609 DAVIS REMARKS, CORBIS ANNUAL MEETING
January 17, 2004
The following is the complete transcript of the text of remarks by CEO Steve
Davis at the 1st Corbis Annual Meeting held in New York on January 15, 2004. Mr.
Davis was introduced by Bill Gates, Founder of Corbis. Davis
included a number of video clips of Corbis images as an important part of his
presentation. I apologize to my readers that I have been unable to find an effective
way to present these video items as part of Selling Stock, but I hope the words
alone will be enlightening.
Steve Davis, CEO Corbis
Thanks, Bill. And thank you for your belief, support and investment in the Corbis
vision. Working closely with you over the past decade has been the experience of a
And thanks to all of you for joining us today at this gathering of clients,
journalists, analysts, friends and members of the Corbis family, for our first-ever
annual meeting. We look forward to making this an annual tradition as we continue to
pioneer this category, to evolve new ways to meet our clients' needs, and to tell
The American poet Ruykeyser once wrote that the universe is not made up of atoms. It
is made up of stories. [m1]And I know that everyone in this audience-especially this
creative audience-is engaged in telling those stories.
It's not only the stock in trade of the journalists and analysts in the room, but in
fact publishing, advertising, entertainment, and corporate executives tell stories
every day to entertain us, to inform us, to inspire us, and to sell their brands and
products. Storytelling is at the heart of what we think about at Corbis every
day-how to better support the projects of our global clients, and how to leverage
the stories of the artists and partners we represent. Today I want to share with you
our story-the Corbis story-with some observations and reflections on where we've
been, where we are today, and where we are going.
The theme of this story is pretty simple: the global market for imagery and content
is changing quickly-and Corbis is perfectly positioned for those changes.
First, the market for imagery has gotten bigger over the past decade, and will
certainly continue to expand, as the visual language finds more utility and
validation in our increasingly smaller global village. As Bill and I speculated over
ten years ago, new technologies have created more opportunities to use imagery, with
the advancements of desktop computing, color printers, digital cameras and
sophisticated mobile devices, the abundant software to support this hardware, and
the amazing distribution networks that make images increasingly more available at
our fingertips. Corbis is very lucky, indeed, to be participating in this
ever-growing visual world where images are at work every day-in traditional media
enterprises, and in new markets, products, and applications. It's a great time to be
in this industry.
But the bigger story is that the market for imagery is also being radically
transformed. This change isn't only the evolution wrought by the intervention of
digital technologies... that is, a shift from creating, distributing and
experiencing photography on film and slides, to the digital online environments
around which Corbis has built its business model.
But the less obvious, and frankly more profound change, is the way the "creative
economy" is transforming. And what I mean by that is the increasing demand-by
marketers, publishers, entertainers and others who use images to tell their
stories-to incorporate more types of complex content into any given project. And
their desire to re-purpose that content for different projects with the
proliferation of new channels and capabilities. Their desire to integrate moving
images with stills. To support self-publishing models and disparate workflows.
Fundamentally, to build preferred partnerships with folks like us who support their
This transformed marketplace goes far beyond the traditional stock photography
category, and now demands complete visual solutions and services bound by a
sophisticated approach to the intellectual property.
Corbis was conceived and developed with this opportunity in mind, and the market has
validated our approach. I am proud to share today the headline of our story: In
2003, Corbis grew its revenues at a rate greater than four times that of the
So let me tell you more about this growth story-and particularly to answer the
inevitable question of "why"-why we are enjoying this disproportionate growth, why
are we are convinced that the market will continue to transform, and why we are so
bullish about what is to come.
As a student of Chinese politics and law, my training tells me to start answering
that question with an historical view. Our pioneering work began over ten years ago
when Corbis became the first player in this nascent market to tap commercial
potential in existing content libraries by commencing in 1991 the scanning and
cataloging of the Hulton-Deutsch collection of British historical material.
In 1992, long before many of our current competitors even existed we were developing
technologies to support digital image protection, media asset management, and
scalable media databases.
VIDEO CLIP: Ingvar Petursson, SVP and Chief Technology Officer, Corbis
Corbis early on became a company that decided to do some things that others hadn't
done. We are a company of firsts. We innovated in the ability to watermark images
for example. We've got a number of patents in the world of watermarking of images.
And then we created technologies that would store and manage and make accessible to
our sales force as well as to our customers the rights that had been associated with
a given piece of media and the rights that could be associated with that media. Our
technology really enabled that revolution in rights to take place.
