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Instant Endorsements

Monday August 16th, 2010

Stock photography made it possible to standardize the licensing of images, but a company in Irvine, CA called Brand Affinity Technologies (BAT) has taken this to a new level. A recent article in Fortune explains how BAT has converted the celebrity endorsement into a fully automated digital process.

Two-thirds of the $1.1 billion spent by advertisers on endorsements from athletes goes to the 75 at the top, a list limited to major stars like LeBron James and Derek Jeter. BAT has found a way to market the rest of the athletes, through a new low-cost procedure.

The athlete comes to a short shoot and assumes a series of marketable poses, with no particular product in sight; then, potential clients browse through BAT’s website, pick a star for the job and insert the relevant branded images to produce an instant endorsement. The resulting ads can be specially tailored for particular media or geographic locations—and if the athlete’s embarrassing text messages are made public, the endorsement can easily be switched to a more innocent celebrity.

Just add a celebrity and a product for an instant endorsement. (Photo by Andy Reynolds/Seattle)

The obvious question for readers here: how does BAT hire photographers? We’ve written before about the way that stock photography has changed the business for professional photographers. To find out, I got in touch with Allie Savarino Kline, VP of Marketing for the company.

BAT has two approaches to selecting photographers. “We have a production division in-house that farms out those photographers and videographers across the country,” Allie explained, and this division has been hired mostly through word-of-mouth.

The second approach demonstrates a concrete link to stock photography. “The balance of our recruitment is really driven through our partner Getty Images,” she said. Photographers hired through Getty go through a two-day training process, since every shoot follows a highly structured system, producing 25-40 still images and 20-25 video clips. “We have been able to identify what are the best types of shots” to produce an effective advertisement, Allie told me. “We have a very fixed… shot list that we capture and that is specific to our company.”

I asked Allie if there would be any room in the future for more photographer involvement. She replied that their current standardization has been necessary for dealing with the strict licensing requirements of the sports industry, but the company is branching out. “As we expand into celebrity and music, we certainly get a lot more flexible because you don’t have the same kind of licensing rights,” said Allie, and as a result “we’ll likely get much more flexible to allowing photographers to submit their work to be included.”

At the moment, however, the company draws from a pool of about 12 directors/photographers across the country. If you have any thoughts about the new directions of advertising, and their effect on photography, share them in the comments.

2 Responses to “Instant Endorsements”

  1. Bruce DeBoer says:

    Seems to me the inauthentic nature of the endorsement will come back to bite everyone involved – at least one can hope.

  2. Andy Araya says:

    25 to 40 still images to be apply on hundreds of brands seems to be an idea that will run out of options shortly. I believe that a “template picture” with a “put your logo here” structure will work just for a few months, then it will become boring. Let us hope they will get more flexible as they say they will be.

    It’s not a bad idea, it’s just limited. To be able to work with a iconic person, the chance to make something new, creative and bold will always have better results and a much more love branding effect from the audience.

    If someone already is telling you how to take the picture (model pose, light direction, background, etc) …how much about the photographer’s work?

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