Of Course the Creative Call is Important. But It Never Hurts to be Reminded.

After  a recent blog post, a photographer reached out to me (thank you Walter Smith) and asked me to consider writing a post  sharing insights into the creative call.  I thought it was a great idea.  I realized though, that everyone already knew how important it was, so it wasn’t necessary to talk about that.  Anyone who didn’t realize the importance of the call at this point, was in trouble and I am guessing that I couldn’t write anything to convince them otherwise.  Instead, I thought what would be most valuable would be to hear from the art producers themselves on why they think the call is so important.

Thank you to everyone who contributed to this post, I think the insight is invaluable and the reminders crucial.

• “Be prepared as we are interested in hearing your thoughts and your creative point of view. But also be prepared to listen as we will have our thoughts and our creative point of view. And the goal is to start the collaboration that results in something more exciting than anyone originally expected.”  Suzee Barrabee, Director of Art & Print Production, Goodby Silverstein & Partners

•  “Producers just hope that everyone is on the same page during a creative call. Both literally and figuratively.”  Ben Milam, Senior Producer, Leo Burnett

•  “Being under prepared for the creative call is like arriving for an interview smelling like the night before – if the night before was a Phish concert.” Anonymous

•  “While a photographers phone personality may not be as eloquent as their ability to photograph, the creative call is often the first impression.  It can indicate to the creative team how interested and invested the photographer is in the collaboration process.”Emily Hoskins, Art Buyer, Upshot

•  “This is what can seal the deal.  This is where you convince the art director that you understand their creative vision and are willing to explore all their thoughts and ideas.  Armed with this info we (at the agency) can break down the budget  barrier with overwhelming creative confidence making the client WANT this photographer.” Anonymous

•  “I often tell Art Directors not to get tied to a photographer strictly by he or she’s  portfolio. It’s the creative call to me that tells you how he technically and stylistically will shoot your project.  It also is a good repertoire starter.   You tend to get a real sense of who your going to be working.  The icing is the creative treatment which reiterates what was discussed on the call.  All in all I think it’s good for creative, photographers and the upcoming project.”  Jackie Contee, Sr Art Buyer, Uniworld

•  “It helps prevent surprises on set.” Meghan DeBruler Pearson, Senior Art Buyer, Ogilvy & Mather

•  “Ah the creative call!  Too often a formality, a time-waster spent with the creative team pretending to listen because I need three bids!  Then again, there are the times we don’t know who we want to use, and the call is essential for us to discover the workings of a photographer’s mind, and team, and that unspoken but all-important factor:  Personality.  I have teams that like to be told what to do; I have teams that like to tell a photographer what to do and have the photographer just say yes, and I have great teams that are truly sparked by a creative discourse to hone a vision, together.  Those are the best creative calls!  I prefer to have a producer on the call as well, mostly so we can “meet” them, and feel out the exchange of energies.  I’d say the formality calls (need a bid) versus the true help-us-decide calls weigh out about 50/50, though I work hard to keep the former from happening as much as I am able to.  I’ve taken to doing an initial creative call AFTER a first-draft bid, since that bid is, in essence, a creative call…I can see how a photographer is thinking, how they approach, in a well-rounded form…and too I can see if they are organized, reasoned, timely.  This makes some vendors uncomfortable (“We don’t want to waste anyone’s time, so we’ll schedule creative calls after we’ve taken a look at initial bids.”)  But I think at this point, I’ve awarded enough work in this manner, and am honest enough about the process, that vendors are okay with it, even appreciative.  No one wants to think they’re involved in a bid without a real chance of landing it, though honestly, sometimes that’s the case.  And people know this, and respect my respect of their time.  Honestly, I love seeing a first-round bid before the call.  It just helps me see a complete picture, and especially when my creative team has say five vendors in the running…it helps me help them to make wise decisions overall. ”  Anonymous

•  “A strong creative call, where the photographer is focused, interested and personable, followed by a thoughtful treatment, has changed many an art director’s mind on his/her choice of photographer. It’s a very cool thing to witness.”  Andrea Kaye, SVP Art Production Manager & Integrated Producer, McCann NYC.

•  “Its like speed dating, its where you find out if there’s a “connection” between the art director and photographer or not. If there’s no witty banter, bouncing of ideas off each other or clear communication, you don’t want to have another call, far less shoot aka have a real date. ” Janene Bleasdell, Art Buyer, Link9 LLC

•  “It’s ESSENTIAL.”  Ken Zane, Senior Producer, Leo Burnett.

•  “Inherent. There are a few things that are germane to my position. One of them is to allow collaboration and spark a connection between the art director and the artist. It needs to be a one-on-one, even if others need or want to be on the call as well.”  Colleen Dean, Art Producer, Integer

If you have a quote of your own to share, email me here or comment on the post and I will be happy to consider adding it to the list.

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