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How To Bed An Art Director

Posted on July 31, 2004 and read 7,675 times

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An ihaveanidea guide for commercial photographers.

Photographers that want to get agency assignments sometimes have it as hard or harder than hungry juniors trying to break in the agency. It’s not easy, there’s definitely more supply than demand, and from experience, when a job comes in, there’s very little time to have your pick, so being shortlisted is no easy task. Here’s an art director’s strategy for bedding an art director.

Promo pieces do they work or pollute? I’m not sure. I don’t think thousands of dollars worth of promotional brochures are being made if they wouldn’t work. But they just never did it for me. The photos look small and there were so many in my desk that I never ever used them to find a photographer.

Portfolio. Photographers like expensive portfolios. I admit they are pretty cool, especially the metals ones with lots of weird locks. I loved it when commercial photographers added a section in the end with thumbnails of their photos as used in the ads they were shot for.

I do it all. As an art director I need to be able to convince not just my creative director, but the client(s) that you’re the one for the job. As a result I need to pitch your work most of the times without having even talked to you first.

One thing that makes that very easy is if you have one specific style. If I need a shot of big empty spaces with natural light I probably won’t be able to sell you if you only have one shot like that. Many times I saw portfolios that were full of everything; nature, people, colour, black and white, food, still life, digital, film. I don’t ever remember choosing one of those books. It’s a big dilemma because you might be good at many things but only one or two of your photographic skill sets might do the sale. Idea: Keep your book focused on your best skills and if you can, try to find out what the job is for before sending your book so you can customize it as best as you can.

1-800-annoying. In the agency you never have time for yourself. You are busy all the time and if by a miracle you are free, you’ll want to make sure you waste that time doing something nice. I had a hard time ceding time to meet photographers since I had was a little jaded with photographers that just wouldn’t leave or who would pressure me too much. As a result I was very bad in returning phone calls to photographers or agents wanting my time to see their books.

Cold calling is a common technique used by solo photographers and agents. The “are you shooting any big projects right now?” question will not be answered with “I was just thinking of calling you!” (most likely). My advice: cold calling works, but it’s very very hard. Try it only if you can follow up and if you are ready for voice messages and people that will never ever call you back or give a crap about what you are going to say.

Oh, and scrap your caller ID or use a nondescript phone, because if I know who you are I very likely will not answer.

Agency Displays. I’m not sure how many agencies have such a space, but at Ogilvy there’s a corkboard in the creative lounge where every week or two photographers take turns putting up their work. They are allowed to do whatever they want with the board, so some put up 1 big photo and their promo flyers, while others put up a variety of shots. In any case, it works. You would see art directors running to and from a meeting, stopping to look at the photos and then rush off to stressville somewhere else. Call the agency and ask the print production manager if they have such a thing.

Bribing. I’m sorry but bribing works. I got many things of which my favorite was a huge bottle of beer and matching glasses. Once you get something like that you can’t ignore a phone call or avoid meeting them. Creatives are suckers for gifts. Gifts to random people with your promo pieces comes at a high cost but gifts to random people with your promo pieces followed up by phone calls and a meeting is an investment. That combo works. Ideas for bribes: Booze, gift certificates, expensive chocolate, retro dolls. Keep it under 25 bucks or you’ll be kissing way more ass than necessary.

Websites. Useful in the final process and to see pieces not already in your portfolio. Follow these simple rules: kill your ugly flash intros with the annoying ‘loading’ thingy, cut the copy since we just need to see your work quickly. Make the navigation stupid proof. No need for fancy slide shows or dissolves. Just let me go back and forth and find what I need to see quickly and fast. And please make sure to leave your contact info in detail (mobile phone, telephone, agent, studio location).

At the shoot:

Relationships. So you bedded your art director and are now at the actual shoot? Don’t change strategies and try to bed the Creative Director. Remember, it’s the art directors that select the shortlist. If we sense that your behavior pre and post job is different towards us, we probably won’t choose you again. Creative Directors might have the power, but it’s the art director’s ass on the line so make sure you establish a partnership between you and the art director. It’s already major crap having a print production manager, clients, an account guy and a CD overlooking your every move, so involve the Art Director in all your decisions.

Communication. Let the Art Director know every move you make. It will keep him or her from asking stupid questions and interrupting your job. If you are testing light, inform the AD how long it will take, so that he can go have a donut and tell the client what is going on.

Atmosphere. If shooting in a studio, there is a direct correlation between the comfort and entertainment value of your ambiance and the amount of vulture like behaviour you will get from the agency and the client. If you have hard chairs and nothing to read, they will stand around you like vultures. I would recommend you get the comfiest largest most relaxing sofas you can find, chill music, lots and lots of music and beverages, and very important, enough reading material to keep them there. If you really want to keep them off your back, put a cheap iMac with Internet in the waiting area and you’ll never hear from them again.

Post. Post is where the shit usually hits the fun usually. At the pre-shoot you promised you could turn the background red and remove the seats in the back of the shot, post-shoot you are not so sure, and the shot is becoming more and more muddy and pixilated by the second. Remember that expectations will be high so under promise and over deliver. Try to have shots with as little post as possible. The best digital photographers are the ones that do lot of tests before you even give them a job to make sure they can do it.

If you want to keep your relationship strong with the Art Director, do follow up calls and make sure they are honestly happy about your job. Expect them to ask you for more changes than you thought, and set the price beforehand so that there is no tension when the job ends and you can get the call when the next job comes in.

ihaveanidea Aphrodisiac. To help you bed your next art director ihaveanidea has created PORTFOLIO LISTINGS in the ihaveanidea Directory. Art directors and other clients want to see your work and they want to see it fast. Putting up your work on their favorite website (ihaveanidea) using the latest online technology (adbeast) is a good idea because it will put you ahead of the competition and serve as a meeting point between you and that hard to bed art director. Click here to find out more.

Ignacio Oreamuno
President
ihaveanidea






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