Have you noticed how bad some photography is nowadays? Some of the
UK’s top household names have ads and mailers that wouldn’t have got past
a junior art buyer ten years ago. (What’s an art buyer, I hear you
I’ll make no bones about it. I’m a photographer from the good old days,
and I dream fondly of when agency messengers arrived with magic marker
layouts, beautifully presented on foamcore.
It used to cost a fortune to hire us, of course, but the premise was that
if an advertiser’s products looked better than those of the competition,
he sold more and got to charge more for them.
Today, there are thousands of photographers, so someone you paid pounds
3,000-a-day for in ’85 is now often available for half that price.
Are art buyers allowed to make the most of that?
No, they’re frequently reduced to the role of a dogsbody to a teenage
account handler who has pounds 200 to spend on a picture of a wacky
telephone, a wacky alarm clock or a pair of scissors and a wacky dotted
line. Art directors are frequently demoted to the status of layout boys,
the account man can’t tell good from bad and the client’s often reporting
to a committee of accountants anyway.
All this leads to the standing order of the day: don’t buy smarter, buy
cheaper. And the end result?
Top supermarket ads that look like a discarded pile of Polaroids. Flowers
Direct leaflets that look like a compost heap, and financial ads that look
like, er ... financial ads. Certainly nothing there to warrant a price
No wonder the retail sector’s depressed - I know I am.