the costs of shoots and usage?  Has your role changed when it comes to educating clients on costs and usage?

I think things are moving quickly with digital. I can’t speak for everyone, but at my agency I think that young people are being put in front of the client and without the right experience don’t understand how to talk about the value of photography. I also think that because we’re in the digital age, every client that has a digital camera thinks they are a photographer. That sort of commoditized things a little bit in terms of the clients. I have one who expects everything for cheap and shows up on the shoot and asks for a million more things.

At Digitas we are involved and explain everything to the client and are involved earlier in the process. It wasn’t true at Y&R. We never got in front of the client until the job was sold. The industry has changed and is moving quickly and I’m not sure people are slowing down enough to really understand. It’s just about getting it out and doing it quick and I think this impacts the client’s value and usage.” Lisa Oropallo, Digitas

“I’m definitely getting more in front of the client and am actually demanding it because it’s getting lost in translation between the account team and the client. I usually direct this to the Account team and they support it. They like having me there. And I love talking with clients because you’re the expert.”  Julia Menassa, TBWA Chiat Day

“There’s a huge difference between working with an art buyer to sell a photographer in to a client than working with an account person to sell a photographer to a client. The questions, approach, strategy and needs are different. The account person is very me focused.” Robin Daily, The CementBloc

“What’s nice about having an art buyer in that meeting is the same reason photographers want a good rep because the producer is the expert, they can be the buffer. You don’t want to have the creative or marketing team to have a tenuous relationship with the client. They trust you and respect that authority. It keeps the relationships in the right place. The client trusts you and it keeps the other relationships intact.” Lisa Oropallo, Digitas

CONVERSATION STARTER #5: Cost Consultants

How often are you required to work with Cost Consultants?  How has the role of a consultant changed (if at all) in the past few years and how has that affected the bidding process?

I only used them at mcgarrybowen.  That was new for me – I never used them at Chiat Day. About half of our clients use them. So far, I’ve had pleasant experiences mostly. I feel like our budgets are what they are and it’s easy to figure out what’s going to happen and fit that in the budget. You form a relationship with them and figure out how to work with them.” Amy Zimmerman, mcgarrybowen

I’ve had both sides. We see a more global view of it. The cost consultants who are former art buyers are the most reasonable and go after the places where they see cushions: cheaper hotel, rental car, etc. The broadcast guys sometimes come in and remember from broadcast and assume you are raking them over the coals. They don’t deal with video, but know print.” Matt Nycz, Brite Productions

“Pharma companies have procurement department approve the budgets. So that’s the difference between the nice marketing person who is our client and the procurement department. We recently had a budget held up for two weeks and were told to allow more time in the future for this. We explained we’d never had anyone review every line of a budget before. You can’t challenge a client, but how do they know this stuff? I have to explain the costs of crews to them, that wardrobes and stylists differ from country to country.”  Trish McKeon, The CDM Group

“Cost consultants have no business sharing costs. I got into something with a cost consultant a few years ago with a photographer who bid jobs for me for one client while bidding the another job for another client. The same cost consultant reviewed the estimates and came to me and questioned the different costs for C-prints on the two estimates. I said ‘How dare he share that information with me?’ Martha Stewart went to jail for that type of thing. I don’t care what the photographer charged another client.”  Unattributed

My biggest pet peeve with cost consultants is that when I have a budget of $100k and a triple bid and each photographer comes in under $100k: photographer A is $98k, photographer B is $92k and photographer C is $94k. We want photographer A and he is under budget and now the cost consultant will want photographer to meet photographer B’s budget.” Unattributed

I can explain that to you. They don’t have a job unless they are doing this. A lot of consultants ask us to send the estimates to them at the very beginning. With triple bids, sometimes they’ll just say the bids have to come down 15% and I’ve already reviewed the estimates and compared them and they’re all in the same range across the board. I ask them “Where would you like me to cut?” I’m not going to jeopardize the job by telling them to skimp in certain areas that are really critical. And usually they back right off because they don’t want it on them.”  Lisa Oropallo, Digitas

We had a shoot with a difficult cost consultant a few years ago and I said I would cut the budget if they came on the shoot so they could be there for the cut catering and all the stuff the client would be upset about and they would have to be there to justify it and they backed down.” Matt Nycz, Brite Productions

I don’t want to play art director and decide $100 per person less for wardrobe. They have to own it. You have to call their bluff. I think our direct clients say that if the cost consultants are getting difficult, let us know. A lot of them have the authority to over-ride it if it’s holding up or impacting the quality of the project.”  Lisa Oropallo, Digitas

CONVERSATION STARTER #5: Evolving Producer Relationships

With the needs and expectations of shoots/productions expanding (video, digital, image libraries, etc) while working in a production environment that seems to become faster paced every day, the selection of the production company/producer looks to be an ever more crucial decision. As the producer’s role has been evolving, how has your relationship with shoot producers/production companies changed? Does your agency ever request that photographers work with a specific producer?  What do you see as being the pros and cons of agencies selecting the producers independently of the photographer/rep?

Additionally, when a photographer does select the producer, is that choice one that you could see affecting the agency’s choice on which photographer to recommend for a project?

