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.


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


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?



Enough time





On same page


Creatively inspired mutuality



Happy Enthusaism





QUESTION FOR ALL: State of our Industry

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











No rules


(chaotic) Dynamic

In flux




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

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?


“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


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 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


“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.


“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


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?


“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


“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


“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


“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… where I ended up….high profile ad agency… 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… 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.

If you enjoyed this post, please do consider subscribing to our blog at the top right hand corner of the site.  You can be the first to read our next interview.  Any ideas on whom to feature?  Email me, we would love to consider your suggestion.

Revisiting a successful portfolio show with Char Eisner and Leo Burnett

I recently went to Chicago for my annual trip to Leo Burnett.  Our regular trip to Chicago happens to be in the fall every year but this particular show is always so successful that I make a special trip.  This year, Kevin Twomey accompanied me which was an added bonus so we snuck in a few other agencies as well.  It was a whirlwind trip – less than 24 hours – but once again Chicago did not disappoint.  Not to mention the weather was 85!

Seeing how consistently well attended Char Eisner’s shows at Leo Burnett are, I thought the timing would be right to revive the post from last year that shared what made them so successful.  It was a post that received a lot of attention from both agents and art buyers.  In an age where portfolio shows are harder and harder to schedule and attendance is often sporadic, I am hopeful sharing this again will help inspire agencies and reps to think of new ways to produce great shows together.

Link here for the post:  A unique approach to portfolio shows that will help both art buyers and reps.  Thank you Char Eisner and Leo Burnett. 

Wrapping up the conversation with Los Angeles Art Producers at our Community Table: Dessert

For those of you just joining us, welcome to Community Tablea 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 last two week’s posts , the Appetizer and Main Course portions, and read the introduction to this series, please do link here.



As a reminder, each Conversation Starter was directed to one person with a general discussion ensuing. We decided this was the best way to present the discussion, to share the experience as close as possible to how it actually happened to bring you all the to the table with us.

The first question for the Dessert part of our meal was given to Jill Hundenski currently at Team One. This question launched an insightful conversation and a peek into the inner workings of the creative teams and the clear differentiation between the roles of the producers and that of the art and creative directors.

CONVERSATION STARTER #6:  Finding Creative Inspiration

Jill Hundenski, Freelance

Where are your creatives finding inspiration?  When they show you new work where are they directing you?  Are they utilizing photography websites such as At Edge,Le Book, Foundfolios and Workbook for their searches?  Or, are they relying more on individual photographer websites, micro-sites, blogs or other unique sites they frequent?

“Generally, those that are not using At-Edge, FoundFolios and Workbook are using word of mouth, this guy down the street who knows this guy,” started Jill. “It’s a lot like how Todd Selby was found. An art director found his blog and now he’s huge.

Blogs and social media are huge for creatives. They talk with each other and do a lot of research,” said Jill. “It’s kind of like, the more creative they are, the more they are sharing and following blogs and they bring it to us and we research. They bring cool art and music and things branch out from there.”

Jigisha continued. “Creatives are very competitive in their own industry and are always looking at who won awards and who is doing what ads. They ask us to research who is doing competitive work and who is shooting something.

The older creative’s are still doing CA and Archive and the award shows. The younger guys are totally out there in the social world and coming up with things that are way off our radar for sure. They’re talking about installations in Spain.”

“Photographers need to be creative and find ways to be interesting to creatives,” concluded Melanie.

With a question from Kate about the relevance of sourcebooks, the conversation looked at who is still using them and why. No surprise, art buyers still find them very valuable.

“It’s rare now that an AD would mention something they saw in Archive,” responded Jill. Melanie continued, “The search function still makes them relevant. I go to them first. I can’t start looking through blogs to find someone who shoots still-life.”

Andrea said, “It used to be that everyone got CA. But now it’s just me. Although I still have to sharpie my name on it because they want it and pass it around.”

There is still a place for the sites,” concluded Natalie Flemming. “And if you stop emailing and sending promos, you’re out of sight and out of mind. You never know who is going to look at you where, marketing is no longer linear so you have to be in as many places as you can afford

Andrea Mariash of David & Goliath very succinctly answered the first part of the last question first before getting right to the point when it comes to photographers shooting video. And the opinions were near unanimous. Photographers should really only show video if it is as strong as their photography.

