Thirteen Things I Learned On My Last Panel

One of the great things about being on panels with art buyers and other creatives is the interesting things you learn from them. On this last panel for APA LA called “Why We Hire You” I kept some notes to share what I found out. I was on the panel with Jigisha Bouverat the Director of Art Production at TBWA\CHIAT\DAY, Los Angeles and Mike Kohlbecker the Associate Creative Director/Art Director at Crispin Porter + Bogusky, Los Angeles. Jigisha has been with the agency for 22 years and manages a team of Art Producers. Mike has worked on some major campaigns.

Here are the things that I thought were worth noting:

1. Before the event Jigisha told me they have been shooting a ton of campaigns in 2011. More this year than in the last year combined.

2. Jigisha loves the blog Feature Shoot and reads it regularly.

3. Several photographers asked the flash vs. html question for websites. Mike said I don’t care. Jigisha said I have no idea what you’re talking about.

4. Mike said he reads most of his email on his android phone and likes it when there’s a mobile version of a site to look at.

5. Mike said on the campaigns he works on, the photographers being considered all are qualified to shoot it, so it comes down to personality as the deciding factor.

6. Jigisha gave an emphatic yes when asked if she likes looking at personal work and said many times the personal work is what they hang on to from marketing material.

7. When asked where she finds new talent Jigisha she’s had good luck with portfolio reviews at the photography schools in LA.

8. Mike and Jigisha agreed that editorial is still a place where they find photographers who are established but haven’t shot advertising before.

9. Mike said he will describe the type of photography he wants for a concept or show moodboards and then Jigisha said she could name 10 photographers off the top of her head that fit any style he could come up with (i was tempted but didn’t test this).

10. Jigisha and her art producers keep internal google docs where they have photographers categorized. She saves links to things she likes to these documents.

11. the advice for the creative call from both of them was:
i. Don’t be the first to speak, gather clues about where this is going from the AD (e.g. it’s going to be bright and happy or it’s going to be dark and moody). If they’ve had other calls before yours you will hear clues on where things are headed.
ii. it’s all about your enthusiasm for the shoot.
iii. it’s easy to tell when you’re faking this.
iv. Mike admitted that sometimes the project has changed and he’s lost his enthusiasm so it’s good if you are enthusiastic about it.
v. Did I mention enthusiasm?

12. When asked if there was anything that happened on a shoot that made them not want to work with a photographer again Jigisha said there was a shoot where the photographer was bad mouthing the Art Director but didn’t know his radio was on. Mike acknowledged he could be a pain in the ass on shoots asking for more coverage of things on the fly.

13. Questions about the triple bid, budgets, pricing and negotiation had Jigisha explaining the Art Producers job is to make sure they get a fair market price for their clients.

Thanks to Andrea Stern for the great questions. Here’s a take of the event from the audience.

There Are 42 Comments On This Article.

  1. #3 and #4 seem to contradict each other… Many sites have no mobile version because of Flash and Flash on mobile devices is spotty at best (and that’s being generous). So, #4 means #3 does matter.

    • @Jeff Singer,

      I always take these things with a huge grain o’ salt, especially on technical matters.

      A few years ago, I read some interview where the CD or whatever said “oh, yes flash is best, html websites are awful”. I think his idea of an html website was those mid-90s my-first-websites.

      And of course, today, flash and mobile don’t get along, and flash websites have numerous other downsides and often terrible user experiences.

      The point is, lots of people will say something, but it really doesn’t matter. Nobody hiring you gives a shit if your website is flash or html, unless the thing just doesn’t work right. But that’s just poor design.

      The other thing about these kind of panels are that they are giving opinions that are then presented as facts. I have a lot of opinions about things where the reality is very different. I believe I should be paid $10,000 each and everyday. Alas, reality…

    • @Jeff Singer, this might be a good example of what the May 12 post, “Don’t Always Trust Customer Surveys,” is talking about.

    • @Jeff Singer, 2 different sites, one in flash for computers and one in html for iphone and other mobile device with an html code on the index page that redirect automatically to the right page.

  2. In my opinion panels panels have never been and still are not the most informative vehicles happen happening. Curiously photographers flock to them in droves looking for the magic answer and then after they truly look at what they gleaned they realize that what they heard is a lot of the same.
    Look at the info here.Not at all different from what we have been hearing for years… just a lot of the same..because it is..
    So heres my advice on gleaning information from panels. Check out the speakers before hand. Look at the websites of the agencies design firms publications and see if the style of work handled relates to what you do. Is there a speaker you truly want to meet? If so note the info below,
    you’ll be getting their card introing yourself at the event and following up later…
    Think of the one question you want an answer to ..ask your question during the Q&A, ask it directly to the contact you have researched that you are interested in .You are creating visibility for yourself in a crowd of others:)

    Go to the event with no expectations…but do listen and note what you learned. Make a note about any info your contact has mentioned that you felt was relevant.