“So I’ve only been in art buying for 5 year and before that I was in video. There wasn’t a relationship with producers on the art buying side. I worked with shockingly horrible print producers. By horrible I mean, “We just didn’t give you directions in the book because we figured you knew how to get there.”  And this would be for a location 2.5 hours away and you have to drive yourself. No directions to the middle of the woods. So I would find it myself and get to the hotel. But this times 100 was what my first experience in 2007 was like.

At the time I had a big staff of five and we gathered that there were not a lot of great print producers. So we started a list so we didn’t all get burned. It was that bad. I’ve been burned twice and had other people who’ve been burned. They weren’t thorough, not detailed oriented.

So yes, we do request producers because there are so many bad ones. This is happening now and is a scary area. And as art buyers and producers we have to steer towards this possibility. With all due respect, most creative people are not good judges of who is the best producer. As it is, most creatives don’t want to touch producing. They don’t want to know the budget and the schedule. They just want to go on the set and be creative and figure things out. That’s what they want.” Trish McKeon, The CDM Group

You mentioned that some of the creatives at your agency had become friends with certain production companies and push for them.” Matt Nycz, Brite Productions

Which can be hard because the agency will be fighting for the producer and not the photographer.” Trish McKeon, The CDM Group

“The photographer wants to know they have a partner who wants the same thing they do. If they’re going in with someone who has been recommended and their arm has been twisted, sometimes it works out beautifully and some times it doesn’t.” Matt Nycz, Brite Productions

“Let’s ask you guys. What if we say “You have a photographer and we want to bid him. But we say you have to work with this production company.” Trish McKeon, The CDM Group

I think if the photographer is open-minded then sometimes the answer is ‘yes.’ It depends on the production – are they traveling together for a long period of time.” Kate Chase, Brite Productions

“Is there any other criteria?”  Trish McKeon, The CDM Group

The rep is the best person to recommend a producer because they are looking for the same things I’m looking for. I will trust a rep more than a photographer.” Unattributed

“If I’m working with someone on a complex project with a big budget, I will ask about the producer. I think it’s our right as the agency to be a part of this discussion.” Jenny Read, kirshenbaum bond + partners

“It can also be different for everyone. You are not going to click with everyone and someone might have a bad day. So I take opinions with a grain of salt. Everyone’s experience is different.

We train clients and junior art directors. We worked with a client who treated the art director terribly, but at the end of the shoot she hugged us both. This is what we do. We deal with personalities. They aren’t always the best. But if it’s someone’s entourage or if the glam squad isn’t working for you, I will still respect their choices.” Jackie Contee, Uniworld Group Inc.

I have never not had input on the producer for a print shoot. Unless I’m working with Mario Sorrenti or Patrick DeMarchelier, I’m always been asked by a rep who I’m thinking of for a producer.  Early on in my career, my ECD came to me and my boss and said that the print productions didn’t stand up to the broadcast productions, that nothing was as tight. From that point on, we started interviewing other production companies with a goal to make it as tight as the broadcast productions.

I’ve been extremely disappointed with some of the higher-end producers. It might have something to do with the more money you give someone, the less work they put into it. A producer makes or breaks a production. It’s not that you make it, but you save it. It’s up to you to make sure it doesn’t implode around you and to tie it up.”  Jenny Read, kirshenbaum bond + partners

“There’s a comparison in creatives’ heads. Creatives work with print and broadcast. When they have a bad experience with a print producer, it stays with them and they will blame the art buyer and producer for not having a stronger voice.  So I have a question for all of you. Are you ok with an art buyer telling you that they have a producer who knows photography and will you work with them, regardless of your photographer?” Trish McKeon, The CDM Group

“We have had multiple experiences with this recently. The stronger the relationship is with the agency, the more positive the experience is for us when asked to use a particular producer. So if we are asked to work with a producer and that producer is in with the agency in a very creative partnership, then that experience for us is tenfold. But when if we don’t know the producer well and much of the control and access with the agency is put in his/her hands, it is very challenging.  It means we are leaving it up to the producer to help sell us in and show our value.  This way does not often end well as the producer is often trying to sell in who they think it best. ” Heather Elder, Heather Elder Represents

“One day in a business class, we talked about how remote offices are successful.  Meaning that if you send someone out to the other coast and the relationship starts breaking down, it’s usually because they want to build their own thing.  Best is when someone is tied to the home office in an administrative style. So if you have a producer who is tied to someone inside the agency, he could be more an administrative leader; not as easy to foster the creative relationship between the photography and the agency. He’s working for one more than the other. So in order to be successful it is typically best to know this ahead of time.”  Kate Chase, Brite Productions

“The art producer works for the agency and the photo producer works for the photographer.” Lisa Oropallo, Digitas

If you would like to read  insights from the Community Table LA or our first week’s Community Table NYC, please link here.  And, stay tuned next week for the Dessert portion of the Community Table NYC  where we share insights on The Power of Pay to Play Events, Email Marketing, Pro Bono Work, and the Keys to Successful Collaboration in one word.

