Wednesday is Ask an Art Buyer day. Send your questions to email@example.com with the subject line Ask an Art Buyer. I’ll answer as many as I can every Wednesday.
Well KaChing Bling, I can tell from your clever nom de plume that you are on your way to being (if you haven’t already arrived) a very successful commercial photographer. And given the passion with which you have posed your three questions, I will answer them all:
I’m not sure how you do it up there in Snowy Country, but down here in the USA, there’s a tendency to triple-bid, and to also have the “triple phone call”. What’s the deal with that? You just know, with every job, there’s always a Creative Choice, so why do they insist on having three Beauty Contest Conference Calls, where the other two guys actually think they’re actually in the running for the job? Why waste all that time, and get everyone’s hopes up? Why not take the Creative Choice, and then have a phone call with him/her, and if they’re a Total Flake, or a Trust Fund Kid, then cross them off the list, and move on down the list to Creative Choice #2, and then have a phone call with them, at that point?
I love this question because the triple bid is truly something I have struggled with myself.
When I started out as an Art Buyer, and this was about 7 years ago, I was both blessed and cursed with having no road map to follow- there were only a couple of us in the whole country. I certainly felt like I could make the rules and one of those rules was: No triple bidding. Just like you, I considered it a huge waste of time. The way I liked to operate was this: Who do we want to work with? Can we afford them? Great. Let’s get on with it. At that point I was crazy overworked at my agency (around 12 creative teams, one AB) and I just didn’t have the time to put into the triple bid (or make courtesy phone calls- but that’s the next question). I also know that because of the triple bid system, some photographers were being asked “just send me a quote- I need a third quote”, knowing that they were not at all under consideration. Not on my watch!
I hear your frustration at what you perceive as being strung along but let me just give you the corollary to that. Because I rarely triple bid for the first few years, some photographers never (or hardly ever) heard from me and I know they thought they were never being considered and I also know this was unsettling for some in the Toronto photo community. But, it meant that when you did hear from me, I was serious about you.
Lately, I have softened. I have begun to see the benefit to the triple bid; I still believe in: Who do we want to work with? Can we afford them, but I am enjoying some of the benefits of talking to photographers. First of all, there isn’t always one “Creative Choice”. And, obviously, there are different ways to approach a production (which can certainly swing a close race). Most importantly, when we hear you talk about our job on the phone we can hear how enthusiastic you are about it (or not), how much thought you’ve put into it (or not) and how well your personality might compliment our Art Director (or not). And whether or not you get that particular job, what we glean from that call is stored for future reference, for a time when you and your approach might be better suited to the job at hand.
Without question, sometimes they are a big waste of time, but be careful what you wish for: if the triple bid goes away, your chances to hear from the agency, talk to the agency, have lots of people at the agency look at your book, submit numbers to the agency etc. go way, way down.
And while we’re on the subject, why don’t most agencies have the common courtesy to inform the other two people that didn’t get the job, that they didn’t get the job, so they can move on and cross out those possible dates? Why is it that, while you’re still in the running for the job, then you’re Our Best Friend And Buddy, but once the job is awarded, then the agency acts like the other two losers suddenly have come down with The Plague, and can’t be communicated with, and won’t have their phone calls returned? I mean, hey, it’s just business, right? Why not just say, “Hey, you didn’t get this job, but maybe there’s something down the road”. Why not have the common decency to inform the other two photographers?
Oh, that’s simple, it’s because we’re assholes.
But seriously, I can’t defend this behaviour at all. When I started out, I hated making these calls and so I didn’t do it either. I had heard horror stories of being berated or begged by dejected photographers and I wanted no part of that. I’ve matured.
Art Buyers are very busy and once the job is awarded, as you can imagine, there are a million things for us to put in motion. Picking up the phone and calling the shooters who didn’t get the job just isn’t on top of that list. However, I believe we absolutely owe you the courtesy of letting you know but please, for the love of Pete, it doesn’t help matters to give us a hard time about it- asking for a bit of feedback is fine but leave it at that.
My advice is to check in once in awhile on the status of the award. I keep my cards close until we’ve reached a final decision but when we have, I will gladly take your call and end your curiousity. Email is probably the best way to communicate on these matters.
And while we’re on the subject, what’s the deal with these Freelance Cost Consultants? Do you think anyone ever said, “Hey, if we just fired these Freelance Cost Consultants, and actually trusted the skills of the Art Buyer, then maybe we could take the cost consultant money, and actually order some decent Catering on this next shoot?”
Yeah, I’m not a big fan of the Cost Consultant. I don’t see any value, especially in photography, and most especially in Canada where none of the CC’s have ANY photography experience. I strongly disagree with the recent PDN article which seemed to suggest that AB’s need to grin-and-bear-it. I am working on a post about this which I will publish next week (feel free to send in any great Cost Consultant anecdotes or opinions- especially if you see some value because I’m having a hard time with that side of the debate) so I’m not going to go into specifics here. Suffice it to say I’m a bit angry too.
What great questions! Keep ‘em coming.