Interview with art-buyers
February 23, 2010
Art-buyers who work at network agencies search illustrators for advertising campaigns. We have asked art-buyers of Leo Burnett, INSTINCT, JWT, BBDO, Rodnaya Rech,Saatchi & Saatchi some questions to learn more about this profession.
Illustrator Aleksander Blosyak
Could you describe your functions in six words?
Marina Shponko: Organization, search, sales, psychology, art, pleasure.
Roman Presnyakov: Projects(1) traffic(2) and art-buying(3) in the broadest(4) sense(5) of the word(6) (excluding the prepositions).
Anna Ivannikova: Realization of agency creative projects, illustration production, photos material rights purchasing.
Tamara Leeckok: Google, Outlook, Excel, Calculator, Mobile Phone.
How did you become an art-buyer?
Ekaterina Pastukh: My love to examine pictboardures has outgrown into a trade.
Marina Shponko: At the beginning I was a photo-production assistant. Later I've become photo-production producer. And then I've received the invitation to be art-buyer in BBDO.
Roman Presnyakov: Unforgettable Jayson Romejko hired me on the post of traffic-manager. Since the agency was very small at that time I had a possibility to diversify my activities. I made everything from gluing layouts on cardboard to organization of big parties. In general I was involved in a wide range of creative services among which art buying has also found its place. Just because the agency where I worked served to the biggest advertiser in the world, I was lucky enough to receive classical art-buying experience. We worked with right procedures, correct timings and good budgets. So that's how I became an art-buyer.
Anna Ivannikova: Promotion (i got a promotion).
Elvira Krutina: By accident.
Tamara Leeckok: Actually my profession is an animator. But God works in mysterious ways.
Art-buyer Marina Shponko, agency BBDO, illustrator Natasha Savinykh
Agency or free-lancer? Why?
Roman Presnyakov: As for me it depends on two major factors: amount and the structure of art-buyer's work and complexity of an agency and client bureaucratic mechanism. Of course art-buyer has to monitor the market, understand graphic art trends and be able to find an expert for any task of art-director. However, my situation is different. I spend lots of time organizing image production and administrating projects of the agency. That's why sometimes it is easier to delegate selection of an illustration style to the illustration agency. Take for example Marina Shponko, an art-buyer of the largest Moscow advertising agency, who has one photo-shooting after another; in her case work with the agency is the only way out. Besides the risk is minimized, as the fresh illustrator found by portfolio can somehow let you down. At the same time for example Natasha Klimchuk from Bang! Bang! Studio or Olja Zhukova from Rodbaer would not just disappear in a moment. :) The question of payment and document circulation also plays a large role. I know at first-hand how the agency back-office should operate so that free-lancers receive the payments faster. But, unfortunately, it looks more like an exception. According to the civil code the agency is just an intermediary, and it's the end consumer who pays the designer. And the chain of people making these payments is so long, that sometimes its months before it reaches the illustrator! Nevertheless the Russian advertising community is rather closed and it’s easy to get information about your colleagues. It is the fact that free-lancers blacklisted some advertising agencies because they just didn't pay for months - another reason why working with illustration agencies is so convenient. It is clear - for example, we work with an art studio KS, and even though we sometimes hold back the payments, we provide them with constant stream of orders. And for this constancy studio offers convenient terms and conditions. I have forgotten those times when I would start calling every free-lancer, asking if he is available and has time to create a storyboard for my project. Moreover free-lancers still do not understand that besides their fee the agency pays assessments to the state budget, which makes it up to 50% from the estimate price. That's why if, for example, illustrator Aulov and studio KS charge the same price for the same storyboard frame, it turns out that the Aulov's storyboard is one and a half time more expensive. Free-lancers should start working as individual entrepreneurs or work within the illustration agency, that's what I think.
Anna Ivannikova: I choose an agency. If the agency recommends an illustrator it means that they’ve already worked with him. This is important. It's always dangerous inviting new people to work at a project. Though we still work with some free-lancers who are really good.
