The Community Table Discusses Email Blasts. Part 1, The Appetizer


Welcome to our 8th series of posts where we share the results from our conversations held directly with community leaders about top of mind photo-industry issues. Community Table was formed from the collective efforts of Matt Nycz and Kate Chase of Brite Productions and Heather Elder and Lauranne Lospalluto of Heather Elder Represents with the idea that there is nothing more powerful in our industry than education.

And speaking of powerful, if you were to do an internet search today for “Email Blasts”, you could find yourself easily overwhelmed and yet still not get much in the way of insightful information to help you know how to send more relevant messages to advertising’s best and brightest recipients. Generic results range from what is the definition of one — a single sending of many electronic messages to many people at the same time.  Or 5-tips for your next one. Or how to send powerful emails. Or how to send low-cost to a few or to millions. Or common rookie mistakes.  Or how to be the best with Email. Or 10 Golden Rules for Email Blasts. And that’s just some from page 1.

Recognizing that this topic can be confusing for not just senders but also receivers, we thought it was a good subject for The Community Table.  And for this particular subject we reached out to our friends and marketing colleagues from Agency Access.  And since they’ve been discussing just this for years now, they were more than happy to take a participating seat at the table. 

So on a warm and windy LA-day in November, we welcomed some of LA’s best creative buyers to talk with us; and over lunch we had a rousing and productive conversation around what they’ve learned, what they like and what they dislike and what they do with their many an electronic messages.

And in addition to the four blog posts, all of the information gleaned from The Community Table has been consolidated by Agency Access in a well-summarized Photographer’s Guide to Email Promotion. Download it here.

As a reminder, each Conversation Starter was directed to one person with a general discussion ensuing.  Rather than sharing the entire conversation, we included the original question and then the quotes and notes that were most relevant.  Please note, often times the person leading the conversation spoke most often.

Participating Buyers:

Jason Lau, Art Buyer / Content Producer 180LA

Lisa Lee, Group Executive Art Producer CP+B

Chrissy Borgatta Luizzi, Senior Art Producer, Innocean

Jennifer Lamping, Manager of Art Production, RPA

Lisa Matthews, Manager of Art Production, Team One

Jessica Mirolla, Art / Content Producer, The Garage Team Mazda

Andrea Rosenfeld, Senior Art Producer, David & Goliath

Rob Beckon, Freelance Art Producer

Deb Grisham, Freelance Art Producer


HEATHER ELDER / HEATHER ELDER REPRESENTS:  We believe Email blasts have been and continue to be a powerful tool.  They can provide much needed metrics for photographers on the relevance of their imagery and the interest of their target market.  They can introduce potential clients to up and coming talent and they can keep current clients up to date with new work.

But used naively, they can be a source of frustration for recipients and disheartening for the sender.  A missed opportunity that has the potential to make clients otherwise open to receiving the new work and photographers hopeful for results disengage with this powerful tool.

We are here today to explore the power of the e-promo and determine what works and what doesn’t work; with our ultimate objective to publish a guide for e-promo best practices that we can share with the community.  Our hope is to educate both the user and the recipient as to how to best use the tool so that there is a mutual respect and understanding of the goals for both parties.

And, with that we welcome Amanda Sosa Stone, Jennifer Perlmutter and Angee Murray of Agency Access; a leader in the creative database management industry and now marketing partner to creatives. There is no better partner available to us today to facilitate this conversation.  Thank you for partnering with the CT today.

Jennifer Perlmutter, Agency Access

I am really excited to have everyone here today, many of whom I have been reaching out to for years as a rep. And, now since I sit on the other side of the table and help photographers reach out to you, I want to make sure I am reaching out to you in the most effective way that is relevant to you.  The feedback you provide will allow us to share with our artists how to best reach you.

Amanda Sosa Stone, Agency Access

Agency Access was the first one to bring email to the market and because of that we want to be responsible to the community for making sure the tool remains as relevant as it was when it was first introduced in 2003.  Back then, it was a blessing and now it is a challenge. 