CONVERSATION STARTER #7:  The Value of Photography

Andrea Mariash, David & Goliath.

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?

In response to the relevance of photography, Andrea was clear. “Everyone can agree that there is a distinction between print and photography, because photography is used in many different mediums. And this is back to another panic button. Photography isn’t dying. I’m busier than ever because we are producing  photographic content for online. Digital is becoming a huge part of our world.”

Moving quickly to the question about video, “I just want to put something out there that is probably controversial,” started Andrea. “I am not a big fan of photographers doing video as a response to where they think the industry is going. I see a lot of photographers doing video because they think they have to, to stay ‘relevant.’ And it really hurts their brand.

Creatives will talk about it if it is not as strong as their photography. They’re used to seeing TV reels. Just like you don’t have to show everything you ever shoot, you don’t have to shoot video.”

“The big panic button was hit by PDN two years ago when they said that photographers had to shoot video,” said Matt.  “A lot of photographers thought they would be irrelevant if they didn’t.”

There are some photographers who understand film and have that cinematic quality,” continued Cara. “They have to learn new language. If they can learn it and bring their sensibilities to motion, then it’s brilliant. Creatives will talk about it after seeing their reel and it hurts them as a photographer if they show work that isn’t as strong as their photography. Art directors have choice of anyone in world.”

In retouching world, there were a lot of photographers who would do their own post and a lot who didn’t,” mentioned Kate. “And there were many who should not have done their own retouching. It’s the same threshold for video.”

“It’s more valuable for them to understand video. Art directors are not always sure how they want to use video, but they want it. There are so many different styles and sometimes they hire a DP to maintain the sensibility.”

To close our lunch, we asked everyone to go around the table and give us one word or phrase that described our industry right now. The list put words to what we all feel and left us with admiration for the group we had assembled. Positive, open-minded and ready to tackle the challenges of an industry and world in the middle of many exciting changes and tremendous challenges.










Learning experience for everyone

Never thought at this point that I’d really need ‘to learn that’

I’ve said ‘what’ a lot in the last two years



We hope that our first Community Table event has fed you insights, inspiration and a sense of shared community that help move us all upward as an industry with a sense of empowerment and adventure.   Our village is a strong one, the more we connect and share, the stronger we will be become.  Stay tuned in the next few weeks for a summary of the conversation as well as a request for questions for our next Community Table event in NYC this spring.

Introducing Community Table: a Conversation with LA Art Buyers. Part I: The Appetizer

The Community Table

Welcome to Community Table – the first in a 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.

So, of course it is no surprise that Community Table was inspired by LeBook Connections, which was founded with the vision of bringing together the worlds top reps with buyers and creative’s from the worlds leading agencies and clients for a day of sharing and connecting.  It was in this context of discussing the inspirational nature of all of us coming together in LA that the idea was launched for Community Table – the timing perfect to foster an in-depth conversation about top-of-mind industry issues and to then share the results-of with our larger community via a shared blog post.

Thus invitations were sent, RSVPs rolled in, questions were drafted, a beautiful spot for lunch was reserved and a tremendously inspiring conversation ensued with topics ranging from what art buyers are looking for at Connections, who from the agencies actually attends the event, the rise of and value of pay-to-play events, one of the most effective ways for photographers to get work. The often debated email vs. direct mail discussion made an appearance as did insights into where creative’s look for inspiration and work, thoughts on photographers shooting video and over dessert, a one-word summary from each of us to describe the current state of our industry.

All agreed it that there aren’t enough opportunities to get everyone together and we can’t wait for the next one. But for now are very happy to summarize what we learned with our larger community.

And, with that, we welcome you to our table.


Each Conversation Starter was directed to one person with a general discussion ensuing. We decided this was the best way to present the discussion, to share the experience as close as possible to how it actually happened to bring you all to the table with us.

The first questions were directed to Cara Nieto from DeutschLA about how she defines a successful event, what she enjoyed the most and what was most effective for introducing her to new talent and reacquainting her with familiar talent?