And, thank you Allison McCreery of POP Blog for your flawless transcription and partnership on this project.

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, GreenMTVMad 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

 

 

Hillary Jackson, Andrea Kaye, Robin Daily, Lauranne Lospalluto

 

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?

PROMOS

“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 MARKETING

“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

MARKETING EVENTS

“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.

MAILING LISTS

“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

 

Helen O’Neill, Jenny Read

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.

I did ask them if they’re using Workbook and LeBook and they are using them. They look at Photo District News and Archive and Communication Arts and are always interested to see who is shooting what.

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

TRENDS

“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.


Raising a Pint to Carmichael Lynch Art Producer Sandy Boss Febbo

 

Sandy Boss Febbo is one of the most dedicated, knowledgeable and savvy art buyers we know.  She has worked on such clients as Harley Davidson Motorcycles, Porsche and Subaru.  It is no wonder that she has headed up the Carmichael Lynch Art Production Department for the last ten years.  Sandy has a very special way of protecting the creative process while managing client expectations and budgets.  She is all about the end product but she doesn’t lose sight of what needs to happen (or not) along the way.  She is truly a gift to her agency and any photographer that is fortunate enough to work with her.

I was so honored when Sandy agreed to be interviewed for our on going art buyer series; especially because I know how much she prefers highlighting the work rather than herself.  Adding humble to her list of traits is not surprising.   Thank you Sandy for sharing all that you did with us.  And, thank you to Alison McCreery of POP Blog for helping make this interview possible.

What were your creative interests growing up?

I definitely had artistic influences growing up though it wasn’t until college when I took art history classes to satisfy course requirements that it clicked.  I loved it and thought that the art people created to tell the story of their times was such a cool window into history. My Lit and Art History degree led me to an internship at the Minnesota State Arts Board, and then to the tour guide program at the Walker.

What roles have you held at Carmichael Lynch?

I spent my first couple of years at CL doing whatever random things needed to be done – sourcing clown costumes, tending ant farms, you name it. Guess that was a natural lead into Production. It was not at all an intentional path. I had been at the agency for maybe two weeks before I figured out what an Art Producer was and as soon as I figured that out – I knew that was it. After two years (and a steadfast raising of my hand for the opportunity) I transitioned to an Assistant Art Producer, climbed the ranks so to speak, and have now been leading the department for 10 years.

What did you “want to be when you grew up?”  Are you surprised where you ended up?

A curator, so I guess in a way that kind of panned out!

While I didn’t even know what an Art Producer was when I first came to CL – I’m not at all surprised I ended up here. I’m just lucky my path led me in this direction because it’s a great fit. Artist sourcing is by far my favorite aspect of the job – I’m always looking.  Photography, illustration, design, type, it’s endless and I love it all. I have hungry eyes and there is so much wonderful work out there that is really inspired, and inspiring. Any project that affords an opportunity for a deep dive and gives me a reason to chase a specific genre, region, etc.. is a good day. I’m truly curating and it’s a blast.

Recently I had cause to dig into the Philadelphia art scene. An impressive trove of talent. It was so much fun. I invited Jenny (Art Producer at CL) to join in when she had a slow afternoon. We kept sharing our finds with each other and other co-workers. Happy eyes! I’ve often lamented that I don’t have enough days or projects to work with all the artists I admire. Jenny shares that lament and started a blog to put her wish list out there just to celebrate and share great work. If you’ve not seen it, check it out.

I think I could probably teach the mechanics of production to anyone that is organized and possesses an attention to detail and follow through. But a creative eye, and appetite, those are innate. Anytime I do presentations on “this is what an Art Producer does” I always show an image I shot of an expansive rocky beach filled with thousands of the best skipping stones. It may be a tired analogy but the intent is to represent that possessing the interest to turn over every single one of them because you never know where you’re going to find something wondrous– that’s the magic.

What was that first moment of inspiration when you knew you would work in a creative position?

It was inevitable. I’m curious, I have a short attention span, and yet am amazingly patient. So the fact that each day is different and yet I have some projects that run months long – it’s a good balance.

When I think now of the number of shows museum curators get to organize, Art Production is much more my speed. Tripping into adland was definitely a good thing.

You studied art. What is your relationship to photographers who are also artists?

I think there is more of a grey area between these worlds than many people do. I respect people who can do both commercial and fine art and not feel they are sacrificing one for the other.

How do you not compromise creativity while finding a workable budget?

You don’t have to – there is always a way, somehow. It’s my job to get the creative produced and to partner with artists that will help us get there.

One thing people reading this would find surprising about you?

I don’t like to talk about myself. Another thing – I love to brew beer. I thank my husband for that. It’s really fun. It’s as much science as it is craft. The process is detailed yet super creative and it smells delicious the whole way through from when you’re steeping the malt to the fermentation process when the yeast is doing its thing. And it is totally worth the wait. It’s that tangible reward. It’s why I’m a Producer. You have something to show for your work and it has a story behind it. With beer, you hold a pint in your hand. I’m totally hooked, I grow my own hops. 

If you weren’t an art buyer/producer/consultant, what would you do?