Elvira Krutina: It's difficult to say. It depends on people. Just recently I worked with a free-lancer. His attitude and quality won our hearts. The whole creative department watched him work and admired. It is a pity that his style is very original and rarely can be used for our clients. As for cooperating with an agency - certainly there is a plus. Rarely can you come across quick-witted and industrious free-lancers. At times it is difficult to find approach to them. Managers of illustrator studios know their artists like the back of their hand. I'm glad that our agency made contracts with the studios, where true professionals work. It is a great pleasure to deal with them, especially with some of them :-)
Art-buyer Anna Ibannikova, agency Leo Burnett, illustrator Stas Orlov
How do you pay fees to illustrators?
Roman Presnyakov: As I’ve already noted above, it all depends on agencies personnel: lawyers, bookkeepers, financiers, employees of client service department, and art-buyers, of course. The rights and fees are transferred in a timely and regular manner only if the performance of every person in the chain and the whole system itself is proper.
How do you search for new illustrators?
Ekaterina Pastukh: I use old contacts as well as tracing new interesting works. I always surf the internet for the specific artist for every project. Thanks to the world wide web!
Marina Shponko: I already have a base of professional illustrators I work with. Sometimes people just come to an agency and introduce themselves. I also use special web sites.
Anna Ivannikova: Agency, or the internet (which I use more seldom).
Tamara Leeckok: Sometimes my colleagues recommend me someone; sometimes I find them on the internet. At times it is them who find me.
Art-buyer Roman Presnyakov, agency JWT, illustrator Evgeny Tonkonogiy
Photographs or illustrators? Why?
Ekaterina Pastukh: Both photographers and illustrators! And sometimes both for the same project. I think that works where illustration is combined with photography have special charm and attraction.
Marina Shponko: It is more interesting with photographers :-) Sorry... To me they are closer and more understandable. Illustrators are mysterious people. By the way I am very glad that there are people who understand them and speak with them the same language.
Roman Presnyakov: Art plan, terms, means. With an illustration it’s much easier and faster than organizing a photo-shooting, though guidelines of many brands I work with do not accept illustrations as key images.
Elvira Krutina: Usually when it comes to working with a photographer, illustrator becomes also needed for some help. Though illustrations are becoming more widespread in advertising.
Do artists often refuse to work in the middle of the process? Why? How do you find the way in such situations?
Roman Presnyakov: Well, it doesn’t really happen, God is merciful). But once there was a situation, when we had to create characters for a client. Fortunately, the client required different variants from different illustrators. I have found some interesting artists on free-lance.ru. Two of them appeared to be really quick, but the third one always had some “circumstances”. Moreover he did not have enough honesty to estimate the situation adequately and just quit in time. The terms were put off three times and work wasn’t done. Fortunately, I have found a substitute, and shift of terms was not critical (by the way, free-lancer I found the last minute has won the tender). So, I have written a claim on the profile of that blundered free-lancer. I did not expect, but this internet resource appeared to be very authoritative. After a week this free-lancer (who was very aggressive at the beginning) was making apologies and begging to remove the claim. It turns out that the reputation on free-lance.ru is a big thing! Another time an illustrator refused to continue his work because of an inadequate behavior of the client. The client had a very small budget and asked me to find something inexpensive. I have asked a friend of mine to help for a nominal prize. So he worked hard, receiving one comment after another. On the fourth round, during presentation to the client, he has just flown off the handle. When brand-manager’s criticism became absolutely biased the artist declared: "Hey, you are just nagging!" Well, he left, and I remained the only responsible for the rest of the project. Deadline was implacable. The agency has already subscribed the documents. We hardly got out of a scrape.
Anna Ivannikova: Sometimes it happened because of critical deadlines, or there were complexities during work - misunderstandings. It was possible to smooth over the conflicts, to compromise. In the end we handed in all projects.
Tamara Leeckok: Once I’ve given a project to one very talented illustrator. He started working with eagerness. After making first illustration he decided to take a cigarette. He smoked for a long time… For five days. He broke all deadlines. So we had to entice him, take him to our office, supply with all necessities (paper, pencils, food and drink) and “hold him in custody” until he finished his work. It’s sad and funny at the same time.
Art-buyer Anna Ivannikova, agency Leo Burnett, illustrator Natasha Savinykh
Which illustrators, both Russian and foreign, do you like the most?
