We wish we thought of this title, but it’s the title of a book by David Boyle, and the title explains it all. It’s also a perfect title for this blog piece. (Lucky for us, titles are not copyrightable, but that’s for another blog piece).
Numbers can be used in so many ways and for many years, by those who license photos for advertising, all the way back to the ‘60s Mad Men of Madison Avenue. They have been using numbers against photographers and artists, as well as or better then the hucksters on the street with three shells and a pea. And in this digital age, the hucksters and the numbers are getting more sophisticated. So should photographers in seeing how these numbers are really used and misused.
Let’s start with the popular “day rate”. A day rate – if the term or concept is used at all – should have little to no relationship to the licensing fee charged. None. Remember that for many years photographers willingly permitted their work and the attendant licensing fees, to be de-valued by ad agencies who informed them in one way or another that, “We won’t pay extra/real money/anything/much for web use”. “Web” or “digital” or “electronic” uses were defined rather broadly by clients and their ad agencies. The digital landscape now includes a myriad of platforms. Photographers (and some reps) have awakened from their slumber to find they need to battle decades of (now) historically entrenched low fees for very broad, virtually undefined web use. The “suits” at the ad agencies chuckle and call this, “loser’s remorse”. The failure to properly negotiate licensing fees, defining uses and/or simply being outsmarted by art buyers resulted in “cheap to free” web use for many years. To paraphrase a Toyota campaign, “The clients asked for it and they got it”. They received cheap/free usage because creatives and their reps gave it away.
Consider for a moment: spending 4 hours shooting a table top ad for a single POP ad, one year term, for Joe’s Pottery Shop on Main Street, Stroudsburg PA (only) to 4 hours spent shooting the same table top ad for all Bed Bath & Beyond stores inclusive of web use and on-line shopping for a 4 year usage term. The former may have a licensing fee of $X the later ought have a licensing fee of $150X. Compare the assignments which reflect the same skill/reputation, same amount of time spent in prep and shooting but understandably wildly different fees for… licensing.
For decades an overarching consideration in conventional advertising was, “how many eye balls” will see a given ad. We strongly urge photographers not to fall into the trap of giving the number of viewers, hits or views too much consideration. In its foray into “New Media” the advertising industry prides itself on the ability to hit precise demographics, like believers, or “inclined consumers” for the benefit of its clients. Agencies and clients have been wise enough to employ these considerations rather than simply counting eyeballs in making their media buys. Now who is looking, where they are and what they are doing while seeing the ad are far more important than simply knowing how many people are viewing the piece.
27 years ago the first all sports talk radio station in America, WFAN, started in NYC. It never achieved the highest ratings in its market but was nevertheless near or at the top in ad revenues, billings and profits. Why? Because A. it delivered an incredibly high proportion of a narrow demographic – 16 to 34 year old, male listeners and B. those who did listen, tended to be passionate sports nuts who listened for hours and C. there was no competitive format elsewhere on the dial – none – those who listened stayed put. (See also: Stern, Howard)
Classic all news radio had much higher ratings but also had a very diverse audience whose members tended to switch stations after having heard the news, sports, traffic and weather delivered to them in 22 minutes or less. No sense in hearing the same news and sports all over again again. Offering “traffic and weather on the “8’s” or “1s” coupled with digital dashboard clocks and car convenient radio pre-set buttons lead to perhaps some listeners bouncing back to the All News Stations periodically on the 8’s or 1’s if the rush hour traffic didn’t clear.
Now in 2014 comes the subscription based World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) Network. This cable TV venture is a premium service similar to HBO with charges assessed for viewing. Major consumer brands like Kmart and Pepsi are apparently eager to advertise on the platform(s). This despite the fact that it has been widely reported, the WWE venture has been very slow to sign up subscribers and is well below its own expectations in that department.
So why the eagerness on the part of these 21st century Mad Men to get their clients on this underperformer? Simple answer – a very dedicated fan base of young men watch WWE events on TV, go to its live performances and spend money on all manners of WWE merchandise.
The WWE ‘s own earning report states that 67% of its fan base are male, and 44% of its “fans” are under the age of 34. Some of the suits in the ad world clearly believe that the WWE Network is a great opportunity for certain brands and marketers to get their products in front of this hard-to-reach group of young men who often spend lots of time online. While members of this demo typically possess short attention spans, WWE events can go on for several hours and WWE viewers tend to stay put at least when watching the WWE.
The importance of the nature of the viewers being more important than the mere size of the potential audience arises in copyright infringement and model use cases. Infringers when caught red-handed and forced to reveal the nature and extent of their infringing activities love to trot out some “mitigating factor” such as, “The image only had 756 views”.
We then suggest they consider the following essentially real life cases:
The infringing photo is on a direct mail piece for a catering hall. It is sent by the caterer to say 500 engaged couples who had attended a wedding trade show and specifically requested information on catering facilities be sent to them.
The same catering facility placed the offending image in a local TV commercial actually seen by 50,000 (mostly senior citizens) viewers watching re-runs of “The Golden Girls” at 4AM. Of those 50,000 “passive” viewers we dare say that few if any were in the market to get hitched in front of 200+ people.
Similarly use of the photo by the banquet hall’s website would very likely be seen by potential customers surfing the web for a place to make their dreams come true. (Another real case with the product name changed: Direct mail of 500 post cards to members of Corvette collector’s clubs vs. a regional TV commercial viewed by those same senior citizens few of any of whom would be in the market for or could even fit into a $75,000 Corvette)
Ad agencies and their clients have had it both ways for a very long time. On one hand they get paid to target audiences and on the other hand that means fewer views for certain uses thus, lower fees for creatives and minimal damages to photographers in cases of infringements. This tired argument is baseless and illogical but it is frequently used against creatives in negotiating both pricing and settling infringement claims because the argument works.
Beware when pricing and suing. Learn as much about the audience as you possibly can before coming up with a price or fee.
We’ll end with another favorite quote from French sociologist, philosopher, cultural theorist, political commentator, and son of a gun- photographer, Jean Baudrillard, who said,
“Like dreams, statistics are a form of wish fulfillment.”
Hopefully the information in this blog piece will help the wishes fulfilled yours and not the wishes of some Mad Men Ad Men.