Archive for August, 2009

Relative Value

Friday, August 28th, 2009

I posted this link on the BAP Facebook page yesterday, but I wanted to go into a bit more detail about it. What the link takes you to is a pdf of the Clearchannel outdoor media rate card–a listing of the prices advertisers pay to rent billboards and the like.

The first think I’d like to point out is that there are a lot more media options than you may have ever thought about. For example, we all know about bus shelters and bus wraps, but we tend to forget about inside of the bus or commuter trains, on top of taxis, or all the ads we see at malls.

Even though there are a lot of things listed on this pdf, these are actually just a few media options. There is media (space rented by advertisers, I mean) everywhere– the conveyor belts and carts at the grocery store, flyers filling your mailbox, and everything digital, of course.

And it all costs to rent. Those prices are pretty much standardized within their relative markets and usually you can get those prices on online media cards like this. By looking at these media cards, you can start to understand the relative value of your work and estimate your fees more accurately.

There are still people who say that basing your usage fees of media rates is an old, discarded way of doing the math. Apparently it was done 20+ years ago, before I got into the biz, and rejected. I have no idea why or what things were like then. But just because it didn’t work then doesn’t mean it’s a bad idea now.

Now it makes sense. As noted in Getting to Yes (Ury, et al), one of the pillars to successful negotiations is using objective criteria–using the media rates (something out of the control of both you and the agency/client you are negotiating with) makes your position rational. If placement costs $800,000 then the usage fee should be greater than placement which costs $300,000. Pencil-pushers can understand this. As I discuss in this month’s Creative Lube, cost consultants are looking at everything to try and get the numbers down–you need to have a rational argument for why you are billing what you bill. Taking yourself out of the equation and, instead, pointing out the simple logic of a more extensive media buy equalling a greater usage fee simply works in these numbers-guys’ heads. They can’t argue with math.

These media numbers are important to know, also, because when you are selling an unlimited license of some sort, you need to know what you are really selling–it’s a hell of a lot more than you may think. Don’t give it away. When you understand the value of your work in the media environment, when you learn what sorts of numbers your clients are used to dealing with, suddenly that $48K for creative AND usage fees for two years GLOBAL unlimited print media doesn’t sound like such a good number after all (see first estimate posted by APE). Yes, $48K is a lot of money to a lot of you, but it isn’t a lot of money in the world of your clients–that is, their perspectives are different. They are used to much higher numbers!

You must learn to separate your personal perspective (“$48K is more than I’ve made this year! I’d be thrilled to get this!”) from the actual, objective value being exchanged in this transaction. The objective value for that broad usage (global unlimited print!) is a hell of a lot more than $48K (and remember, that number quoted by that photog INCLUDES the creative fee as well as usage, so the usage is actually less than $48K!).

Think about it… how many taxi tops, bush shelters, and grocery carts are there in the whole world…

Cost consultants and your biz

Monday, August 24th, 2009

The new Creative Lube podcast is available and deals with these pencil-pushers. They have changed the way we do business and there are steps you need to take to make sure it doesn’t cost you money.

Back again and thinking of next summer

Saturday, August 22nd, 2009

Thanks to everyone for their patience while I slogged through 5, count ’em 5 law school exams. That was insane, but I got through it (hopefully successfully) and am back at it.

And already I’m thinking about the future. Specifically, next summer. I will be hitting the road then to speak at various creative groups. If you are interested in having me come to your city, please contact your local APA, ASMP (AIGA, etc.) group and tell them to invite me to speak. While I’ll be contacting the groups as well, it’s always helpful to have it come from the members. This is your chance to have me in the room, to ask questions, and to learn as much as possible from me. I also try to have at least one day available for one-on-one meetings in each city. I hope to travel mostly in May and the first half of June of 2010… kind of like a concert tour.

Stay tuned for more updates as things start to firm up.

In the meantime, if you want quickie updates and links to articles of interest, etc., I encourage you to become of Facebook BAP fan. I post many more quick thoughts and ideas there.

Creative Lube reminder

Thursday, August 13th, 2009

Don’t forget to subscribe to the new Creative Lube podcasts. If you were getting Creative Lube via iTunes or through some other feed, you won’t get any new ones without signing up!

Upcoming episodes will include topics like social media, websites, alternative promo ideas, what buyers respond to, and how to edit your work for your book. An annual subscription will mean you get at least two episodes free (as compared to buying individually). Get it here:

Changes and Attitude

Wednesday, August 12th, 2009

Condé Nast has been a temple in the publishing industry for as long as anyone can remember. But even it is undergoing some changes with the downturn in the print economy. This article is particularly interesting because, to many “normal” people, the attitude it portrays is shocking.

It reminds me of an interview I saw once with Steve Martin. He was on Letterman, I think, and he was talking about the trappings of fame and how it changes your attitude. It creeps up on you. He said that when he started doing stand up, he would drive himself to the gigs. No problem. Then his manager would drive him more often than not. Okay. Then one day in some city they sent a limo. He said, “No no, I don’t need a limo. Really. Thanks but it’s completely unnecessary.”

