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Blog » Shawn Smith

Keeping the Conversation Going with Shawn Smith of JWT NY

Posted by Workbook on 03/01/2011 — Filed under:  FeaturesHeadlineMusing On



Image by Ann Elliot Cutting

Thank you Shawn Smith, Director of Art Buying, Integrated Production at JWT in NY for taking the time to keep the conversation going about what clients are finding valuable nowadays.  It is an important conversation and your insights are important for all photographers to consider.

Here is what she had to say:

“A few weeks ago,  I read a post on this blog called, “Have you found your glasses yet?“  There was one statement in particular that peaked my interest and caused me to post a comment.  When Heather saw my comment, she called and asked me if I would keep the conversation going by elaborating my thoughts for a follow up blog post.

The following is the statement that got me thinking:

I would say that clients will still pay for commissioned work but HOW they judge value has changed. Maybe they don’t value licensing as they used to but they ARE placing value somewhere.  When you find it, you will be compensated for it.”

Here is what came to mind when I read that:

These are tough times; we’ve all heard it. But it’s not just the economy. It is the constantly changing media landscape. Unlike 15 years ago, today we are all sharing the same media space. With digital media, anything built with pixels is open to any kind of expression. Sure, standard banners can’t support rich media, but the creative drive is focused towards pushing the technical bounds and limitations.

Billboards, airport displays, magazines on the web, any kind of content that can be shown, be it photos, video, illustration and/or animation, are all are in competition for this space. Save a few traditional outlets for print and TV, there are no rules as to what content will be appropriate and developed for the media. This is where the new competition is living.

Who will land these projects? It might be a photographic idea against a video idea against illustration, or a combination of all three. Instead of competing with other photographers, photographers could find themselves competing with film production companies who sell one stop shopping,  GGI artists, animators or illustrators to name a few. We recently made a live interactive pinball game in Times Square in which we used an illustrator to design the game board, a digital production and event company to make and build the game and get it live on site, and a crew of photographers and videographers who documented people playing and interacting with it.

For artists and agents, the question has to be who will inspire the creative to use their kind of content? The answer is not to scrap photography for video or some other medium. The answer is in growing what you do and your involvement with the modern world.

Work that is modern tells stories, addresses real life and issues or brings amazing breathtaking diversions. Projects that are sustained over periods of time, build on exposure to media, utilize social networking and encourage artist collaboration. These are the most compelling projects out there right now. They are exciting and inspiring and stand out in an extremely competitive and redundant world.

On top of all of that, the lagging economy and client belt tightening has certainly driven compensation down. Client’s feel they are taking greater risks and reaching less people, therefore keeping budgets very tight. And the fact is that these projects are more complicated, require more people and technology and bring with them a plethora of licensing concerns. Time to create and produce is a commodity.  It has been greatly reduced to instantaneous due to lengthy layered approval processes. “Scrappy” is a word I heard way too many times last year. It used to conjure up something fun.

Good news for this year is that I am hearing “quality” and “craft” starting to come back into the language of our creative leaders. I am hopeful this will lead to a thoughtful allowance of time to produce. And with more time to produce comes a higher value of compensation. These together will drive truly artistic and inspiring work and will push forward the new media.”

Heather Elder Represents

Ann Elliott Cutting's Workbook Portfolio

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