CONVERSATION STARTER #1: Le Book’s Effectiveness

Cara Nieto, DeutschLA

How would you define a successful Le Book event?  Do you think the event met these criteria?  What elements of Connections did you enjoy the most?  What were the most effective in introducing you to new talent and reacquainting you with familiar talent? 

Here is how Cara got the conversation started:

“I consider LeBook successful if I discover new talent or someone new to a roster. I may have discovered someone new to a certain roster, but no one that I hadn’t seen before.  I don’t get to talk with every person, so it may not be that there wasn’t any new talent there at all, but it’s obviously difficult to find that with everything one has to look at.

For the booths I did make it to, I asked to be shown one or two things I hadn’t seen before since this what I’m looking for—if someone is new to the roster or has something really new and exciting. It would be helpful if, at each booth, new talent to either their roster or the industry were highlighted.

I did like the big agency books with five or six images from each photographer, especially the big agencies. It’s daunting to ask to dig one out from the bottom of the pile.”

“I loved it. The chaos. Seeing all the portfolios stacked up all over the place,” added Jigisha Bouevrat of TBWA\Chiat\Day. “I think if you spread it out, you lose that energy, that charisma that is in there.  And because of that I found five I’m excited to hopefully work with. And we do a lot of research and have people come in. And these were five who were not on my radar at all.”

“I go straight to the music stand, assuming that it must be the best of the bunch right now,” added Lisa Matthews from Team One. “It’s easier to flip through and read—it really works. So maybe that’s the idea. You switch it out every 45 minutes. When I see a stack of books in the corner, I say ‘give me three.’ The big monitors with five images from each photographer also draw you in. You can get a good idea very quickly of the artists at each rep.”

“We are also most interested in personal work,” adds Cara Nieto. “Reps could encourage their photographers to have a personal project or test for their reps to share at the event that they’re excited about and that is catered to us.

But quite honestly, what I enjoyed as much as looking at the work was seeing the reps I don’t usually see, from San Francisco and New York, and catching up with them.”

Jigisha echoed the same sentiment. “I loved that I can network not only with the agents, but that the photographers showed up at the end and that I got to see all the art producers and the other people that are part of my community that I never get to see and bond with. We tend to be and feel isolated in LA and it’s great for us to get to spend time together.

I also love that it’s on the West Coast in LA because I think we need something that elevates us and makes us part of this industry. I love that and I don’t ever want this to go away. I call it our industry day, but it should turn into an industry week.”

The second set of questions were addressed to Melanie Tongas of RPA.  And in keeping with the conversation-starter spirit, it quickly turned into an animated group discussion that ranged from getting art directors to Connections and to portfolio shows, how digital and motion are impacting art director’s availability for looking at photography, and why a fashion and celebrity-driven event like Connections is relevant to a wider audience of art buyers.

CONVERSATION STARTER #2:  Le Book’s Attendance

Melanie Tongas, RPA

How much does your agency encourage attendance to an event like Le Book?  Do they encourage the entire creative department to attend?  Did any of your creative’s attend the event?  If not, why do you think that is? 

Here is how Melanie got the conversation started:

Since LeBook came to LA last year, I along with Ginnie Assenza, who I co-manage the department with, encouraged our department to attend the event, as we believe it’s important to connect with the photography and advertising community, and keep abreast of the latest trends in the industry. Most of us attended last year’s event and loved it, and because of that found a way to fit it into our incredibly busy schedules this year.

Being that we’re a predominantly automotive agency, we intentionally narrowed our focus for so many years to know the automotive reps and photographers because that’s who we were hiring and it was the best use of our time.  But with a handful of growing non-auto accounts where we’re finding ourselves commissioning more fashion and celebrity photographers, the LeBook event was a perfect venue for us to meet new reps and see new talent, as much as it was to visit with those we’ve worked with over the years.

As art producers it’s our job not only to source out the right talent for any particular project, but to keep expanding our talent library with new talent. That’s part of what this event is all about. It’s about seeing who’s out there so if we have an automotive project that requires some fashion, we’ll know who’s out there.”

Freelance art producer, Jill Hundenski said that their responsibilities have expanded as well. “We have to stay on top of who is shooting print and motion. Art Directors come to us to ask who is doing both.

