Thursday, March 6, 2008

How to Succeed in Advertising When All You Have Is Talent

Alright, so you want to be a big time advertising shooter, get some of that cash that's floating around. Sick of editorial day rate and PE's yankin your chain, well here's a story of how it can get squirrelly when you play with the big boys even if you have 20 years experience.
A friend of mine who has been in the advertising game for that lenght of time has a client, national brand, six quality shoots a year. Nice base to keep his Manhattan studio open and collect other clients along the way. Nice working relationship with the agency and client, though just like any work relationship, one month they love you, next cant stand you, one day your a genius, next a hack. But this has been going on for years and everyone gets what they want. Sooo, the brand gets bought out by another company about six months ago. Will that have any effect on my friends job security? who knows, but he's been doing this so long that if things get hinky he feels he will be able to suss it out. Along comes another shoot, nothing strange, this one quite big, keep three weeks on hold. That means 20 freelancers. This is a pretty fair amount of responsibility and production to get this together. Now its getting closer to the supposed shoot day, stylists are calling hourly to know if the job is officially booked. At this point it hadn't been, which is a bit strange, but no biggie. He uses 5 stylists, 5 assistants, 2 producers plus numerous other people depending on the shoot. Some are beginning to get other jobs which means trying to find replacements, the core group stays but they need to know whats happening, like now. He's shooting another job so all these people calling becomes a royal pain. Anyway, a couple of days before the job he gets a call from the agency. Are you free this week, the client wants a SHOOT OUT, between him and 2 other photographers. A shoot out, how fucking corporate can you get, a nice way of saying you might be getting the chop. The new people at the top want a new direction. They want to see what you can really do, as if the last six years working on this account was shot by some imposter. What a crock, but you gotta play the game up to a point. Some of you might say you've had your run, move it, but its his living and he's worked damn hard to get where he is. You got to pay the bills. But he tells them not a hope, knowing that he is the incumbent and hasn't a chance of winning that game. If the client feels the need for change or the agency is feeling the heat, your dead. Apologies all round, but still the agency wants to keep the hold, (in case the other shooters suck). Imagine calling all the freelancers up and telling them you want to put them back on a three week hold but my job is in jeopardy and there is a really good chance its not going to come in anyway. Click!!!!, is what you hear on the other end of the phone. So sorry my guy says, can't do the SHOOT OUT, everyone has to move on and get other work. He leaves with his dignity and a couple of months short in mortgage payments. He's feeling some serious pressure though. How will this play out with the client, how are the agency going to feel, freakin landlord's going to looking for his, etc. Everybody who has been waiting around for weeks for this to happen is pissed but that's the nature of the game. Its called freelance for a reason.
Fade to two days later, he gets am email from the agency seeing if he was available for a Pre Pro the following Tuesday. "Of course the first week is off, can't get layouts together, but we will have the meeting and firm everything up". Emails back, "that sounds great". Now to any normal person this would sound like game back on right?, he stood his ground and they blinked. But this is advertising photography a little bit like black magic, lots of deceit cloaked in fairy dust. He stops short of trying to get everyone back on hold till he hears from the client. Good thinking, because the Tuesday comes and goes and not a dickybird from anybody. Wed. Thur. Fri. also. After some back and forth he finds out the agency went ahead and shot with someone else. Led him on to think everyone was working feverishly on the said layouts. Not one call from anybody at the agency, or the client , who he is on very good terms with. Not a care for all the people who lost out on other jobs while waiting for the OK. If he had not been so savvy he could have been out serious cash, not to mention the mindfuck of trying to figure out if you have lost your bread and butter for good. Of course there is always the chance they will go to another shooter when you call their bluff but still.... give the guy a call.
Maybe you have noticed I really haven't once mentioned photography in this post, not a word about cameras, prints vs web, film vs digital. It all has little or nothing to do with the time of day, its business pure and simple. So if you like the idea of twenty of thirty people screaming at you and blaming you for the loss of their income, the downfall of their product, and not having the imagination to follow their Michelangelo like layouts, then for sure, this is the career for you.


Anonymous said...

Would he have had to pay for the shoot out. i have heard many photographers put up their own money for these.

Stan B. said...

Back in the early eighties, I was 3rd assistant at a fairly successful NYC studio. It was run by two photographers, one did most of the PR and promo work, the other most of the shooting. Seeing how these guys had to continually struggle to get work, and then struggle just to get paid (and, like I said- they were successful) made me quickly decide that wasn't the life for me...

Ber Murphy said...

Yep, you gotta put the money up yourself and if your lucky enough to get the job, payback is in the fact ...that you got the job. If not, your out X grand. You gotta be able pay to play.

Yeah Stan, its not for everyone. if it was just about the shooting, no big deal, but you got to have fortitude to deal with these guys or plain out balls.

Anonymous said...

same topic, mentioned on heather morton's site:

one day, you're their buddy; the next day, they never heard of you.