Buyer Perspective: Stock Use Rising, Medium-Specific Products a Mistake

Posted on 11/5/2007 by Julia Dudnik Stern | Printable Version | Comments (0)

"Due to client needs, increased stock photography resources, and improved quality of those resources, our stock photography purchases have increased over the last few years," says Richard Davia, the principal of brand experience at Continuum.

Continuum is the design consultancy that recently hosted the new PBS reality series, “Design Squad,” at its Boston headquarters. It has additional offices in Milan, Italy, and Seoul, Korea, and services clients like Coca-Cola, Pfizer and Reebok on projects that range from branding and product design to point-of-purchase advertising. Unlike the small local firms that comprise the bulk of the global design market, Continuum represents the most coveted type of image buyer, with stock-photography spending of up to $20,000 per project.

“My first choice in most instances is to direct a custom shoot, but often the realities of timing and budget dictate otherwise,” Davia says of the recent trend toward stock. “Commissioning a photographer and art-directing a shoot takes time. In cases where speed-to-market is more of a driving factor in the success of a project, stock photography is a solid alternative,” he elaborates.

In addition to timing and budgeting considerations, Davia sees growing consumer demand for multimedia fueling the use of stock. He says that Continuum’s clients are increasingly recognizing the power of photography and illustration in creating consumer experiences. “For example, in retail we’ve seen more and more flagship stores competing for market space. The one thing all of these environments have in common is that they use imagery, multimedia, service and product to create experiences,” he explains.

Confirming what most industry insiders already know, Davia names Getty Images, Veer and Corbis, in that order, as his three preferred stock retailers. Continuum has accounts with all three and values the fact that these collections stay current and offer image-research services. According to Davia, the trio also continues to improve its services. For example, “Getty now features artists, so when consistency in a particular style is needed, this is a great asset.” Another Getty product popular with Continuum staffers is the rights-ready licensing structure, viewed as “pretty cool when budget is a factor.”

Budget-consciousness notwithstanding, when asked about Continuum’s use of microstock, Davia’s answer is immediate and negative. In a sentiment that echoes many other high-end art and creative directors, he repeats a kiss-of-death phrase often delivered by a client looking at micro-priced imagery: “That looks like stock.” Instead, “what you want to hear is how your image choice helps tell the story you need to tell, and that [it] connects on an emotional level. In my opinion, microstock sites don’t meet that criteria.”

Though Davia recognizes the shift of communications from print to online media, he does not see thisas a concern. In looking at the bigger picture, Davia sees the creative industry as having moved into a service-oriented phase after having been manufacturing-focused. The shift to the Internet has helped Continuum’s business grow, as many projects have become less expensive and more timely.

Interestingly, Davia thinks that the stock industry also aligns with this transition toward service. With the proliferation of Web-use licenses, his opinion of medium-specific products is particularly interesting: “The bigger opportunity for stock houses is to position their product as a story-telling asset, not as an asset that’s appropriate for one medium or another, print or online. Focusing on that type of tactic would be a miss,” he contends, pointing out that conceptual offerings do not retain their value when commoditized.

Copyright © 2007 Julia Dudnik Stern. The above article may not be copied, reproduced, excerpted or distributed in any manner without written permission from the author. All requests should be submitted to Selling Stock at 10319 Westlake Drive, Suite 162, Bethesda, MD 20817, phone 301-461-7627, e-mail: wvz@fpcubgbf.pbz


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