Long before the saturated advertising industry secured a grip on our consciousness, building platforms for brands represented by snapshots on screen or the page in our mind, iconic images were still created. A number spring to mind, including Marilyn Monroe in the white dress smiling at the camera, Princess Diana outside the Taj Mahal or even Gerri Halliwell in the Union Jack dress at the Brits.
Fast forward to the past decade and a different type of image comes to the forefront; the white horses from Guinness or more recently the Gorilla playing the drums in the Cadbury’s ads. These brands and their agencies have certainly pushed the boundaries by appreciating the power of dramatic and engaging visuals. They have understood the importance bespoke imagery can bring to a campaign by capturing emotion and creating an immediate infinity between brand and audience; thus justifying the huge proportion of budgets that are dedicated to this element of the marketing campaign.
When I first started my career the same importance was also placed on bespoke imagery for direct campaigns. However, over the years the value of visuals has changed and now it seems to be a dying trend to take unique photography capturing an emotion or space in time, instead all to often the stock shot has become the norm.
There are a number of reasons for this shift; the economic climate has certainly had implications. Furthermore planning times have reduced significantly in order to develop more campaigns throughout the year. But I also think a certain amount of lethargy has crept in from both client and agency. For many, using stock images is all too easy. What brands need to realise is that the savvy marketing consumer is becoming more prevalent. They recognise cheap stock images straight away and this devalues the campaign and brand image and ultimately makes them less likely to respond to the campaign as a result.
So while budgets are tight and marketing investment needs to be considered carefully, can brands really afford to see response rates drop? I would suggest not.
Nada McCormack is senior art director at Pulse Group