Cool Photographer Promo Lands Serious Interest From Clients

- - Promos

Photographer Casey Templeton showed me some of the amazing responses he received from a promo he did recently and I thought you might want to hear more about what went into it. You can see more behind the scenes images and a video about it on his blog (here).

Templeton1

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Here’s Casey explaining the piece:

I worked closely with Suzanne and my assistant, Rob Jefferson, starting the middle of last year to get the ball rolling. After a successful 2008 and beginning of 2009, I realized my work came mostly from word of mouth and I hadn’t done any marketing. We decided if I wanted to take my business to the next level, I needed to start marketing myself on a national level. We also knew I only had one chance to make a first impression so we had to do it right.

Rob and I met with Suzanne in her office and got a chance to see a variety of her throwback collectibles such as a Simpson’s lunch tin, figurines and print pieces which set our minds racing.

ctListThe big question was how do we fill a box with multiple items that are tied together with a common theme. Since this was going to be the first time these agencies and art buyers would have heard of me, I wanted to put in items that meant something to me and would help them to get to know me better. I started by writing a list of things I loved which could also be placed in a box.

I spent approximately $15,000 on the project between research, materials, portfolios from Lost-Luggage, assembly and shipping of the kits. A portion of this was also spent on my designer, Robb Major, that I used for every piece in the kit from the business cards to the screenprinting on the shipping box. I produced 300 promo kits and mailed 290 to a selected list of agencies, art buyers and in-house corporate groups that Suzanne and I compile using Agency Access.

The responses have been overwhelming and I am currently working on a an email blast to follow up on the delivery of the kits and start organizing meetings with various agencies that have requested to meet with me.

Here are some responses from the week they were shipped:

“As an art buyer, I get a lot of little promotional pieces. I am spoiled. BUT, yours was so well put together and well done that I stopped everything I was doing and went to your website. NOT to my suprise your work is just as thoughtful, inavative and touching as your promotional piece. I offficially have a work crush on you. Please come and see us so we can put you to work ASAP.:)”

“I just received your magic lunchbox and I gotta say it’s quite the spread. The San Cristobal just made my drive to NY tomorrow night that much better. If you’re ever in Boston for a job let me know and I’ll set you up with a portfolio review with my art producer colleagues so they can get to know you. Thank you and stay in touch.”

“Talk about getting someone’s attention. Great promo package. Fun and a great way to get your work in front of folks.”

“Thanks -for the promo package! Quite a statement. Glad you reached out. Wanted you to know that we appreciate it!”

“That was a pretty fancy promo for a recession! Thank you — and you are welcome to send email promos anytime.”

“Just received a super fun packed from you guys. Just wanted to say lots of thanks. I looked through the images in the packet, as well as your site. You guys have amazing work. Anyway, I’ll def keep you in mind for future projects, and thanks again!”

“Cool promotional box! So much so in fact that I feel compelled to use you for our next photoshoot. I have a client in ————– on March 12th. Are you available and interested? Wow, this just goes to prove the power of good advertising.”

Continued response last week:

DDB:
“This is the most amazing promo I’ve ever received in my 12 years of art buying! I truly hope to work with you soon and I hope this gets you a ton of work! Its genius!”

BBDO:
“Liked your work very much-very honest and truthful. Will def keep you in mind.”

Draft FCB:
“We want you to come and see us because this is thoughtful and your work kicks ass”

Periscope:
I LOVED the promo. I feel like I already know you, thanks!”

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There Are 65 Comments On This Article.

  1. Wonderful way to go ,in today’s world where others are cutting back (big mistake) Casey made a splash. Important to follow it up as immediate response needs to be maximized with follow through,AND for the photographers reading this post, that does not mean another huge promotion. But it does mean calls, emails visits, direct mail to keep the name and vision of photographer in the mind of buyers.

    PS Notice the comment from Draft FCB:
    “We want you to come and see us because this is thoughtful and your work kicks ass”

    Make sure your work DOES “kick ass” before you promote it!

    • @selina maitreya, thanks Selina!!! And a great comment about the work. Yes, you have to have everything in place before you do something like this or any promotion for that matter. And why we consultants are there as another set of eyes and experience.

      Hope this finds you well!!! Let me know when you are in Richmond again and we can have dinner! It was a blast last time!