    At the end of the evening, make a point of thanking the panelists especially the one you’ve noted as your potential follow up apt..Dont involve them in conversation or mention you will be calling,everyone there will be saying that. Simply stay in gratitude, thank them give them your card and move on.

    Afte the evening wait 3 days maybe 4 and hand write a note to your contact thanking them for showing up ,mention the question you asked and thank them for their answer. If they had other info you felt was helpful sincerely mention that. Include a link to your website and let them know you will be in touch in the future to see when the contact may have time to meet you, to discuss what a great client /photog relationship looks like and view your work.
    Email them in 2 weeks for that apt.

    If you go to the panel and you choose not to do the front end research suggested here, or when your research no panelist stands out, simply listen and trust you will hear opinions of buyers, just remember they are not the opinions of all. When it comes to email vs direct mail,portfolios visits portfolio formats, everyone has different opinions.
    But when they are speaking about photographers professional and personal qualities listen carefully, for enthusiasm ,honesty, professionalism , can do, goes to the mat to service, those are always valued. They are the consistent traits of successful photographers, and that doesn’t change ever!

    • @selina maitreya, Great points Selina. Panel events like this can be very useful, but you still have to do the work to get the full value from the event.

      Dennis

  3. My take on the event was that there really was no formula for *why* they hire photographers outside of the intangibles of why any human wants to work with another human. It’s seeing inspiring work that can fit a campaign’s creative needs, it’s being easy to work with (them), bidding numbers that make sense for the project, and don’t send them too many crap promos that aren’t ready for prime time.

    Good meeting you at the event, Rob!

  4. My favorite was “I don’t read my emails” followed by “I don’t answer the outside line” in relation to initiating communication with them. Send pretty postcards and rub your magic lamp.

    What a wicked dog park.

  5. 5. Mike said on the campaigns he works on, the photographers being considered all are qualified to shoot it, so it comes down to personality as the deciding factor.

    6. Jigisha gave an emphatic yes when asked if she likes looking at personal work and said many times the personal work is what they hang on to from marketing material.

    9. Mike said he will describe the type of photography he wants for a concept or show moodboards and then Jigisha said she could name 10 photographers off the top of her head that fit any style he could come up with (i was tempted but didn’t test this).

    Why does personal work (a unique vision) matter, when the styles/image makers sought are common commodities? Is the image maker hired as a technician or as a fellow creative? If the ads produced use such common styles and methods how well will they serve the clients needs?

    ———————

    “more coverage of things on the fly”

    How does an image maker/producer schedule the project and the budget when things go off schedule? Or is the *vendor* supposed to eat these costs? Do media space providers throw in more coverage on the fly too?

    13. Questions about the triple bid, budgets, pricing and negotiation had Jigisha explaining the Art Producers job is to make sure they get a fair market price for their clients.

    How does over supply affect market price?
    Are image makers the only ones taking a cut?
    Is the agency charging less too?
    Does media space cost less today?
    Does production cost less today?

    ———————

    Jigisha Bouverat is a wonderful, professional person. I believe I attended several similar panels with her in attendance in the late 90′s and early 00′s. Very little has changed over the last dozen years – with one exception: much more available supply of visuals in the marketplace. The APA, ASMP, AOP, all have detailed information on how to practice good business. The information is still relevant, why re-invent the wheel?

      • @A Photo Editor: Rob, The question are primarily of a rhetorical nature, the answers are already clear.

        If the agencies are acting along the lines of the statements (cited by you above),
        (“Jigisha said she could name 10 photographers off the top of her head that fit any style he could come up with”, “the photographers being considered all are qualified to shoot”) these agencies are hiring technicians. These technicians are sourced (and priced) in an oversupplied market, via the laws of supply and demand (oversupply = low price). Based on the creatives statements – these technicians (image makers) are virtually interchangeable commodities.

        It also appears that students are competing with professionals for projects @ Chiat Day. What is the competitive advantage of a student compared with an established professional, especially when the AD and CD are the ones directing the ideas?

        Had YOU done your homework and consulted with some of those established orgs (and established photographers) in order to better understand and communicate how this business works (or doesn’t work) you may have realized photographers, agents, and (some) stock companies consider the total media buy (including usage) to determine how much to charge for creative fees.

        Production costs haven’t changed much over the last decade. Media space costs are generally tied to circulation. While circulation in some printed publications have gone down, some of those same publications have added revenue streams through online advertising. I’m sure some ad agencies have cut some internal costs and pricing as well. However, it would be surprising to see media corporations and large ad agencies cutting their own incomes to the same degree they expect of image makers in order to align themselves with “a fair market price for their clients”.

        Either there are some serious contradictions here (the facts don’t match the reality) or this business is a losing proposition for most players in the image making community probably both. I believe there are different tiers of work sourced and produced by these agencies. When the ‘art’ calls for a style of image easily available by 20 near identical image producers (not hard to find with so much ‘documentary’ oriented imagery), then the competitive propositions may be lowest price (supply & demand) and personality. However, some of the very top tiers of image makers (still) don’t compete based on lowest prices, and some of these artists are also not known for necessarily having flowery personalities or being easy to work with on a project.