That legacy pays off every day at Corbis. We were the first to offer a digital
copyright protection program to our artists, and the first to develop broad rights
protections for the use of content in multimedia and new media. All of which makes
our digital collection today not only the broadest and deepest in the world, but one
steeped in a very smart intellectual property framework. And our commitment to
innovation in this area continues.
VIDEO CLIP: Jim Mitchell, VP and General Counsel, Corbis
Rights are a difficult thing to get your arms around. It's a difficult thing for
people to understand. Other businesses in our industry either outsource that
expertise or ignore it altogether. Corbis has always focused on rights as a critical
component of its business and has actually made its strategic decisions-from
technology development to content acquisition to even its acquisition strategy-based
upon a firm and profound understanding of rights.
In addition, we continue to undertake market-leading, pioneering work, creating new
ways to use and sell digital content. We started in the early 90's with interactive
kiosks and some of the industry's most celebrated CD-ROMs. We went on to develop one
of the earliest print-on-demand solutions for our online print and poster offering.
And today we are the market's leading provider of professional image galleries
-through subscription partners-for residential and retail plasma screens... an
innovation that Bill considered when he founded the company.
This history of innovation, so deeply rooted in our DNA, forms the backbone of our
company-and the spine of our story. But it doesn't tell the complete story. For
that, we looked to another source.
The most important voice is not that of our technologists, creative folks, or
lawyers-although they are an amazingly talented bunch-but rather the voice we listen
to most and the force behind this changing marketplace-which is, of course, the
voice of our clients.
It was the voice of a creative director at Saatchi and Saatchi here in New York
City. Her frustration with the old models-having to go to fifteen different sources
over the course of several months to get the pictures and rights clearances she
needed for a major project-inspired us to purchase eleven operating companies and
integrate them in one place and under one brand.
It was the voice of a senior vice president of Content at Pearson Publishing Group
in London. He discussed the complexity of his image-hosting environment, and
inspired us to enter a multi-year relationship. Not only to provide a broad range of
images and services, but to help figure out the best way for managing their own
online library through an interface that links our systems and workflow.
It was the voice of a corporate marketing director at Audi just outside of Munich.
His product launch plans were threatened because he could not get the appropriate
celebrity, sports league and music rights cleared for his displays and events. He
concerns led us to think more broadly about offering rights clearances services for
not only our own content, but other media as well.
And it was voice of a kid on a Tokyo subway, who was demanding more cool things to
do with his mobile phone during his commute home. That demand triggered a
partnership with Gigno Systems that resulted in the first-and now leading-picture
subscription service through NTT DoCoMo in Japan. We are now offering that service
in other parts of the world.
This rising chorus of clients tells us that their world is changing. Their needs are
changing. They demand more than a vending machine dispensing photography. They told
us that this is a service industry, and that we must become a solutions business.
Christine Lindemann, Assistant Producer, Ogilvy & Mather
I'm the assistant producer on all of American Express, so I handle the entire
American Express account. And this was one television spot that we did, and
basically, we took all sorts of stock footage from the Statue of Liberty and showed
it aging over time. (American Express ad plays.)
Lynn Brantley, VP of Sales and Service, Americas, Corbis
In a vendor relationship, we send the client the image. They use it. They
incorporate it into their project. What we want them to do is be free to be
creative. That's their job. And what we will do is make sure that we make them look
good during that process.
A partner is someone that I can count on 100% of the time. That I know when I pick
up that phone and have a request, that request will be fulfilled. I would definitely
view Corbis as a partner.
As a creative company, we need represent the best artists and imagery across every
category... from celebrity portraiture to creative commercial photography... from
fine art to historical... from great videography to highly progressive conceptual
I am especially proud of our valued and trusted relationships with hundreds of
talented artists-who, by the way, always keep their copyright when working with
Corbis-and the most respected media partners around the globe. Partners like Conde
Nast, whose historic archives contain images that defined style for the most stylish
generations. Like ZUMA Press, whose news, sports, entertainment and feature
photography is among the most powerful in the world. Like Image 100, whose creative
photography sets the standard for progressive, royalty-free stock.
Jennifer Hurshell, SVP of Content Development & Corporate Communications
The reason a major media company would turn to Corbis is because of our brand's
promise to shepherd their most important asset-their content.