As Heather said it is the only marketing tool that has specific metrics that allows her to measure effectiveness of an image.  We recognize there are so many great ways to use this tool but we want to take things a step further and take the responsible action to hear what you have to say to make this an even stronger tool.  We need to find that happy balance, because our goal is to not only take care of the artist but you all as well.

Kate Chase, Brite Productions

By way of background, I thought it might be good to remember what it was like before Agency Access.  All the reps and artists database building was done by going through trade magazines and other leg work.  Do you recall how you got on those early lists?

Deb Grisham, Freelance Art Producer

You mean those phone calls we would get at the agency saying, “Can you fax me a creative list?” And then we would say yes.  But doing that now, every creative person in our agency would get inundated with direct mail.

Heather Elder, Agent

And then, Marianne Campbell and Norman Maslov and I would divide the country, call in the lists from each region, create a binder and then share the complete list amongst each other.  We would do that quarterly.  Now we are updating daily and I can only imagine how out of date those lists got.


Do you remember when you received your first email promo?  What were your thoughts about it and how did you file/save it?

Lisa Matthews, Team One

Well, that was my issue.  I didn‘t know how to file and save it.  I was so used to having promos that came in the mail and then putting them in my folders (location, studio, food etc) and when the first email blast came I didn’t know what to do with it.  But, I did like that I could click on it to see more and then share it too.

Now I figured out that you can still make folders but it was a challenge at first. 

Andrea Rosenfeld, David & Goliath

I don’t remember not having them.

Jessica Mirolla, Garage Team Mazda

I remember when they first were coming through they would bog down my email folder because the file size was too big.  I had restrictions on how many megabytes could be received. 

Kate Chase, Brite Productions

How did you start filing and saving them?

Jessica Mirolla, Garage Team Mazda

I had they same issue with filing.  I had created this beautiful cabinet which I had spent time organizing that I would invite colleagues to come look at the promos and now here was this new technology and it wasn’t going to work the same way.

I then just created folders in my email and have continued saving them that way.

Chrissy Borgatta Luizzi

I created a resource listing for myself and I have been doing that for years.  That way, if there was an artist that I loved, I would open up my word document and be able to see the links I needed.  I would divide the document by categories so I could see what I needed easily.

So, when an art director or producer needed a photographer I could cut and paste and send them my list.

Kate Chase, Brite Productions

Heather, when do you recall when the medium first started and what was it like creating your first e-promo?

Heather Elder, Heather Elder Represents

I don’t remember exactly when it first started but I remember trying to create my first one. And, that was hard.  And, I didn’t know how to link the website to the image and I am sure I sent it out three times before I got it right.  Annoying, right?

I do remember though thinking that this had the potential to be a very powerful tool for staying connected to my most relevant clients on an on-going basis.  One of the challenges though was getting new work from the photographers more regularly but I appreciated the new excuse for asking.

Jennifer Perlmutter, Agency Access

I remember when I first became a rep one of my first assignments was to create customized lists for each photographer so that they were sending relevant images.  Not every car agency needed to get an image from our the food photographer.  That was for sure a challenge because you never knew what the agencies were concepting.

Angee Murray, Agency Access

It is hard though because some agencies have a lot of clients and you don’t know who works on what.  It leads to a mixed bag of promotions.

Deb Grisham, Freelance Art Producer

And, you never know, that automotive concept could include food.  It has happened.

I must add that I like the how email promotion and Heather’s OneEmailerAMonth idea both allow me to go deeper with my research.  Clicking through to the site from the promo needs to be fast and easy, otherwise I stop looking.  Just today I received a link that interested me but as I tried to go from the photographer’s site to the rep’s site, it was too slow.  I found myself saying, “I am counting to ten and if don’t get there, I am closing the window.”  I closed the window.  I had to keep moving.