        This blog has become one of the most popular sites online for aspiring image makers. It also draws in established readers too. The theme which comes across on these pages over and over again, day by day, month by month: How does an image maker produce viable income in the markets today? The concepts of business haven’t changed that much – even in the digital age. Most of these business issues have already been worked out by the major ‘photography’ organizations. But day by day we see another perspective from those in the field. Sometimes this produces really useful information. But why are the established orgs almost ignored here? Where is the input from the major players? Feedback from the top tier of image makers and agents?

        Most of the information we see on these pages is from people trying to get established in this business. I come here less often, because it all tends to read the same (again, main theme: “Earning a living”). Too often it looks like the blind men and the elephant, all (apparently) trying to understand this great “theme”. What is missing is enough real data to understand the market, as well as a broader picture. We get anecdotal details from this and that player, this information is not enough to create a clear understanding of the (imaging) market(s).

        The information provided is often enough to support the individual, organization, or supporting business’s beliefs and marketing needs. The image maker believes they are doing great because they had one great (project, month, year). The organization may believe the same, but may have different needs than those of the image maker. The supporting business (agent, vendor, coach, etc.) may also have different needs than those of the image maker.

        Why do we not see (arts schools, PDN, APA, ASMP, AOP, aphotoeditor, xyz coach, etc.) bring in business analysts with a backgrounds in economics to produce a non-biased study of this industry, in the same way any other industry is studied? I’m not an economist, but I did consult with a professor (economics/communication) about my own observations of this business. His conclusion, the markets have become glutted with an oversupply of images and image producers. Creating a very risky business environment with a very low rate of return on investment (ROI). The ‘photography’ industry from a participants POV is now very similar to the markets of music, sports, acting, writing, etc. Most venture capitalists would find this degree of risk vs ROI an unacceptable investment. If these orgs did produce this sort of study, it could endanger their ability to exist as organizations

        Here is a similar market (music):

        “A study last year conducted by members of PRS for Music, a nonprofit royalty collection agency, found that of the 13 million songs for sale online last year, 10 million never got a single buyer and 80 percent of all revenue came from about 52,000 songs. That’s less than one percent of the songs.”
        http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/01/opinion/01blow.html?_r=1

        • @Bob,
          I should have made a little smiley face to let you know I was making fun of you.

          Why don’t you get off your ass and do something about it instead of complaining all the time.

          • @A Photo Editor,

            “I should have made a little smiley face to let you know I was making fun of you.
            Why don’t you get off your ass and do something about it instead of complaining all the time.”

            lol, the sarcasm is already evident. Better without the smiley face, it may have diffused the emotion. What I posted here is somewhere between market reality and irrelevance. Are you open to another POV? If what is posted, has no relevance, why take offense? But if what is posted reflects reality, why not address that reality?

            Now, don’t tell me you haven’t noticed the amazing transformation I’ve done upon our now thriving, vibrant, image markets :)

    • @Bob,
      My take on what Rob has conveyed and hearing about the event, is it boils down to this. How well can you sell yourself as a photographer. Are you growing in the changing technological climate.

      You don’t have to be a kiss up to get jobs. Unfortunately just being a photographer these days doesn’t go far enough, you have to be a better businessman and logically use resources such as great website design by someone that knows the biz.

  6. Jigisha Bouverat

    note to self…watch my words and manners the next time I sit on a panel with Rob : )

    1. at this point we’ve produced more shoots than the last year…but if we keep going at this rate it will be the last 2 years : )

    3. html?? flash?? I just want it to load quickly and move quickly…pretty picture fast please.

    6. Did I really say that? no sure what it means….we like to see personal work because it gives us further insight, and often a different perspective, into the the artist.

    9. thanks for not testing me on the spot : ) maybe I should have added the word “probably” into that statement…

  7. well of course there is no magic bullet as to why they would hire, this is a creative industry and for those that can deliver the goods for ad campaigns it comes down to persistence, attittude (a good one), personality and luck. As Selina and others mentioned it is all about being really excellent in every aspect of this business. Good to see you again Rob, LA may become a habit if you keep this up :-)

  8. Thanks for posting Rob! I had all intensions of attending the panel discussion but was unfortunately not able to make it. Glad to be able to get some insight. Hope to catch you next time you’re in town.

  9. It’s a subjective world/industry. You can’t please everyone. Find your own style/vision and apply it where you want to be. I’ve found personality does tip the scale when it comes to winning or losing jobs (and some/oftentimes when skill levels are definitely not equal). Striking a balance between “strictly business” and “effusively bubbly” (not me), but not corny, seems to be effective. If you’re not naturally outgoing, it can be a struggle.

  10. Thats the problem… It didn’t work. Do you honestly think Adobe would kill it if it did work? Companies don’t kill products that work great.

    And I would think anyone with an investment in a Flash site (less and less these days) would care.