Monique Villa, Head of Pictures, Reuters
I think Corbis is that exceptional company where you have the best memory of the
last century with a fantastic archive and fantastic access to it. And also the best
technology for the future and the way to deliver to clients very quickly and the way
we need. And, for Reuters, this mix of Corbis makes a very special place indeed.
Timothy White, Photographer
The last 20 years I've been photographing celebrities, basically Hollywood almost
exclusively. [a selection of Timothy White's images rotate.] I think some people get
frightened by the size of an organization, that it can become too big and too
impersonal. But I feel the opposite in my relationship with Corbis. I think the size
of the organization is something that I benefit from. And I think the size of Corbis
and its ability to reach marketplaces on such immediate, large scale around the
world is a very important factor in terms of expanding business... and conducting
Another reason for our success is our "hybrid" go-to-market model-that is, a unique
marriage of scalable e-commerce complementing a team of more than 300 highly
consultative client advocates around the world. And part of this service-oriented
approach was our launch last year of a true around-the-clock operation. We are now
open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. Not just with website
support, but with trained creative consultants in multiple languages working with
clients on midnight projects. I don't know about you, but I don't know many
publishers or advertisers who work bankers' hours.
This commitment to service not only helps explain our growth, but accrues to Corbis'
top ranking in customer service, scoring 3-to-1 ahead of our biggest competitor in
global surveys. Let me say that again: three out of four customers, in an unaided
survey, ranked our customer service the best in the industry.
We support all of these activities with highly visible marketing and communications
programs, which solidify our brand. In fact, according to an international study by
Gartner Research, Corbis is widely perceived as the leading brand throughout the
world in our category.
In short, we've created many material reasons for creative clients to start their
projects with Corbis. Our rallying cry is START HERE.
Joe Barrett, VP of Global Marketing
Start Here is the most important economic rationale for our strategy because we know
from intensive market research that our customers spend over 70% of their licensing
dollars at the first place that they go. [show Corbis web site.] Our leading
indicators show that whether it's unique visits to our website or external searches
or research requests, we're seeing 30% quarter-over-quarter increases in those
leading indicators. And so, we're taking share, and taking share only comes from
people communicating a preference. They're making a change from habit, and making
that new habit Corbis.
Another factor in our growth is our commitment to ensuring that for every employee,
regardless of rank or role, the connection to the customer isn't theoretical-it's
practical. And that our clients' reality informs our culture and inspires further
innovation. In 2003 we launched another industry first: an annual program in which
every single employee at Corbis-not just sales and customer service folks, but every
receptionist, every editor, every technologist, and every executive-spent a day
working as the client. So each of us worked as a picture editor in a magazine
feature department on a breaking story. And each of us worked as an art buyer in an
advertising agency preparing for the big client pitch....
[Highlights from Corbis' "Customer Experience Project," held in eleven offices
around the world over a period of 36 days.]
This past year we also extended our capacity to support commissioned and assignment
photography. As our clients' needs change-as they focus more and more on their core
publishing and creative competencies-they increasingly look to us to produce imagery
for their features and campaigns. Corbis works with some of the finest assignment
photographers in the world, so when Time magazine wanted a fresh view of the war in
Iraq, we sent them Benjamin Lowy, and inspired young photographer who turned 24 in
Baghdad, having just landed his second Time cover. When Rolling Stone wanted their
cover to feature an exclusive shot of the sultry Shakira, Martin Schoeller's
extraordinary portraiture sold the magazine. When BBDO wanted to reposition Snickers
with an aspirational, athlethic concept, we assigned the job to Patrik Giardino. His
white-hot photography made candy-eating look not just nutritious, but positively
heroic. Between them, Corbis assignment photographers have won every major award in
the business, from Communication Arts to the Pulitzer prize.
Beyond producing images for clients, we also package media at their request. For
example, we help professional sports leagues entertain their stadium fans during
breaks in the action with rights-cleared compilations of some of the funniest
sports-related movie clips, including scenes from Animal House, Network, and Field
of Dreams. As with every strategic decision over the past decade, this offering
leverages our core competencies in rights and content.
Media packaging. The richest content. The best customer service. Unrivalled rights
clearance expertise. Digital asset management. Assignment & custom photography
production. E-Commerce. Consultation. Employees who have proven their commitment to
client intimacy. And all of it available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year... What
does it all add up to?
Wil Merritt, VP Sales & Service, EMEA, Corbis
Global companies are partnering with Corbis today because we can provide the entire
range of visual solutions from the beginning of the creative process - finding
photographers, clearing the rights, providing motion footage, sourcing the best
resources around the world to meet the brief of the client and those creative needs
or editorial needs.
