Getty Images’ directors on visual branding for ad agencies

Rebecca Swift, director of creative planning and Tom Hind, creative content director at Getty Images, talk to Jennifer Chan about how they help ad agencies to do visual branding and why data is key.

Visual branding has always been a big topic in advertising as public perceptions towards a brand is greatly influenced by its visual presentation.

Advertising agencies are undoubtedly the main drive behind this medium but photographic agents like Getty Images, one of the world’s biggest stock image library which has more than 80 million still images in stock, is instrumental to this business.

Just like its major client – advertising agencies – creativity lies at the core of Getty business behind the glossy images.

“Creativity is important for us to figure out ways to refresh key concepts that you see in our stock,” said Tom Hind, director, creative content at Getty Images.

“Take a hand shake for example. We look at what does it say, what is the concept behind the handshake, and how to recreate it in a different way to suit the needs for a local market.”

Storytelling, as a global trend, is where most agencies are headed. But advertising visuals should avoid narrative heavy image, he said.

“Storytelling is definitely a trend but we don’t want images to be too narrative. If you try to tell too many stories in one image, it’d become too busy and hard to understand,” said Hind.

“We tend to suggest photo that is easy to understand and emotionally connects with people. For example, the idea behind an image of a cross generation portrait (grand children together with grand parents) is protection. It can be a simple shot, but it tells a concept via a real scenario that emotionally connects with audiences.”

“We don’t need much storytelling in one image but to have one that is strong enough to grab consumers’ emotions, making people to believe what the shot is telling, that’s what the audiences want,” he stressed.

Harnessing its creative manpower who come from ad agency background, the stock image archive giant work hand in hand with ad agencies behind projects to optimise visual branding strategies for their clients through brain storming sections.

Rebecca Swift, director of creative planning at iStock, Getty Images, said: “Through interviews and discussions with our clients, we brainstorm around pictures, looking at visual language and the types of images that can be used to deliver messages.

We also get we gather our clients preference through our sales team; if we are lucky we even get visual branding guidelines from agencies or even internal documents of what they are looking for from their clients.”

Southeast Asia’s economic boom in recent years has developed a unique demand of luxury images within the market, Swift continued.

“In Europe and North America we are seeing a trend of phone aesthetic that caters to social media like Instagram. There are lots of filters, lens and effects. Images are more authentic with a sense of imperfections that makes you feel more real.”

“Whereas in Southern Asia where the economy is booming,” she continued, “you see imagery around luxury, affluent lifestyle and portraits that feature supreme status.”

Curating this massive 80 million image trove is no doubt a complex task. Swift accentuated the importance of having an easy-to-search keyword for images to matchup search engine.

“In the early days of stock, it was the pictures that spoke for themselves. Pictures were categorised by filing systems, image searching on website was far easier. Now we have to be able to define the search and make it more focus on what users actually want.

“It’s really the key when we upload images on to our website that they have the right keyword,” she said.

Stopping online users from right-clicking images is one big topic for photograph archives. As stock image database grows, it seems almost impossible to put an end to unauthorised image copying on the internet.

In an effort to combat the problem, a new “embed tool” has been newly introduced a month ago to ensure contributors’ works are credited.

Some 35 million images from its digital photo archive are now available for users to embed and share on social media free-of-charge through the new tool. All of which are credited with Getty in footers with links to licensing pages, reserving only for non-commercial and editorial use.

The company has no plan to welcome advertisers in this program in the future, but will put into consideration of using advertising revenue led models in terms of data collected from the embed model, “as in who is using the imagery, how is imagery going viral, how is the image being shared”, said Hind.

“Data has become more and more important to us. We are now able to harness this model to collect data of how image circulating online.”

It backed with a business intelligence area, which provides creative research and data in terms of best sellers, clients’ demands, and trends prediction, he added.

It wasn’t until two weeks ago the company put an additional focus to B2C business with the launch of, a spin-off platform offering print, canvas and wall art to consumers.

“There’s an interesting market in the consumer space that we don’t want to neglect,” added Hind.

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