  2. Tiffany Findley

    Thanks so much for sharing this. This is such a wonderful message and shows that a little investment and an out of the box (or in the box, in this case) targeted self promo piece goes a long way. He’ll make back his investment in no time…

    The video was also genious….even those that weren’t on the mailing are still getting the exposure.

    • @Tiffany Findley, Hey there!! I hope this finds you well. The video is a great way to add “legs” to a promo piece when you can only afford to do so many. So thank you so much for mentioning that to the forum!!

      Be well. SS

  3. Love the promo, but love the work more! It is refreshing to see images that are real and not desaturated over sharpened photo illustrations. Awesome job Casey!!

  4. Dynomite Jimmy

    $15K making lunchboxes full of goodies for art buyers and photo editors?

    Cringe…

    • @Dynomite Jimmy, no that included a printed portfolio, designer, consultant. Casey will make this up in one project. It is genius!

      There are so many ways to stand out in the crowd of photographers but you have to invest in yourself and your business.

  5. As a news and editorial photographer who is trying to break into the larger magazine world these posts and insights are wonderful tools for me. However I’m sure that I’m not the only one who is baffled and intimidated by seeing ballyhooed promos by photogs who spend $10K+ on a single campaign. You say that he will make that back with his first assignment and I hope that he does but he’s going for work that is $15K+ a pop and guys like me are trying to get work at $500 a day. Yes his, and others, promos are very impressive and he has excellent work to back it up thankfully. I’m glad that some big agency people think that it’s brilliant because it is. However, what do you do when your annual marketing budget is not $20K but rather $2K and can still make a splash with editors/buyers? It seems to be a catch 22: if you have a big production promo, and the work to back it, you get big jobs but if you don’t do big productions you will never ever be considered for even smaller jobs than Mr. Templelton gets.

    I know that advertising photography is a different than what I and many other photographers do but it’s their promos that get touted as “what gets work” and it’s hard to take when your work world is so different. The post card series that Rob posted was excellent but since not all of us will ever bill enough to justify $10-20K a year just on marketing can you also do some posts on promos for the rest of us?

    Thanks again for all that you as it is much appreciated.

    • @Jonathan Castner, An idea to get their attention could be sending them their own magazine with your images inserted as if you were in there with a note that says ” Here is your book with my book” You have several stories on your website that could go in various publications or send personalized e-mails with a flip-page.com portfolio.

    • @Jonathan Castner, This is a very good point. I would say turn your photographic creativity towards your marketing. Write down your most ideal clients and come up with a plan to reach them specifically. And meet people in person. A cup of coffee can get you very far if the right connection is made.

  6. I like his pigeon image. For those not in the know, there are many commercial photographers that can and do spend $100K a year on image development and marketing. Doing *special* promos is not new. I remember reading about a food shooter back in the day that sent the best ice cream in the country (in dry ice) to appropriate ADs/CDs along with a personal note and his book. This was in the early 1980’s if I recall correctly.

    This promotional piece seems really generic to me. But maybe that is his intent/art direction.

    While making the rounds to various ADs in NYC some time ago I noticed the same promos on the walls and shelves of many creatives. One senior AD had to run out of her office for a moment. As I awaited her return, I walked over to her shelf and looked at all those promo pieces she had on display. She returned while I was looking and we spoke about some of the pieces. We discussed the beauty of one package in particular – exquisitely designed and constructed, however it was unopened. (I noticed this piece at other offices too). When I asked her if the contents (art) was as nice as the package, she said she did not know. She enjoyed the package so much, she didn’t want to open it up :)

    • @Bob,
      I still have a first-aid/survival kit in the back of my truck a photographer sent me in 2000 with his name stenciled on it and a pack of promos inside. Alas, I was never on the short list for expensive promos so I saw very few of them.

      • @A Photo Editor,

        Rob, that is way cool!
        Talk about brilliant. A first-aid/survival kit to an outdoor sports editor :D

        • @craig,
          Never did. Work was too commercial for me and the magazine. I don’t think the expensive promos are worth wasting on editorial clients anyway. I really didn’t get more then a couple in my career so I think the photographers agreed.

          • @A Photo Editor,

            If that is true, the concept of working for beans (or less) shooting editorial for promotional purposes in order to get advertising commissions may need some re-examination by those that hold the belief. Shooting editorial, (low ticket or gratis) may just be a circuitous spiral to financial bankruptcy.

  7. I dunno. I don’t think the work quite matches up with the promo effort. I wanted it to, because I like to be impressed, but somehow it falls short for me.