Elyse Lehrfeld, Senior Manager, Time Warner Global Marketing
For ING, we collaboratively worked on a web site all about teaching consumers about
financials and money and how to manage their money using various assets throughout
Time Warner. ("Chariots of Fire" clip on website plays.) We used Corbis to help us
secure the various elements that we could not secure on our own. A lot of the time
we don't have the bandwidth and the staff to actually go out and secure these
licenses and a lot of the time we just don't have the expertise to reach out to the
various areas. We know Corbis would and that they would be able to go out there and
do it in a seamless manner and in a trusted way. And it was great because for ING it
was very seamless. They just said, "Ok, here's the asset we want to use. Here's the
budget. Go out and do it." And they didn't have to see all of the "behind the
scenes" actually doing the securing and worrying about the legalities, etcetera. So
they were thrilled that it was a very seamless procedure for them.
We're doing things that no one has ever done before. What we're doing today at
Corbis is creating a whole new industry and a whole new way of doing business.
And what does this mean for Corbis?
Double-digit growth. In 2003 Corbis revenues grew twenty percent. Contributing to
this organic growth was double-digit performance in all regions-Americas, Asia and
Europe-along with significant increases in the number of clients ...and the number
of images licensed. Ending last year with approximately $140 million in revenue, and
based on our current run rate and leading indicators, we are very bullish. We
forecast over 20% growth again in 2004, and look forward to sustaining this momentum
over the foreseeable future.
Sue McDonald, SVP and Chief Financial Officer, Corbis
Momentum. That's what I noticed about Corbis when I was at Knight-Ridder. I have
extensive experience in the publishing sector, and I understand the financial
pressures that the media services industry is under. Understanding that makes me
very confident in Corbis' ability to really make a difference for these media
companies and to really be able to provide them a solution that helps them cut costs
and improve profitability.
Troy Mastin, Analyst, William Blair
I am the advertising and marketing services analyst, and in that role what I do is
focus on a specific industry which is advertising and marketing services. It is
increasingly important to keep an eye on the sectors that are emergent, that are
changing the way that the industry is functioning. And I find Corbis particularly
interesting to watch because what they supply is a collection of services that I
think are less and less core to what many of the companies that I deal with are able
to do. So, they're turning increasingly to companies like Corbis for some of the
services that Corbis can provide like rights and clearances. I think it's going to
become even more important in the future as marketing becomes a more fragmented
industry. These types of services are going to be increasingly challenging for
advertising agencies and marketing services companies to do on their own. So I think
the future is pretty bright for this industry to grow.
But our story is just beginning. Our management team is obsessed with pushing
themselves and the 850 Corbis employees worldwide to further our solutions and
service-oriented business model, ensuring that it is efficiently fueled by very
smart and competitive tools, processes and systems, while never losing sight of the
needs of our clients.
What's next? In 2004, we will be concentrating on further expansion of our reach in
Europe and Asia; continuing to enrich and merchandise our collections; increasing
share-of-spend among our major accounts, continuing our greater than 50% growth rate
of our emerging markets and products group; and normalizing our investments in
technology and infrastructure to realize near-term profitable growth.
So, Bill, I believe your foresight in founding an enterprise dedicated to meeting
this creative and transforming industry has been affirmed and is being rewarded.
Over a decade ago we set out to write the story of this complex mix of content,
technologies, services, rights expertise, and financial rigor.
Today we find undeniable validation in the voices of our artists, partners, and
clients-made manifest in the growth metrics of our company. Today we mark our
emergence as the only global player that provides complete solutions for
professionals who need to communicate with an impact that goes beyond words. Today
Tomorrow? Tomorrow... we kick it up a notch.
One more thing. Having started and served on the board of many non-profit
organizations, I know that they, too, have their important stories to tell and need
creative solutions. Some of the most powerful stories come from this sector. In
2003, Corbis created a global program to donate to non-profits-or agencies doing
work for non-profits-one million dollars worth of licensing fees for their use of
images from our collections. I'm proud to say that we achieved our goal, and in the
process we inspired some brilliant and important creative work.
And today I am happy to announce that in 2004, Corbis will again waive a million
dollars in licensing fees for non-profit uses. We can't think of a better way to
welcome the new year, and celebrate this moment in our company's growth.
Thank you again.
VIDEO CLIP: ["Images That Work" tearsheet reel]