5.09.2018

Jobs don't just wrap up when the shooting ends and the galleries get delivered. More stuff happens.

Amy sits in while we light and comp for a photo at a medical practice.

I'm beginning to think I need to re-brand as a full service advertising agency. More and more of my clients are having a hard time coming to grips with what kind of value a traditional advertising agency brings to the table. They'd like to have a single point of contact that can supply all the content they need, and with a uniform look and feel for their brand. But they are chaffing at continuing with agencies which seem to only want to concentrate and "strategize" around social media and web video.

One of the clients I've been working with recently met me five years ago when a small marketing agency brought us together so I could light and shoot video interviews of their executive team, and then also shoot traditional photographs, to use on their website, and in brochures and presentations. The agency, and the video editing house that did the post production on the client's video, both went out of business but the client did not. Nor did I.

The client (a manufacturing concern) got in touch with me last month and wanted to do a complete refresh of their materials. They had expanded their scope of services, changed some key personnel, and even added a new factory location outside the U.S. I was delighted that they wanted to have me back for more work but I quickly found that most clients without ad agencies are experts at their own business but usually much less adept at the fine points (and details required) to pull all the marketing together and make it work.

I'm used to working with art directors and graphic designers who love to see all the options from a photography or video shoot. If we shoot 1,000 images and I edit out all the stinkers and end up with 500 equally good (technically and aesthetically) photographs the art directors generally want to see all the variations. They may be looking at our collection with a very specific layout in mind. They may want a different expression than I might value. But most importantly they are very efficient at looking through lots of options to narrow down to just the right one. And they generally know it when they see it.

With the client I mentioned above the CEO is trying to do all the heavy lifting for marketing but he doesn't have the background and experience that a first tier art director would. For example, when I supplied the first gallery of images from one of our shoots he asked if I had already cropped all the images. When I told him that the art directors usually crop the images so they fit into specific layouts he seemed a bit lost. He also wanted me to edit down to just the single "best" image of each set up so he could quickly pick what he needed. Again, this is something we would have an art director do.

We need to reconstruct a video for him as well but the companies that had the original footage and motion graphics are no longer around. I'm walking the CEO through the process to the realization that you can't really just chop new stuff together with the original copy as it exists on YouTube; that we'd need to start more or less from scratch.

The company, while prosperous, isn't making much use at all of social media or inbound marketing either. While it looks like a big opportunity for someone to step in, provide good direction, make great content, and more or less lead the client through the marketing minefield I constantly remind myself that Just because somebody tosses you a ball doesn't mean you have to catch it.

I'll hang in there with this client while I try to find them a good, competent, collaborative agency to take over the day-to-day stuff that clients of this size really do require. I'm not a proficient website designer so that's got to be a priority. I'm not a graphic designer/art director so that's a priority as well. In fact, if I stick with what I do best it's going to be photography, copywriting and shooting video; in that order.

But if I try to do it all I will run out of time for the stuff I love to do. Like swimming. And the people I need to take care of. Like my dad.

Another client represents the way we've always worked but reminds me that no job is ever really finished....if the images are good, have lasting value to the client and have legs.

We shot on three different Saturdays and one Thursday for a medical specialty client here in Austin that has over 140 doctors/partners on the rolls. Under the direction of the in-house art director, Amy and I shot over 3,000 images which we edited down to about 1,500. We shot multiple teams of technicians and doctors doing multiple processes in multiple locations. And we supplied lots of detail shots that are like candy to the people designing the final work...

After the shoot we edited down the take, globally color corrected and adjusted tonality and detail, and generally made all the images immediately usable. We don't do any retouching until final images have been selected and ordered.

The galleries went up and a few weeks later the client ordered 40+ files to be retouched. The retouching had nothing to do with the quality of the images or the way they were shot but had to do with specifics that the client wanted changed. These would be things like taking a large tattoo off a nurse's arm, changing the wall color in the background. Changing the color of someone's scrubs. Fixing a fault with a doctor's white coat. Adding an embroidered name to said doctor's white coat, removing patient names from a screen file, removing wear marks from a piece of equipment, giving one talent in an image a specific hair cut and much more. Each file could take up to 30 minutes to change and perfect. Of course, we bill for this service and the clients expect to pay for it.

But if you have enough clients and they all choose different images to use in additional projects (different images and usages than the original project) you might find that the process of re-working and re-editing files to be nearly endless. Again, the scheduling problem with swimming.....

I am currently re-working files for three different clients who liked what we shot enough to re-use parts of the original takes in very different, new projects. Yesterday I got a request to prep about 200 files. Most are just minor adjustments that I can make quickly but some require more attention.

The wags among us would immediately bark out that all of this should have been handled in pre-production but they miss the point of the 21st century: clients changing their minds after the shoot. Then there are budget constraints and impossibility constraints. Yes, we could have had the wall in the Sonogram room re-painted. It would have taken time to get everyone to pre-agree on a paint color, agree on which days we might have access to the room to paint it and let paint dry (no patients=no income) and then to re-paint the wall back to its original color once our half hour in that location was complete. Not going to happen in the present era. Not when art directors are keenly aware of what can be done in post production.

We did one job for a Swiss bio-medical research company nearly a year ago and almost quarterly we get requests to re-purpose dozens of images to be used in new ways. And it's the same with video. While we remember the days when we did our jobs, got the clients to sign off on the "approval Polaroid", processed the film and handed off the sheet film (and all future responsibility) to the client, cashed our checks and closed the books on a project, that's not today's business reality.

The important thing to do in order to survive endless re-purposing is to be like lawyers. Keep track of your time, bill frequently and bill accurately. Clients need to know that every time we touch a file for them it takes resources. Our time and their money.

While I think a creative content agency would work well in today's agency climate, where most "agencies" just want to design and produce websites, I remember just how much work it was to manage staff and keep clients from fucking everything up at the last minute. I think I'll just persist in making photos and shooting random video. It seems like a safer bet for my sanity and quality of life....Now to find my goggles. Don't worry, I have many more pairs of goggles than I do cameras.

2 comments:

  1. Yeah, I recognise that feeling too. Clients see competency (& more) in one skill-set and think that it translates to competency in a different skill-set for a different project that they need doing. It’s tough, but there are times when you need to say No to preserve the relationship and your sanity.
    Good luck trying to guide the client through the learning curve.
    Cheers
    Not THAT Ross Cameron

    ReplyDelete
  2. A new haircut via Photoshop? The rest of the changes sound easy in comparison to that ...

    ReplyDelete

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