    • @Steven James Scott, Hey Steven!! Beautiful Fashion work but Casey has been having amazing success with his work- in fact several high profile clients that he has shot for that will not allow him to show the work on his site. So while his work doesn’t appeal to you, he is working ALL the time!!

      All the best to you!!

      • @Suzanne and Amanda, It seems he has a very marketable commercial style. It doesn’t have a huge wow factor, but it does fit for a board amount advertising clients. That’s the thing… as an advertising shooter you need to find that balance.

      • @Suzanne and Amanda,

        So… what’s the point then? Pay the bills?

        We all gotta make money. But as an artist, what’s the point if the client doesn’t want you to show the work to anyone? Are you an artist ? or a technician ?

        • @craig, some major fortune 500 companies that have you photograph their employees do not want you to have their images on the web since the images are usually used for internal usage. They are in his printed portfolio. I have one client who shot an International project for a large CPA firm and couldn’t even put their name on the client list. So, sometimes you have to weigh the options when you can’t have promotional rights.

          • @Suzanne and Amanda,

            This used to mean adding $$$ to the licensing agreement.
            (The photographer holds the copyright, but can’t use the images. Or did he sign away his rights too?)

            That type of work falls into the category of “Corporate *photography*”. Corporate commissions have a history of being the most conservative. Dayrates/unlimited usage/lower ticket (but higher than editorial).

            • @Bob, I do not sign away my right and always hold the copyright to the images. And yes, it still means you add money for not being able to advertise the images you took for them.

  8. The coolest thing to me is that even if I had $15,000 to spend on a promo, I probably wouldn’t have come up with something as creative as Casey did.

  9. Just Askin

    Several questions:

    1. Is there a benefit to doing one “big splash” promo vs. multiple smaller splash mailings spread over the course of the year? While Casey’s promo is clever, and makes an impression, will anyone still remember it in June? September? December?

    2. How did you come up with 290 agencies as the target mailing? Did you just back into that number based on the budget; or is there more science behind the number — i.e., you have to send that many kits to get a response that would offset the promotion costs? The response rate on mailings (generically, not photographer specific) tends to be pretty low. Is there an assumption here that if the response rate is 1%, that might translate into 3 jobs in 2010 which would probably cover the cost of promotion?

    2a. What is the measure of success for this mailing? There have been some positive comments from the target audience, that’s nice, but the real measure of success is how many contracts get signed as a result. Is the objective here to find new clients? Remain on the radar of previous clients? Any kind of business is good business? At the end of the year how do you determine what impact, if any, this specific mailing had on overall business? In a bad economy $15K is a lot of money. If you’re sure it brought in business then it’s money well spent. But how do you know the business came from the mailing? It could be Casey’s star is rising and he would have gotten some 2010 business regardless of promotional activity.

    3. Is the broad mailing approach better than making list of, say, 25 top tier agencies/individuals and spending a lot of effort trying to get/stay on their radar screens?

  10. That was very cool, and although not the most creative promotional tool I have seen, it is better than mine which is nothing!

    Enjoy the day,
    Bryan

    • @Bryan Zimmerman, funny!!! The inspiration comes from an idea the AMAZING Elyce Weissberg came up with for a rep who was in Florida. It was a little glass jar with sand and a shell in it about a little bit of Florida sunshine for your desk- it was a huge hit!! simple is sometimes better!! Another is the Hunter Freeman license plate mailer or the birthday cards that came with a candle, birthday blower and the words to “Happy Birthday to You” – all these put the photographers or illustrator on the map!

  11. Cudo’s for taking the steps and risk! I think a lot of people miss the message and he obviously did some research on the list. The examples of responses given shows there is going to be a high ROI! Obviously what was desired result for the investment.

    Albeit, I am not working in the same genre as Casey but there is a lot to learn here. A well thought out, thoroughly researched marketing campaign is an investment worth is weight in a successful year or even years, based on relationships developed.

    It is easy to throw together a piece and all that happens is it sets on a desk corner, file 13, cardborad box for a maybe later look that never happens, or worse on a shelf unopened and just admired for it’s luxury.

    As for Casey’s work, it doesn’t fall into the trap of mundane, and expected. Just because it doen’t fit what is typically produced by others is what makes it REAL and fits today’s buyers mentality. It’s true to HIS VOICE!

    Again Cudo’s!

