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Dear Rep, An Open Letter from an Art Producer to a Rep

Posted by Workbook on 03/16/2011 — Filed under:  FeaturesHeadlineMarketing IntelligenceMusing On
As a follow up/response to Heather Elder's, "Dear Art Buyer" piece, Bonnie Brown gives an Art Producer's perspective on the Rep/Art Buyer relationship. Image by Ann Elliott Cutting.


Dear Rep,

Nice to hear from you!  Our jobs are really similar, and we have a lot to gain from each other, so we can both be better at making great creative happen.



I feel blessed to call many of you my friends, and so appreciate your dedication to this craft. Your analogy of doing a dance together is good. I also think it has similar elements of dating, if you think about it. Waiting for the phone to ring, the first kiss/job, the discovery of new hot talent, being stood up, finding out he has a beer budget and she has champagne tastes. It’s all in there, isn’t it?

I’ll try to address each of the points from your letter.

When you ask me what our budget is, usually I don’t have access to that info, or I’m given a number that needs to include so much more: my print producer’s costs, comp illustrator, additional stock photography, my billable time, agency travel, etc. I will try to share with you what I do know that might help you figure out the right approach.

Personally, I don’t kiss and tell, er– divulge who folks are bidding against, until after the job has been awarded. I don’t see how that is relevant and it doesn’t feel professional.

I try to offer feedback about creative calls, and estimates, when I have time. With several clients’ projects, some double or triple bidding, I don’t have the time I would like to be able to give much other feedback, until we’ve zeroed in the photographer we are going to work with. Then, if it’s one of yours, you won’t be able to shut me up.

It’s so much easier to offer positives, when really, it’s probably best to hear what’s not working with a portfolio, or website.  I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, and unless I’m invested, I don’t want to run that risk. I hope you understand. I guess that is the good thing about forging our friendships—those we work closely with, and get to know, seem like its fair game to explore that with.

I will always let you know when I am asking for a third bid, and your photographer has little chance of getting the job. To do otherwise is just plain dishonest, and does nothing to help build trust and a good relationship.

I know how much time putting estimates together takes, and also that you have to juggle schedules if you think you are being considered.  I don’t ever want to be the art buyer you jokingly want to charge each time I make you triple bid for the hell of it, or revise an estimate 20 times. Experience helps me be able to do the math, to some extent. However, I do have a responsibility to my clients and my agency to get the best talent for the best price, with as much usage as possible.

What kind of art buyer doesn’t tell you that you didn’t get the job?! Does that really happen? Ok, I know I have been guilty of this a time or two, but once I have reached the hired photographer, worked out all the details and made it official, I will definitely let you know.

Are you kidding—portfolio shows are one of the best parts about being stuck inside this cube, and not out on production bossing everyone around! We love seeing the new work, (and you) whether its books or iPads. I know how much work and expense goes into these shows, and we really appreciate it. What irks me is the Reps who show up late, or unprepared, or get drunk! (this happened twice last year) or don’t keep tabs on their items and they go missing, I have heard horror stories about demanding Art Buyers who basically ask you to feed the whole agency when you come, and that is just plain rude. I do know that most Creatives will not break away to attend portfolio shows that don’t have treats. If I decline a portfolio show more than once, it is likely because your talent wouldn’t work well for our agency. I don’t want to waste your time or ours.

I appreciate the email blasts to alert me who is doing what. Unfortunately, my inbox is inundated with them– half are from sub-par talent, and repeating weekly. So, I get a little jaded. Rather than e-blast every Sally, Dick and Jane, every few days, I wish reps/photographers would market to the appropriate audience, once a month or when there’s truly awesome new work. Most of you do a great job of researching and reaching out to who you want to work with. And I’m so thrilled to see great new work!

Can’t wait to see you at the next donut party, er, I mean, portfolio show!

Bonnie Brown

Sr. Art Producer
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