Why Using Cousin Vinny as Your Model Can Cost You

One of the things professed geeks like me know is that we’re not model material.  As such, we’re usually careful not to judge others based on their physical appearance — to avoid the “pot calling the kettle black” comeback.  So when I came upon two geek blogs that bashed the appearance of a model wearing a product, I knew the issue wasn’t with the geeks doing the blogging.  It was with the photography.

Model Bashing

This is what Gizmodo had to say about the image below in its post,  NES Varsity Jacket Is a Limited Edition for a Reason:

Jackets don’t come much uglier than this, but hey, at least it matches this guy’s male pattern baldness.

Over at Engadget, the blogger also criticizes the model in the post,  NES Controller Varsity Jacket would be more awesome with awesome models:

At first glance, we actually gagged upon seeing the jacket … Immediately after regaining our composure, we wondered how on Earth such a magnificent piece of retro kit could have such a negative impact on our lives — then, it hit us. It’s the dude. Seriously. Strap this $200, limited run jacket on anyone even remotely beautiful and we’d bet you too would see things differently. Or maybe it is just obscenely tacky, but it’d be much less so on anyone other than this fellow.

Get Cousin Vinny to Wear It

My guess is that this photo shoot resulted from a client saying, “We don’t need to hire a model, just get my cousin Vinny to wear it” or “We owe our programmer some goodwill, let’s use him,” or some variation thereof.  Making matters worse, the jacket doesn’t even fit him. He looks like a size large, and the jacket looks like a size XXL.

When you have a product to sell, paying attention to the details — like a well-lit product, a model that is appropriate to (or at least doesn’t detract from) the product, and a product that fits appropriately — is critical to a successful shoot.

It is the photographer’s responsibility to teach the client the importance of choosing the right talent. Often, when a client insists on “street casting” or casting from within an office, we ask for snapshots of the subjects, or we take snapshots ourselves, and then take them away to make determinations as to which person is best. Even when the client chooses someone who we know won’t work, we take the snapshot, so as to not offend the subject.  Then we make our case to the client.

A $200,000 Mistake

Most ad agencies and PR firms understand a model’s value, but sometimes with the end-client, you have to really explain it.

In the case of the NES jacket,  the argument for a professional model goes like this:

The product is a limited edition of 1,000 that probably would sell out based on Gizmodo and Engadget postings alone, if the articles were positive.  Now, no geek I know would be caught dead wearing this jacket, because our daily reads have panned it.

Thus, a $200 jacket, with a limited edition of 1,000, and a possible gross revenue of $200,000 will, instead, likely show up at the discount store, or become a giveaway at Nintendo video conferences — all because someone didn’t pay attention to who the model was.

That’s a $200,000 mistake.

4 Responses to “Why Using Cousin Vinny as Your Model Can Cost You”

  1. This is wonderful, I have clients that have tried to pull a "cousin Vinny", I'm going to send them here!

  2. This is why I chose be be behind the camera and not in front of it 😉

  3. That is a terrific post. I have used models in the past and I do have to be very brutal in my choices. If it's a guy, he doesn't have to be perfect, but he does have to photograph well; with women it's much harsher I believe. The fairer sex is under more scrutiny in this day and age, so the models I have used must instantly appeal.

    Your post just confirms my philosophy. Nice!

    BTW, I subscribe via RSS. Great site you have here!


  4. A few years ago I had a great job shooting for an apparel manufacturer. The budget wasn't unlimited but decent. When they started getting squeezed by the imports they started cutting the budgets. First they cut the stylist which meant that I had to watch more closely for styling issues along with all the other things I was watching for. This slowed things down and meant we got less shots done per day. Then they cut out the models and brought in friends and family. Its not that they weren't attractive so much as they were all different sizes and didn't know how to make the product look good. It was a disaster and they went out of business the next year. That was when I learned my lesson. I don't want to be known as the difficult photographer but sometimes you have to draw the line with client request.

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