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.
Joe Photographer asks: How in the Sam Hell am I supposed to get work?
This is my personal pile of promos: most of them amassed since being added to Adbase about four months ago.
We work in a world of paradoxes and conundrums: Send an email blast vs. no one reads emails. Send a nice promo card vs. it will get chucked. Get face time with an AD or AB or PE vs. no one has any time to meet with you. Don’t show boring ad work, show your personal work instead vs. I just don’t see it in your book.
Well, sorry for your luck but all of these things are true and they aren’t necessarily contradictory. Let’s deconstruct:
First off, I think y’all don’t actually believe that Art Buyers are busy. We are incredibly busy. Taking 5 minutes per promo to check the website is fine if we get one promo per day. We get piles of promos per day. So you need to grab us fast with one image. Justifable given the fact that in advertising, we are governed by the same set of constraints- the client needs a single magazine ad to grab a reader in the .2 second glance that she gives the page.
1. Email: What are you going to do, not send email promos? Not an option. Keep it streamlined- an image with a click through to your site. And of course use all available means to track who seems to be interested in your work. But for the love of pete, don’t stalk, just target the rest of your promotion accordingly.
2. Mailed promos: The best bet is that the image on the front grabs the photo buyer (as she’s transfering it from her mail pile to her recycling bin) enough to check out your site and/or pin it up on her board. Nice paper stock, interesting size etc. can all help grab notice. Some people get jiggy with their promotion and send out something guaranteed to get noticed. The king of promotion Tom Feiler, in addition to his I Hate Tom Feiler billboards, sent out steak knifes with I Hate Tom Feiler engraved on the handles. Genius. And, appropriate to his style of photography.
3. Meetings: very hard to get. It’s hard enough for me to find the time to look at your site, so I’m rarely going to be able to afford 20 minutes to sit down with you. At my last agency I would make these appointments and be in a constant state of rebooking because I got called into other meetings. Keep in mind, the Art Buyer’s time is at the whim of so many other people’s availability. If the Creative Director frees up a window to approve casting (or whatever), that’s the meeting. If the client wants to do the prepro Thursday afternoon at 2pm, that’s the meeting. Creative briefing’s happening in 30 minutes on a new job, that’s the meeting. Think about it- none of these things can be bumped so that I can meet with you and see your book. But, it doesn’t hurt to still try. Personally, I don’t want to be invited out for coffee or lunch, just a few minutes face time at my convenience is the best bet. And if your AB just can’t meet with you, I’m willing to bet she will accept your book as a drop off (but don’t just drop without getting the OK from her first).
Be patient. I do believe it’s an AB’s responsibility to see the work but if you keep trying and you are getting nowhere I think there could be one of two things going on:
A) She’s seen your work on your site and she really likes it and she doesn’t need to see anything more for the time being. She’ll call in your book for the job she’s got in mind for you.
B) She’s seen your work on your site and doesn’t think it at all appropriate, so there’s no reason to see your book. She’s Just Not That Into You.
Another paradox. OK, so this doesn’t seem fair to you? Well then you are underestimating your AB. It’s our job to be able to make assessments from the work that we see (and your job to show your best work). The web is our most accessible tool so if we don’t like what we see there, you’ve probably lost your chance to show the book.
4. What to show in the book. I really think there are two philosophies on this. As I’ve said before, I want you to show something that’s going to inspire me, that’s going to make me bookmark you. But, guaranteed, you will still loose a job or two because you haven’t got what the end client wants you to have in your book. It’s up to you to make a decision you are comfortable with based on the type of work you want to get. Ask yourself this: Do you want to inspire your collaborators or do you want to be the Safe Guy.
The images you shoot are crucial- they are likely 85% of the puzzle. We will hire the biggest A hole if he’s got a look that we need and we can’t get anywhere else. But, for the rest of you make sure all of your promotion is tight, consistent and current. Every interaction that you and your work have with an agency is a potential to sell or unsell the experience of working with you, don’t let that go to waste.
In the same vein, remember that AB’s and PE’s are reading blogs. I hope they’re reading this one but they are definitely reading APE and Shoot The Blog so don’t go all Chip Simons and then wonder why no one wants to meet with you.