Are You Using the Same Stock Photos as Your Competitors?

The Nov. 28 Wall Street Journal article, “When Marketers See Double,” is sure to produce red faces in many corporate marketing departments.

In the piece, reporter Emily Steel examines one of the hidden costs of relying on inexpensive digital photo libraries — namely, different companies, including direct competitors, using identical photos in their respective marketing materials.

As Steel puts it:

Coincidences … are happening frequently thanks to the proliferation of digital photo libraries that let marketers buy generic images at a fraction of the cost of original pictures. Advertisers often don’t buy exclusive rights, which are pricier, opening up the risk that others will use the same photos…

To convey an image of concern, both MetLife Inc. and Pfizer Inc.’s Viagra used the same image of a middle-aged man in a stripped button-down shirt resting his chin on his hands. And Bank of America and J.P. Morgan Chase & Co.’s Chase Student Loans sites both used the same image of a collegiate-looking boy working on his laptop for their Web sites…

Besides being embarrassing for advertisers, such duplications can make it difficult for consumers to tell brands apart.

Steel’s article reminded us of a something Ron Rovtar wrote at Stock Asylum:

The corporations keep pushing essentially the same images out the door at an ever-increasing pace so that the best images get seen in multiple — sometimes competing — venues. The more often individual images get used, the more likely it becomes that conflicting or otherwise embarrassing co-uses will surface. Extensive cross distribution is common. One executive recently noted that more than 100 subdistributors offer his company’s royalty-free product. Such market saturation makes overuse of the best images a certainty. At some point, creative professionals will take notice.

Currently, photography buyers — despite the avalance of photography online — have limited choices, as they are only beginning to realize. As Rovtar explains:

What sometimes gets lost in discussions of selling stock photography is a simple fact that should be the starting point of all marketing considerations. License buyers are some of the most creative people in the world. Imaginative and aware people thrive on the new and the different … As the big distributors grow, they leave much incredibly good work on the sidelines. When … the paradigm shift gains traction, much of this photography will find its way to market, causing some significant changes.

Indeed. Stay tuned.

[tags]scott baradell, ron rovtar, stock asylum, stock photography[/tags]

One Response to “Are You Using the Same Stock Photos as Your Competitors?”

  1. these kind of stories about company A using the same image as company B are overblown, imho. If a company is lucky enough to get written about in articles like this and having you quote it (long after the ad has run), then they have won in getting our attentions again. so i dont see the problem with using what i believe you are referring to as microstock royalty free images instead of rights managed when using this argument.

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