I’ve had a permaculture coach this summer and am learning how it’s different from traditional gardening. Outside the world of visual arts, local food, organics and sustainability are what I’m really into.

How do you keep the same level of inspiration you had when you started your job?

Because every day there is more to see and do. I learn something with every production – every new job big or small offers something. If I wasn’t still learning and growing I would be off to the next thing. But amazingly it continues.

What one word describes your working style?  Is it different than when you first started?

Tenacious. Nope, just more experience to draw from which is pretty awesome.

How do you describe your job to your mother or someone not in our industry?

I make things happen. I’m fortunate to get to work with some great teams which makes it easier, and more fun, to make things happen.

Where do you look for inspiration? Stay inspired?

Everywhere I go. The street, blogs, social channels, galleries, festivals, concerts, nature, searching for periodicals, books, chef driven restaurants…

I don’t delineate between what inspires me at work and what inspires me in my personal life. They are distinctly different things, but what inspires me is universal.

Favorite blogs or recent show

Too many to name, so here’s one. I came across the brilliant Tumblr audio + visual several months ago and still love checking out the pairings they’re posting.

What do you think is important to do in your personal time to keep you inspired at work?

It’s a matter of being, personal time or work. It’s about keeping my eyes open and trying new things.

What do you love about your job?

The people I meet along the way. Everyone has such unique stories – it’s pretty great.

What about the industry/your job is exciting right now?

We get to make things. For fun. From our CL Collective, to in-house gallery installations, to our water tower projections, to an art contest with MCAD, to working with the Twin Cities stellar dusk to dawn art festival, Northern Spark, to our rooftop concert series, to our Client work. It’s a mash-up that keeps things interesting.

What has kept you at CL for 16 years?

All of the above. And that’s a lot. It’s significant to me to recognize that no matter where I go, there I am. It’s up to me to make the most of it. I’ve been fortunate to be at an agency where we often agree. Creatively and socially. CL is wind powered, our build-out was LEED qualified, and when I approached CL to see if we could be a CSA farm drop site so more people downtown could have access to a weekday pick-up they didn’t hesitate to say yes.

Even more, this Fall there is a proposed amendment in Minnesota to define marriage as between a man and a woman. CL came out opposing that which I really respect. I see this issue as a matter of civil rights and to have an agency willing to take a stand is incredible. It draws like-minded clients. Subaru is such a great example of that.

What at the moment do you see happening in the culture that you find inspiring or interesting?

A re-embracing of small scale, artisan, handcrafted beauty in art, food, fashion and more has been building for a while. It never went away, it just has a nice trajectory right now.

It’s been rewarding in recent years to watch this grow and to see people make a living by participating in it. Specific to food – our farmer’s markets and co-ops are off the charts. I love this and my husband is into it too. We have massive amounts of tomatoes and he was preserving them yesterday. We both like the cycle of things, and taking things start to finish. We’d rather have awesome tomatoes ten weeks a year than buy some shipped from elsewhere in the midst of winter that don’t have any flavor. It’s more special in season. Though I will relish our preserves in January!

If you could change one thing in the creative industry right now, what would that be?

I would encourage people to breathe. Things move so quickly that people are so focused on what’s next they miss what’s now. I move around a lot, but I work to focus on the moment. It’s amazing what you see when you do. I have an insatiable appetite but I experience what I’m doing. It’s a conscious effort to look up and around.

If you could tell photographers one thing, what would it be?

Shoot what truly inspires you. I always have found that personal work has more soul. It’s more interesting. The images are more successful when the photographer is connected to what they’re shooting. My best project commissions have resulted from tapping into that connection. Anytime I do portfolio reviews, I always ask to see personal work.

Do you have a favorite photo of yourself that you are willing to share?  Can you tell us about it?

I have an on-going series of self-portrait shadow shots that I send to my husband when I’m out on location. Most of them have some underlying humor from the day. Straight capture, low tech, low impact. My version of postcards home.

Favorite way to spend a Sunday?

Reading the NYT over a great breakfast and then riding bikes around Saint Paul and Minneapolis with my husband and friends, always with fun stops along the way.

Creative hobbies or practices?

Participate. Get involved. I’m still a tour guide at the Walker. That place, the people that shape it, and those that go – it is such a dynamic exchange. Any art center of their caliber that will also host an Internet Cat Video Film Festival – I’m in.

No, they really did. Google it. The Walker has a natural amphitheater space and it was inundated. Something like10,000 people showed up.

Latest discovery?

I think Roberta’s Pizza in Williamsburg beats Pizza Bianco in Phoenix.

On your home office walls?

No office walls at home, that’s my thing, only at the agency and even those are partial. My agency walls hold a star I’ve had since my first day here, a few promos and cards of favorite artists and agents, a Post-it with my bicycle serial number, a great vinyl cover, a stellar example of origami and a couple of quotes, one partial. “…that I can’t wait to get to work in the morning.” and “Only when you know what you do, you can do what you want.” I don’t recall the source of either, they just resonated with me for personal reasons.

“Ancient Chinese Secret”, Huh?, Read how a penchant for collage, a love for family photo albums, and an unusually helpful HR Manager helped Julie Rosenoff find art buying.