“I feel like LeBook should also really be targeting the digital and print producers because we are crossing media. Maybe broadcast too, but definitely digital and print,” suggested by Jigisha and echoed by Lisa Matthews, “Integrated production is the new buzzword. Le Book should grow it into an option.”

“Just having a couple events is not enough to draw the art directors. They need to have more to attract them,” suggested Melanie. “Successful ideas could be held throughout the week.”

“They could also attract higher attendance if it were more centrally located on the Westside,” added Cara Nieto. “They might be catering to fashion and celebrity businesses, but the agencies are on the Westside and Hollywood is the mecca in traffic.”

“So it would be nice for them to partner with someone to expand the event more,” suggested Heather. “This being their second year in LA, I’m sure they are trying to figure it out and are still learning what people are craving and need here. I think it’s recognizing the power of this week and building on it.”

“One thing to add. The events/presentations at LeBook (branded content, etc.) have nothing to do with photography,” observed Jigisha. “It’s about a different way of advertising and marketing and working with clients and so much more strategy than the creative development. If they want to get art directors there, they need to rethink the presentations. And also not do them during the day. I didn’t get to look at books until 5:30.

On another note, I would spend my money to go to NY to see the European agents at NY Connections.”

The final question of this first installment of Community Table was on the rise of Pay-to-Play events. Directed to Jigisha Bouverat of TBWA\Chiat\Day an interesting discussion developed .  Some see the value outweighing any shortcomings and others felt it was somewhat unfair to photographers to pay to see them when they could simply make an appointment. All were agreed though, that those getting to know the photographer,  is paramount and this is one opportunity for doing that and these events are very beneficial to emerging photographers.


Jigisha Bouverat, TBWA\Chiat\Day

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.  What is it about these types of events that are most successful and what do you feel could be improved upon?  Do you see this as a positive trend and if not, why?

Here is how Jigisha got everyone thinking:

“In the past few years I’ve thought about this a lot because I’ve needed to strategize as my role as an art producer in an ad agency and as a department head. With regards to the pay-to-play events, I’ve thought about what is a conflict of interest and what is acceptable.

At first, I would get an offer to come look at and critique portfolios that came with a stipend. I knew the people putting the shows together were also charging the photographers to have their books reviewed, but I would do them. However, in the last couple of years, the books that came to me were photographers who didn’t need my critique, who were already quite successful and could call me and get a showing

Acknowledging that the pay-to-play events present a valuable opportunity to emerging photographers, Jigisha continued, “Then alternatively, there have been other reviews I’ve done for beginner and emerging books where I could be constructive and helpful. In this case, my time was worth it for them, if the photographer uses it as a critique to make their book better.”

Based on an evaluation of how much each side gets out of it, Jigisha now only participates when she feels it is not a conflict of interest. “I made the decision not to participate in events where the caliber of photographer is good enough to come in to my agency and be seen. But I will participate in the ones where I can use my experience to help them and they can maybe do a little more work and see me at my agency the next time and not have to pay.”

Several art buyers however highlighted the value of actually meeting with photographers, “Personality is huge,” added Jill Hundenski. “If the creative call goes downhill, I take them off the list. And on that same note, if you have 15 minutes with a photographer, you can really delve into what they love working on and get a better understanding of who they are, more so than looking at their book or hearing from their rep.”

“I find the pay-to-play events successful because I have the chance to meet with new photographers and I love one-on-ones with photographers,” confirmed art buyer Andrea Mariash of David & Goliath. “I’ll go into a portfolio show and everyone is standing around the photographer trying to figure out what they have coming up that they could use them on. It absolutely makes a difference.”

And echoing what we often hear from art buyers, Patti O’Halloran of The Designory summed it up with “Yes, it’s always good to meet the photographers because you may end up spending a week with them.”


Be sure to tune in next week to sample the Main Course of our meeting where we will be addressing Marketing over the Years and the ever present Emailer Controversy.

If you have anything to add to the conversation, please do email Heather Elder Represents or Brite Productions, we are excited to keep the conversation going.

Thank you again to all of our participants, Heather Elder Represents, Brite Productions and Alison McCreery of POP Blog for making all of this sharing possible.