  12. Great questions. And thank you all for your responses and opinions, they are all well received and respected.

    To answer the questions from “Just Askin”
    1- I feel the key is to make a big splash but its all in the follow through. A few efforts are being made to ensure it won’t be forgotten in June, Sept, December.
    a- mailing their free t-shirts that have been ordered.
    b- email promos to this specific list
    c- additional simple (post cards) mailed to them

    2- Suzanne Sease and I used Agency Access to compile my list of agencies. I also added several clients I wanted to reach out to. In just a month from the shipping date, I have already received about 50 t-shirt cards back requesting their free T-shirt and most are full of comments and request for portfolios. This helps me know I already have an 17% success rate. That doesn’t include the ones that did not ship the card back but did check out my site.

    2b- My measure of success is name recognition. I can’t gauge the response by how many jobs I lock in within the first 3 months because not everyone secures a photographer in just this 3 month time period. My hopes is that it has shelf life and when the right job comes along, my name will be in the running; whether that be this year or 5 years down the road.

    3- I have multiple list on Agency Access. I have a list of about 290 that I sent this to, but I have a list of nearly 3000 that I send email promos to.

    • @Casey Templeton, I can tell by your images that you’re a very organized and meticulous person, which has translated into you big splash marketing and follow-up. I’m excited for you because I think in a downturn it is the best time for this type of approach and I’m glad you did well over the last few years because I know how hard so many others have been hit. I wish you all the best for 2010.

    • @Casey Templeton,

      Great Promo Casey and thanks for posting this Rob.

      Casey, this is certainly a gallant effort and you pulled out all the stops. I hope that you will check in with us in the next few months and let us know how you are doing with this promotion. I would also be interested to see what your conversion rate over the next year is. 290 is a pretty trackable number and it sounds like you were very care about who you sent your promo to.

      A cardinal rule of mine is Always lead with the work. The context in which that work is shown must be equally as strong. If one of your works was hanging in the MET and you then hung it their food court, it wouldn’t garner the same attention no matter how good it was. The art world is whole other can of worms but it proves a point.

      Thanks again Casey, and please let us know how things progress.

      -AP

  13. Loved the lunch box idea! We found it really interesting to see what other people do when gearing up for a big marketing piece. We are working on ours and it is really fun to think outside of just taking photos but how to present them and make a splash.

    Kat+Duck

  14. scott Rex Ely

    It cracks me up that people who charge $400 an hour for consultation are giving it away for free.
    What a business, you just point at what you think works and tell people, “See that’s it, that’s brilliant! Do that!. Go spend your $15K to tickle the fancy of people who don’t have time to look at your work unless you drop an Tiffany packaged idea in their lap.” Notice how it’s instantly stated “He’ll make it up in one project”.
    I think this brings up the point about proper promotion at the proper time meme.
    There are certainly no guarantees, but this post is a reminder that along with keeping up with ridiculous costly materials for production and the slow nickel return on the investment, one’s sales division must also be properly greased and bottomless beyond.
    I hope Casey raises his day rate after all of this FREE validation.
    Let’s see some sales strategies that have failed and have the folks explain why.

    • @scott Rex Ely,
      It’s funny that you would think that marketing yourself to clients who specialize in creative marketing efforts would not require one on your end.

    • @scott Rex Ely,

      I’d like to see the failures and less than successful too.

      It’s so easy to take a star or rising star apart and say, “See! This is how she/he did it”. When in fact there may be hundreds of others with equal or better work approaches that have $165K of debt, are 37 years old and living in the folks basement, or on permanent couch patrol.

  15. Kudos to your promo if it brings you work, but is this what we photographers have to do to get art directors to like are work / go to our websites?

  16. With so very little humor and whimsy left in the industry this is a
    wonderful way to be remembered…better yet when backed by a strong portfolio.

    It’s interesting how we might be at a time where a (dot.com) alone is just furniture and needs an old-school jump-start.

  17. Randall Douglas

    Ha. I love the shot of him coffee staining each piece. Looks like quite a production to each card to look sloppy. That’s awesome.

  18. Scott Rex Ely

    This is just my opinion.
    The material here is beautiful.
    If I was teaching a business of photography class, for the promotion section, I would pillage every word and comment from every thread being presented here and get at least two to three hours of lecture out of this.
    You all have identified, explained and supported every single one of your suggestions and strategies for success.
    Why is this all free?
    You have collectively reduced your value to clip art status.
    Actually, worse, FREE.
    I just don’t get it.