In keeping with our Inside Art Buyer tradition, we reached out to Julie Rosenoff to see what path she took as an art buyer.  Currently, she is at Euro RSCG Worldwide as Manager of Art Buying but her resume boasts some of the greatest NY had to offer.  She is currently working on New York Life, Asus/Intel, Lysol, Finish, Resolve, Veet, Clearisil, Woolite and Claritin (just to name a few accounts!).  As you can imagine, her plate is full!  Yet, she still manages to stay inspired, be resourceful and provide her team with relevant creative direction.

When Alison McCreery of POP Blog  first sent me the interview to review for our post, I was immediately struck by Julie’s love and appreciation of old family photos.  It is special how she credits her parents for exposing her to still photography and how she still holds dear all her old family photos.  In the age of digital, this is rare.  I too, so appreciate all of the old photos in my life so it made reading what Julie shared all that more special. (link to a relevant post here).

Here is what Julie had to say:

Do you have a favorite photo of yourself that you are willing to share?  Can you tell us about it.

Yes.  The above image was taken back in the  80’s when I lived in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.  It was a wonderful time in my life – when the world of possibilities lay before me.

What did you want to be when you grew up?

I always wanted to be in Advertising. I knew from a very young age that this is what I wanted to do as a career. I loved watching TV and always enjoyed watching commercials!  But back then, I thought I’d be an Art Director.  I applied to FIT and majored in Advertising/Communications.

Once in college, I realized I didn’t want to pursue the Art Direction aspect of advertising, but I still wanted to work in that industry.  My first job was a part/time gig working at an agency called Rosenfeld Sirowitz Humphrey and Strauss.  I helped out in the accounting department, doing clerical work.  The job was completely mindless, but it gave me a sense of the energy and people that worked in an agency.  I loved it!   I received my Associates Degree from FIT and decided to join the workforce full-time.

My next job arrived at Wells Rich Greene, as an Administrative Asst. in Account Management. I can’t say I loved it either.  I knew I was not cut out for such a cut and dry type of job, dealing directly with Clients.  I knew I had to make a change. It wasn’t stimulating my creative side and I knew my skills and interests laid elsewhere.

I was fortunate enough to be able to speak freely to the head of Human Resources at the time (It was called Personnel back then!) I told her that Account Management wasn’t for me.  I needed something more creative.  She saw that I had a little bit of accounting experience and a desire to do something creative, and recommended me for a newly vacated position of Art Buying Assistant. I had no idea what Art Buying was.  But, in a short time, I realized that this was an exciting part of the advertising process.  I supported the Stock Photo Buyer and the Art Buyers.  I got to see what went into creating a print campaign.  Back then, photography was shot on neg or chrome film and retouching was done by hand.  Mechanicals were also done by hand.  The internet was fairly new and very few clients were creating advertising for that medium in 1991! I mean fax machines just came into play! I remember my first computer at work was one of those really small Macs that took floppy disks! My, how times have changed.

Over the next two decades, I moved up the ranks.  From Stock Photo Buyer at Wells Rich Greene, to Stock Photo Buyer at Ogilvy+Mather, to Art Buyer at Ammirati Puris Lintas.  Then to Bozell and to Euro RSCG Worldwide, where I still reside. I will celebrate my 12 year anniversary there in December.

Creative background/history?

I never studied photography, but have always been drawn to still images. I know it stems from the photos my parents took of me and my three siblings growing up.  They captured life events from the time we were babies and we each had our own photo album with every birthday celebration, first day of school, dance recital, little league game, school play, graduation, family vacation, etc.

The thoughtfulness and care that went in to capturing those precious moments is invaluable, and something I am very grateful that my parents did back then.  I would take out my photo album (we each had one that was all about us) and pore over each image; where was it taken, what were we wearing, what expression was on our face…. I still have that passion for that and still have that photo album in my possession.

Photography has remained an important part of my life.

How did you know in high school you wanted to work in advertising?

I think I knew what I wanted to do even before high school.  I loved commercials.

Some of the most memorable commercials from when I was little and still remember vividly were: Calgon (Ancient Chinese secret, huh?), Alka-Seltzer, (I can’t believe I ate the whole thing!) Breakstone, Charmin, Dunkin Donuts (Time to make the donuts). I wanted to be in that fun, creative world.

Earliest artistic interests?

In school, it was Paper Mache and paint. Three-dimensional pieces.

As I got older, I loved to make collages. I always collected things like travel mementos, matchbooks, lighters, pens, photos./images cut out of magazines. Each item held a sentimental value to me (kind of like photos, I guess).  I would collect all of this stuff and keep them in boxes. I decided to make collages with them so I could keep all these things and they would be in one place. I would glue everything with Mod Podge on a large posterboard canvas.  They became like time capsules on canvas for me, with each element telling a story.

Do you have any current collections?
Not really.  But if you ask my husband he would say I’m a packrat! I keep photos and sentimental items, but don’t have space for too many collections.

How do you describe your job to friends and family?

I set up photo shoots for still vs. moving. Producer. When you flip through a magazine, you see the ad, that’s what I do. All the time and effort that goes into making that picture, that’s what I do.