His manager said “Shut up and take the limo–they sent it, just enjoy it.” So he did.

The next night, in the next city, Martin headed out of his hotel for the gig. He looked around and said, “Where the hell is my limo?!”

The people at Condé Nast are freaking out because they can’t order lunch at Nobu and don’t have Orangina in their fridges. They’ve gotten used to things that most of the rest of the world would see as unnecessary and expensive frou. Creatives run the same risks. We work in a world where we get regular access to people and places and things that others may never experience in their lives. It’s easy to turn into a bit of an ass about it all. Don’t. Remember that we’re really lucky to get to work in this world. Keep grounded and you will appreciate it more each day rather than get jaded.

In other words enjoy it, but don’t forget that the bells-and-whistles are just the show.

That being said, you can also use that show to build your business. For many of our clients, end-clients in particular, going on a photo-shoot is a bit of Hollywood. There are (often) models and lights and stylists, etc. It may feel normal to us, but for them it is a toe-hold on a world they don’t get to live in like we do. If you can remember that and put on a good show for them, they’ll remember that always and appreciate it. Start with great craft services on your shoot. Wonderful food will wow clients all the time. Comfortable places to sit. Nice drinks. Take care of the basics with flair. Make the shoot an experience, and your clients will love it–the agency people will appreciate how great you are making them look in front of their clients and the end-clients will love you too.

The downside is that the next time, they’ll expect it. The upside, of course, is that there will be a next time.

Some things to read

Monday, August 10th, 2009

I’m heavily buried in the last few days of study before exams, so rather than write something that will probably contain way too much about law school and not enough about photography and the creative industries, I thought I’d share some links to other good reads… and a could of must-see vids. Enjoy. (and send good exam mojo, pls)

Doug Menuez on free and its threats.

The post-recession future of advertising?

From advertising to SCTV and back again.

What do fired ad people do? Many change their lives. (Btw, Mark Harmel is a photographer who contributed on this project.)

And the best 6 minutes of advertising goodness. One shot (although reportedly take #40), no edits, and you’ll likely be thirsty after.


Wednesday, August 5th, 2009

Heather Morton has another must read post. This one is on the role of the Art Buyer and really gives us a good look at where the responsibilities lie.

When you read this, make sure to keep in your mind “How can I use this information to improve how I approach/work with Art Buyers?” That way you won’t fall into getting upset or frustrated when you read about the limitations on an AB’s “power” etc. Hopefully you will come away with the understanding that while they aren’t there to be your advocates, they really do want to push their constituents to use the best photographer for the project.

Bad Wacom, worse EclipseDigital

Tuesday, August 4th, 2009

Wacom promotes EclipseDigital and their rip-off of artists. (Thx Mark H for the heads up!)

I think EclipseDigital has all sorts of bad things going on. For example, you can’t get the full T&Cs until after you give them your contact info and, essentially, sign up (although it appears you’d get it before you upload anything). That is smarmy at best and I have to wonder if it doesn’t actually run afoul of some legalities. Also, just who are they? I don’t trust companies that don’t have real people somewhere on the site–like bios of the execs or something.

But the core issue for professional creatives is the unfortunate promotion by Wacom. For any of you who use or are thinking about using their products, take a moment to complain to them about this. The more they know their core users are upset, the less they will do things like this in the future.

Probably slow for a while

Monday, August 3rd, 2009

I wanted to let everyone know that I will likely not be posting as much here for the next 17 days. My exams for summer term start on the 15th and will finish on the 20th. I have five exams. I really need to study.

I’ve had to read about 300 pages (more or less) a week this term. There are 13+ weeks in the term. That’s about 3900 pages read. 3900 pages of some of the densest, least exciting words ever put in linguistic order on a page. The kind of reading that makes Leviticus look like a romance novel. It’s been a chore even when some of the cases have been interesting.

But I love it. I love it because I know that the work I am doing know will pay off in the future. When I get the most frustrated, like when I just read three pages and have to read them again because they made absolutely no sense on the first read, I think about why am I doing this: to improve myself, my business, and my clients.

In other words, I keep thinking long-term to get me through the tough work of the now. Then the work I’m doing now becomes something I can love doing.

You can do the same. Sure, for most creative people it is no fun to do the work of creating or working a marketing plan and running a business. You want to make your art, your images, and not have to screw with the invoicing and bookkeeping and mailers and planning, etc. But it is in the doing of the tedious that you get the opportunities to do the art (and get paid for it).

So, if I can do it, so can you. While I’m slogging through making outlines of the law and flashcards and learning the details of the rules, you do some of the not so fun work that makes your business, in the long run, better. Research some clients. Plan some mailers and emailers. Catch up on your bookkeeping. Plan your marketing for next year. And remember to love the work, because it is in the doing that you get to do what you really love.