Saturday, November 28, 2009

Holiday Bribes: Photography 'gifts'

©Character Arts, LLC, The Rudolph Company, L.P.

Bribe is a verb and some slang words for it are: fiddle, corrupt, buy-off, influence, bait, gift, goody, payola, hush money, ice, oil palm, soap and gravy.

The world of commercial photography is a tricky and highly humble one. As a photographer or in my case, a photography representative, we are competing with some of the best out there. We’re in a time where the industry is inundated with photographers, where every photographer is unique, and there are over 100,000 unique photographers all wanting the same chance. In addition, veteran photographers are recycled over and over again, giving little chance to newbies, and could-be’s. It is your job to get your book to the right person: the Art Buyer of an ad agency or the Photo Editor of a magazine. These folks are the gatekeepers to your potential job.

Art Buyers are housed in piles of black canvas bags containing black leather-bound portfolios with work ranging from still life, fashion/beauty, portrait, and the list goes on. Buyers have major hand in this relationship therefore photographers have to be creative, stand out and be remembered. So before working with one of these hot shots, you may need to leave your egos at the door, lay your pride on the side and bring out the cookies.

As a former Photo rep, a lot of us are guilty of having lubricated our clients by enticing them with food, hopping them up on Starbucks, and medicating them with wine. So I pulled out the big guns, and delve right in and asked some of my favorite Art Buyers and Photo Editors what ‘perks’ they have received and in turn, asked photographers and reps what they have sent their clients to ‘sweeten the pot’, ‘oil the palm’ with.

An Art Buyer at Ogilvy & Mather offered “cool gifting definitely keeps these people in the minds of art directors and art buyers by positive association.” Adding joyously that outside of t-shirts and other logo laden items, her favorite gifts received were a fish lens’ camera and Gustbuster umbrella.

I really like what artist rep, Norman Maslov had to offer when I asked him what he has given to buyers. He said when he was in the record business they used to call it payola, but ‘gifts’ has a better ring to it. The term payola is defined as payment given in exchange for promoting a commercial product, or the system of making such payments, especially to disc jockeys. One year after 9/11 he gave out the GANDHI book.

Outside of the unanimous; chocolate, wine, photo frames, and calendars, there were some true gems received and distributed. Michael Norseng, Director of Photography at Esquire magazine once received a 4 foot long sausage, in which I’ll leave to the imagination, another time he received a Hall and Oats DVD. The gifter went on creativity and clearly not a fan of the practical, he ‘can’t go for that, no can do”

One Photo Editor received Orange &Cream and Berry Lemonade flavored bottles of Jones Soda which is Midwestern soda company that has a contest that allows you to have your photos printed on their labels. You catch more jobs with sugar, than with promo cards.

For the holidays, photographer, Sarina Finkelstein gave out 2 foot tall candy canes and kidrobot© toys. David Leventi, another photographer, a garden gnome. Photo Rep, Tricia Scott with Merge Left Reps, gave her clients memberships to Museums in their area. Wow, talk about thoughtful. Another rep, Angela Dieringer has given iTunes gift cards, stating, “our clients LOVED them! All of them own an ipod and this made sense.” As for myself, I have given anything from condoms, that read, ‘Play it Safe, use TTS REPS’ along with candy cigarettes, to viewfinder key chains in assorted colors picturing my artists’ photos. That year, I decided to forego the alcohol, devling into their sexual activity, sweet tooth and love of visuals, these gifts seemed appropriate; non-traditional and loose. So folks, keep the real gift that keeps on giving, and that is your art, your originality, but the occasional Riunite on *ice is always nice