If you weren’t an art buyer what would you do?

I’ve toyed with the idea of getting a certificate to become a gemologist. Something that really appeals to me is the study of gems and being an expert on precious stones and antique jewelry. I absolutely love antique jewelry and have so much appreciation for the vision and creativity that went into making some of the old pieces I have seen and covet. They are works of art in their own way.

Just the other day, I had a thought that I could have gone to school for textile design. I absolutely love textiles and fabrics.  I guess it’s more of the illustration interest vs. photography.

How have your life experiences influenced your job choice?

I was fortunate enough to have the support of someone who understood what I was looking for in terms of a job and matched me with Art Buying.  I am still inspired and excited about what I do, all these years later.

What one word describes your working style?  Is it different than when you first started?

Many words.  Diplomatic. Enthusiastic. Collaborative. Trendspotter.

I’ve always had a knack (or is it good taste?) of identifying outstanding talent and sharing that with others.  I love my work more when I’m part of a team. I am an optimistic person.  I am a problem solver. I want to get the job done, done well AND have fun doing it!  When my creatives’ are happy, I am satisfied. And, coming in on budget is a must.

The only thing that is different from when I first started is I am much more self-assured.  Therefore, my decision-making skills are such that it takes a moment to answer most questions and have a viable solution to a work problem.

Do you have a personal aesthetic that comes through in the photographers whose work you are drawn to?

I know what I like when I see it. There’s not one thing.  It’s simply images that move me, evoke a feeling in me, no matter what it is. 

Trend or aesthetic you find inspiring right now?

Natural, real lifestyle.  Instagram-type photos.  At times, the imagery is less polished and more organic.  In terms of still-life, it’s stripped down, iconic imagery.

I am fortunate to have recommended some of the most amazing talent in this industry and have had the pleasure to work with them.  The most inspiring photographer we are working with now is Kenji Aoki.  His work is stunning.  It is incredible to watch a master at work as he creates art through photography.

What about the industry/your job is exciting right now?

Lines between traditional advertising mediums are blurred. We don’t talk in terms of TV and print anymore. It’s integrated and with these lines blurring, it’s creating new opportunities for us to delve into other areas like Digital media.  We’re not populating websites with crappy stock imagery anymore.  We are combining still and motion and learning new skill sets. The definition of an art buyer has changed and we must adapt, evolve and keep pace with all the new technology out there.  It’s exciting and a little intimidating too, because we are in the process of reinventing our jobs.

What do you love about your job?

I love the people I work with the most.  It’s them who make coming to work every day worthwhile.  I love being challenged to find the right talent for the project.  I enjoy researching the many possibilities of talent and sharing those people with my creative team.  It’s such a wonderful feeling when they come back to me with some amazing choices out of the people I have selected for them.

What is challenging?

We are increasingly challenged to get more for our clients for less; less time and less money.  The challenge is that the level of quality has to remain as high as it ever was.  Doing more with a lot less.

Where do you look for inspiration? Stay inspired?

I read a variety of magazines.  I follow some blogs, We have even created our own Art Buying Blog at work, where my department posts anything we feel is incredibly interesting and worthwhile sharing with the agency.  I am constantly meeting with photographers and agents and I review portfolios at various industry events.

What do you think is important to do in your personal time to keep you inspired at work?

I try to enjoy my personal time as much as possible.  The work doesn’t end when I walk out of the office –so, it’s important to me to detach as much as I can and enjoy the precious time I have with my family and in my home.  It’s very important to separate my work and home life.  I am so much more productive at work, when I’ve had a weekend doing anything not related to my job!

What at the moment do you see happening in the culture that you find inspiring or interesting?

With Social media, we’re exposed to the ‘hidden’ talents of so many. There’s an enormous wealth of talent and information out there that we never had access to before.  I mean, if you have a Facebook account, you can see these amazing photos or pieces of art that your friends have captured. Or be exposed to incredible exhibitions and installations from around the world.  It’s remarkable that you can share your talent with people you know and people you don’t know –and unknowingly influence others.

If you could change one thing in the creative industry right now, what would that be?

First is I would have a 4-day work week.  My day starts as soon as I get up and ends around 8pm.  Then, I would get rid of cost consultants!

I have always felt that they hamper the creative process.

Most art producers triple bid jobs and we’re all fiscally responsible and understand client needs. I feel the role of a Cost Consultant is unnecessary, and a seasoned Art Producer knows what things cost and what it takes to produce a quality, cost effective shoot.

If you could tell photographers one thing, what would it be?

Stay true to your craft. Keep shooting.

 On your home office walls?

A painting my parents bought in Italy back in the 60’s of a fisherman sitting on a wharf at sunset. It was hung in the living room of the house I grew up in and I have always loved the colors of that Italian sunset.

 

Favorite way to spend a Sunday?

Sleeping late. Breakfast with my family. Spending time with friends and preparing a nice meal together. Hanging out and eating basically.

One thing people reading this would find surprising about you?

I rarely watch TV now and used to be a TV junkie. I don’t have the time.

Creative hobbies or practices?