I find that it is very stimulating to see lots of different options.  And, Heather’s OneEmailerAMonth is helpful for this.  And, just like the rest of us, I don’t have time to look at everything as it comes in.  Instead of put them in a promo folder, which I then separate out in the various categories and then ultimately copy and paste all of these links in an excel document that now has 53 tabs!  I end up with subcategories and it is kind of crazy.  I wish there was an easier way for us to search one main database but their isn’t and we have to build our own.  The bottom line is that I do like these e-promos and I say keep them coming.

Kate Chase, Brite Productions

Do you use excel or word for your database?

Deb Grisham, Freelance Art Producer

I use excel as my main database when I am offline because if you are offline you can’t get to anything.  What I do now, as I saw things I copy and paste to the excel document but then go fill it in later. 

So I file into folders, then go back to do research on links and add to my excel document.  I even add keywords so I can search later.  And because of this it is helpful if the subject line says what it is sharing; automotive, food, lifestyle etc.

Kate Chase, Brite Productions

So reviewing email blasts is work for you?

Deb Grisham, Freelance Art Producer

Yes, it is work.  But I think it is easier than going through all of the promos and filing them away.  I loved how the creatives would come over and pour through my buckets and I miss how if you got a promo you could stick it on your door and that stimulated conversation.

Lisa Matthews, Team One

I agree.  When I was at Saatchi & Saatchi with Angee, my entire wall and door would be pinned-up. Whether it was relevant or not, if I liked the image I would pin it up.  It was my gallery.  When creatives would come in, it would start a conversation, “Even though they are tabletop, do you think they could do this?”  It served as inspiration and a starting off point for a conversation with a photographer.

Deb Grisham, Freelance Art Producer

The advantage of having websites now is that we go straight into whether or not the photographer is relevant. 

The only downside is that what we look at, so can our clients.  Sometimes there are images that are not appropriate for the client to see and would turn them off to the project.  They do research on their own now.  They start looking for photographers on their own.  And sometimes they get turned off by what they see on someone’s Facebook page. 

Rob Beckon, Freelance Art Producer

I love getting email blasts.  I never feel like I get too many (maybe I will be sorry I said that!).  It gets me interested to go to that photographer’s website.  I can’t just sell the email blast. I have to sell the website, the whole photographer.

I do the same thing, I start making a list and I almost always go back to the rep’s site.  So that email blast just takes me back to the site or the reps’s site that I need to research.

Jennifer Perlmutter, Agency Access

What about the un-repped photographer?

Rob Beckon, Freelance Art Producer

They are a little harder to keep track of because they are harder to remember.  I remember images but it is harder to remember names.  But I like meeting new people so then they end up in my calendar and I can refer back to the entry to see their name. 

Heather Elder, Heather Elder Represents

So, if you have done the work and you have a photographer already on your excel sheet list, does the new blast then just serve as a reminder for you?

Rob Beckon, Freelance Art Producer

If I am not looking for something particular when that email comes in, I may just make sure their site is bookmarked.

Andrea Rosenfeld, David & Goliath

I find it most helpful to organize by bookmarks rather than in a separate document.  That way when I have a project, I can go right to the bookmark.

I try to keep them as general as possible.  Otherwise you get a ton of subcategories.  I also put the same photographer in different bookmark folders if they can do more than one thing.

In regards to relevancy, I try to stay up to speed with all the photography I can because I never know what the concept will be and I need to be prepared.  All of the categories are relevant.

Jessica Mirolla, Garage Team Mazda

I work for Mazda but we shoot all sorts of photography besides automotive and I need to be knowledgeable as well.

Thanks for reading The Appetizer. We hope this has been of value. Tune in on Thursday, February 11th for our second installment where we’ll discuss how many emailers do buyers really receive on a daily basis, how freelancers view emailers and what makes a good subject line.

And to see previous Community Tables posts from Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York City, Chicago and Minneapolis, link here.

Image Credit and thanks to:  Sara Tollefson Photography and Digital Fusion.

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