    • @Scott Rex Ely, okay, we are confused? You are confused why two consultants and a photographer would help others for free…I think it is called “helping”. Sometimes helping to educate and not charging folks is more important than charging- it is called “giving back” You mentioned earlier that you thought it was funny how consultants who charge “x” per hour would give information for free. Maybe we are different and give back not take, take, take. We wonder why you are questioning our willingness to help those who can’t afford a consultant- are you trying to help those who don’t give back to the photography community. We would think you would welcome our advise because we care.
      We are not clip art and really don’t appreciate the reference. You are only hurting those who can benefit from this and hurting those who care. Stop being so negative- it is not proactive. When we google your name all we see is blogs you have responded on but not your work so please stop trying to hurt the photo community. Are you from Baltimore because that is what comes up for you- Baltimore has some great photographers- embrace and be a part of them!

      • @Suzanne and Amanda, Not only is this not clip art but I think it is “fine” commercial art. There is thought, effort, planning, brainstorming, creative co operation and business sense all in one neat little package.

        I for one just want to say thanks for sharing with us all here when you could have just sat back and accumulated back pats and kudos for your work with Casey.

        As someone who spent the last year reinventing themselves for work I am now in a position where I have to plan my own marketing and it’s refreshing to get an insider’s look at this project. Well done to all of you.

        • Amanda and Suzanne

          @Ken Kaminesky, Thank you for this! We put a lot of heart and soul into everything we do. We are passionate about our industry and believe in giving back to our community. And thanks to Rob this is another platform for us to give back.

          GOOD LUCK to you on your NEW brand and your new marketing adventures!

  19. Casey – Big Kudos to you man! I hope you hit it out of the park with assignments this year. My guess is you will!

    I feel like I made the right decision in enlisting Suzanne’s help just last week my self. I can’t wait to get her perspective on my port, website, etc. etc. etc.

    I think it’s extremely valuable to get your marketing together.

    I’ve heard way to many photogs say…”man…my photos kick the crap out of XYZ photog’s and he just shot for [Insert major corp here]. That’s B.S!!! I could run circles around XYZ photog.”

    Funny thing is when I ask the photogs who say those sort of things – “So what are you doing to show it?” – the answer 9 out of 10 times is…”Well my website shows the kind of work I can do.”
    I follow up with…”And what do people say about it (your website)?”
    I get a lot of “Well..” – “Umm…” and a hundred other answers that basically get to the point of – YOU DIDN’T DO ANYTHING TO GET PEOPLE THERE DID YOU? NOPE.

    I don’t mean just e-mail promos, I mean real promotion, thought through more than just a “Oh it’s Tuesday and I’m not busy so I’m gonna send a pretty picture to 200 random emails”.

    READ – Target, plan and execute…and oh yeah, DON’T BE CHEAP. And get someone who has experience to help you!

    Cheers,
    Rick

      • @Suzanne and Amanda,
        Most definitely am looking forward to the next year. Julie and I are ready to go “’round speres’ to the wall!” and put some muscle into our branding, promos and portfolios!
        Cheers,
        Rick

  20. I don’t know if anyone will read this far, especially months after the post went up, but I did see it mentioned in a recent PDN interview that at least one art producer did not like the promo.

    In PDN’s “Promos I Kept” column, Deena Fayette (Y&R) mentioned two promos that stood out as being over the top. She couldn’t remember the name of the photographer who sent the first one, but she remembered Casey’s name:

    “The second one, from Richmond, Virginia-based photographer Casey Templeton, is more recent and he clearly put a lot of time and effort into the piece, so much so that I did go through it very thoroughly. The piece, labeled ‘Allow Me To Introduce Myself’, is a lunchbox filled with items that relate to who he is as a both a photographer and a person was very well done. Again, I’m just not a fan of getting all this stuff in the mail. But I did keep the coaster with his name on it and I did go to his Web site and the work was pretty good.

    PDN: Would you hire Casey based on that piece?
    DF: I don’t know if I’d hire him…the whole thing with if I would hire someone is, I work on specific accounts where I already know what the style is or what the work is that client tends to go for, so if it doesn’t fit into that milieu, then it doesn’t really register with me. Unless, of course, it’s just a really visual, great image…”

    For what it’s worth, I like the promo. But I thought I’d add this to the comment trail.