I don’t have a lot of time for personal hobbies.  I am out of the house for 12 hours each day and I have a 5 year old.  So, my free time is spent doing the things he likes to do.

 

 

Thanks for this opportunity.  It was fun.

Char Eisner: Old School & Still Cool!

I remember when I first started as an agent (a very long time ago!), thinking that if I could encourage Char Eisner to review  the work in our group, then I would have made it.  She was that name on the list that was the one to meet.  She worked on such big name clients that I knew if she called, I had done something right.  Well, one day she did call and today I feel fortunate enough to call her a friend.

Char’s title is Production Consultant at Leo Burnett in Chicago but she has worn many hats there.  It is no wonder that her experience is  widely known in the industry and other industry people seek out her opinion.  Char is not only professional and top rate, but she is funny, endearing and very caring.  She is right when she describes herself as a “work mom” to so many at Leo Burnett.  They are very lucky to have her.

In keeping with the Art Buyer Insider series tradition, we asked Char questions that help us learn more about her as a person, not just an art producer.  Her answers offer great insight into why working with her is such a special experience.  Leo Burnett is lucky to have her.

And, thank you Alison McCreery of POP Blog for conducting the interview on our behalf.  You always encourage people to share the most interesting things!

What did you “want to be when you grew up?”  Are you surprised where you ended up?

I wanted to get married and have kids! And guess what……I got married @19, had a baby boy @20 and had another baby boy @22!!  You bet I’m surprised where I ended up. From where I started…..suburban housewife/mom…..to where I ended up….high profile ad agency…..is staggering!

I have a smile on my face just thinking about the journey.

 What was that first moment of inspiration when you knew you would work in a creative position?

My mister, George Eisner, is my inspiration. I met him in 1967. I just turned sixteen.  He was a really funny, interesting guy who wore wing tip shoes…..talk about the suavity factor!  PLUS he was an artist!! He introduced me to all things art and arty. He was a marvelous influence on me and still is.

When our oldest boy entered Junior High, the mister told me his rep was looking for an assistant and I should interview for the job. I got hired and have been in the ad business ever since.

What roles have you held at Leo Burnett?

I’ve been an Art Buyer, Art Producer, Department Head and am currently an Art Production Consultant, a true hybrid position. As many Clients have external cost consultants, Leo Burnett tapped a group of Agency people of various backgrounds and created their own internal version. I learned to take the best of Char from my earlier roles and pair it with the watchful eye of a cost consultant. It took a bit of getting used to but I’m very comfortable with the role now.

How do you work with clients as an internal cost consultant?

Let’s say I’m working on a Miller-Coors project. At the very onset I meet with my Producer and Business Manager. Project specs are created and sent out to the Vendors to quote. As soon as the estimate comes in, I red line anything glaring and/or make production notes on best places, if any,  to trim.  Then I meet with the team to discuss my findings.  If there is justification for a line item in question, I won’t force the issue, as, for me, it’s all about maintaining the caliber of the work.

The estimate then goes to the Client’s cost consultant for another look/see. By this time there should be very little, if any, additional budget slashing. That means I’ve done a good job!

How do you not compromise creativity while finding a workable budget?

There is ALWAYS a way to solve the problem without compromising the integrity of the work. A large part of my job is to help provide viable solutions because at the end of the day the goal is to put together an ad that everyone attached to can be proud of.

Did you always love photography?

Yes, I have always loved photography. The mister introduced me to classic black and white photography when we first met and it all spiraled from there. I have a “fun with photos” file at home that I use to create cards by swapping out peoples heads and writing weird copy.

Growing up, what were your creative interests?

I used to draw cartoon strips in grade school and they almost always had something to do with nuns!  That’s what happens when you go to Catholic school!  Then about twenty years ago I did a self portrait that the mister turned into a rubber stamp (see image at the top of the page). I still look like it too.

How have your life experiences influenced your job choice?

I’ve been married for 40+ years. I have a very happy home life and am a very contented person. Consequently I bring a sense of stability which, in the crazy pace of advertising life is a definite asset.

Being a parent…especially raising boys….also prepped me for the role I play here at Burnett.

I allowed my boys a lot of freedom but reined them in when they needed it. I feel creative people need lots of space but also a responsible adult who can keep them in check. I am work mom to a lot of people over here.

I was also very involved with the local PTA when my boys were little. I had a knack for creating fun ways to generate money for the school as well as producing community events that required staying in budget.

Have you always loved photography and how do you keep the same level of inspiration you had when you started your job?

Yes I have always loved photography. And as far as keeping the level of inspiration up, I host the weekly Agency Portfolio Review Tuesday. It’s a two hour window for Creatives and Producers to pop in and see what’s new and cool in the world of photography and illustration. The events are very well attended. I get great feedback from the Creatives plus the Agents are thrilled to have such a lively venue to show off their work. Heather Elder even wrote a blog post about it last year! I was honored!

I’m also very fond of At Edge and The Workbook, two terrific Industry resources.

What one word describes your working style?  Is it different than when you first started?

The word is “direct”. Let’s cut to the chase. You might not like hearing what I have to say, but at least you know where you stand. Lucky for me most people find this approach engaging and refreshing.

I’ve always been this way so no difference from when I first started.

How do you describe your job to your mother or someone not in our industry?

To most non-ad people I suggest they walk into any McDonalds and check out all the posters and signage. I tell them I help in the selection of photographers and guide my Producers in negotiating the estimates to ensure the Client feels like he is getting a bargain and the shooter feels he is being fairly compensated.

As far as my 92 year old mom Rosie goes, she came to the office once with an Uncle who was in from San Francisco. He was beyond impressed by the size of my office at the time and totally enamored with what I did for a living. Rosie, on the other hand could have cared less, her main concern being where we would be going for lunch! Rosie is the reason I am so grounded in reality. Thanks Ma!

What do you think is important to do in your personal time to keep you inspired at work?

I spend a lot of time with family and good friends. This makes me happy and this keeps me centered. My personal life is very different from my work life and I need that balance to be effectively inspired.

What do you love about your job?

I love collaborating with my Producers and Creatives. They trust my opinion and look to me for guidance and direction. Our working relationship is based on mutual trust and genuine respect. I feel very fortunate.

I also love mentoring the interns and new hires. I recognize core qualities and life skills that will help them in their blossoming careers and I nurture them accordingly.  Besides learning the specifics of the job, they also need to learn how to interact with the people they will be working with.

And for the record, my interns fare very well…..the only one not hired by Leo Burnett ended up at Google San Francisco. They all have made me very proud.

What about the industry/your job is exciting right now?

Social media as a selling tool. I attended a training series that was all about social media and the role that it plays in advertising. There is a whole new world out there that’s only just starting to be explored.  The opinions people post can make or break a Client’s product . Everyone has a voice these days and people are not shy about expressing themselves. The silent majority is officially dead.

Favorite way to spend a Sunday?

I love playing in my gardens especially if the mister and the Chicago boy come out and play too.  Actually anytime I can spend with family is great! I love them!

One thing people reading this would find surprising about you?

I think what people find most surprising is how old I really am. I don’t mind saying I turned 60 last year. Although I’m a well seasoned geezerette, I don’t look like one and I sure don’t act like one either!  One of my business managers once gave me the compliment, “you are old school but you are still cool”.  I really like that! Although this can be a hard business for older people, I’m still bringing something relevant to the party.  And I will continue to do that as long as I am here.

How do you stay relevant?

I look to the Industry publications, the email links to websites and of course the weekly portfolio review. I listen to what my Producers and Creatives want/need and research accordingly which is a great way to learn new things. And I hang tight with the young ones who are a million times more technologically savvy that I am!

If you weren’t a production consultant, what would you do?

I would love to be Food Stylist. Not only am I comfortable in the kitchen but am very into how to make prepped food look pretty on a plate. I think I could be a decent Prop Stylist too.

What at the moment do you see happening in the culture that you find inspiring or interesting?

Social Media inspiring relevant social change. All the political turmoil in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya was directly a result of social media. Facebook and Twitter made it happen. It’s scary and cool all at the same time. 

If you could change one thing in the creative industry right now, what would that be?

Too many emails! The human touch is so where it’s at. People crave it. There are only so many hours in a day that you can stare at your computer before your eyes cross and your head explodes! I’m very face time/hands on with my people and they respond very well to it. That sense of humanity brings out the best in people.

If you could tell photographers one thing, what would it be?

Dare to be different. Either in your subject matter, the approach taken to get the shot or even camera choice. Figure out what separates you out from the pack and run with it.

Do you have a favorite photo of yourself that you are willing to share?  Can you tell us about it?

The leopard shirt photo was taken last September on my 60th birthday. The dawn of a new decade is a big deal especially since the following day I had surgery that took me out for 6 weeks and involved months of rehab! Yikes! But I was mentally prepared and very well taken care of by the mister, family and my many friends so I made it through and life is great again.

And, here’s an illustration by the late great George Toomer that I found in Workbook some years ago that looks just like me! When I came upon it, I simply had to call him and give him a hard time about unauthorized usage of my likeness! Poor guy. He was so happy to hear I was just kidding he sent me a huge poster of the art and signed it “to my new best friend Char Eisner”.

Creative hobbies or practices?

I love gardening. I’m a terrific cook and baker.  I’m also a garage /estate sale junkie. I collect  vintage things like grandma tablecloths and retro kitchenware.

Latest discovery?

Mad TV on the Cartoon Network.  I grew up reading Mad Magazine and to see it in motion is really great fun.

I recently rediscovered The Kinks, a totally underrated 60s rock band. Check out “Superman” if you get a chance.

And last but not least…..honey bees! My Chicago boy recently installed a beehive in our back yard.

It’s way cool to observe if you’ve never been around one before. There’s a reason why they are called busy bees! Thankfully no stings so far.

On your home office walls?

Whoops…..I don’t have a home office but at work I have several screened pieces of art done by my NYC boy, my own self portrait, the 2012 Men of Movember calendar featuring Agency people with cheesy mustaches and a pair of ruby slipper earrings my mom gave me so I will always know there’s no place like home.

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