Ekaterina Pastukh: Speaking about work, it depends on a task. But personally I like, for example, Sabine Pieper very much.
Marina Shponko: From Russian illustrators I like Maxim Pokalev.
Roman Presnyakov: Choosing from compatriots, I can tell that I am a great fan of Stas Orlov. In livejournal I’m also signed on blogs of Aleksandr Blosyak, Victor Melamedov andEvgeny Kiselev. They are posting a lot of new interesting works. I also usually look throughFeodor Sumkin's works with interest. His creative art breaks the boundaries of illustration. They are very typographic. I had luck working with him once. Later we got acquainted when I visited him in Amsterdam. I also admire Ilya Trefilov's style. I have one of his key-visuals hanging on my wall. It’s a sketch of “reconsidered” Vasnetsov’s Alyonushka. The client could not accept it).
From foreign experts I love Brazilian Adhemas Batista, , whose works I tried to sell for one big illustrative project with a cigarette company. Unfortunately the project wasn’t launched at all. I admire Adhemas Batista’s shaking colors, excellent art taste, extraordinary productiveness and very accurate professional approach.
. Leaving aside advertising, I can note Rachel Goodyear and Jeremy Enecio with their infernal drawings, and dead monkeys by Kirsty Whiten.
In opposition to all that “carrion”, I have to mention cheerful stylistics of Jurjen Bosklopper, an artist from Netherlands, the country, which is considered to be a design winning. His works balance between an illustration and graphic design. I can list s lot of good artists, but, perhaps, I will stop here.
Anna Ivannikova: I like Tatsuro Kiuchi's, the Japanese illutrator.
Elvira Krutina: My careful attention is attracted to Evgeny Parfenov, Iv Orlov, Sonya Elovikova, Aleksandra Marinina, Evgeny Kiselev, Jerico Santander, Si Scott, Cristiano Siqueira, Jared Nickerson, Andrey Gordeev.
Art-buyer Marina Shponko, agency BBDO, illustration Sergey Aleynikov
What does Russian advertising market lack?
Ekaterina Pastukh: As I consider myself to be a small part of Russian advertising market, it is hard be objective. Besides every business has its special feature. But probably the majority of us is not experienced enough. The more we work, the more we study, and therefore we can do more things.
Marina Shponko: Easiness, aesthetics, creativity.
Anna Ivannikova: We are fine! But I’d love to have more projects with illustration. In Europe it’s really widespread.
Elvira Krutina: New discoveries of great illustrators in the internet :-)
Tamara Leeckok: Ability to resist focus groups.
Do you influence art director's choice?
Ekaterina Pastukh: When art director makes a choice, the question on influence is irrelevant. I try to choose executors who can realize an idea. I pick several people and an art director defines the most suitable one. Usually I like all of those I choose.
Marina Shponko: Never... They know what they want :-)
Roman Presnyakov: It depends on art director’s suggestibility level. To tell the truth, I was always lucky with my colleagues from creative department. Due to our teamwork I could form and transform my own ideas and preferences in advertising. Of course I express my opinions, but as I represent creative services department, my goal is to satisfy an art director, to find a person, who can realize his idea.
Anna Ivannikova: A bit.
Elvira Krutina: Only if my arguments are not only about terms and money.
Tamara Leeckok: We listen to each other and work in collaboration.
Art-buyer Ekaterina Pastukh, agency Saatchi & Saatchi, illustrator Victor Platonov
Sometimes because the bureaucratic machine client uses pictures, before the rights are transfered. What can be done to prevent this?
Ekaterina Pastukh: For me this is just another problem, and there’s no such a problem that can’t be solved. But sometimes problems are being solved for too long. It is important that everyone in the chain (client-agency-production-executor) remembers that this is not the last project they do together.
Marina Shponko: We sign documents before all advertisements hang in a city. This is an iron rule. But if we don't, it is an exception. For us it is a force majeure. Such situation is a rarity.
Tamara Leeckok: Eradicate bureaucracy together! :-)
If it is necessary to choose between a talent and terms, what do you usually choose?
Ekaterina Pastukh: We always have to choose a variant when the executor is talented and will wake it in time.
Marina Shponko: We choose talent. Sometimes the deadline can be changed. We try not to save money on quality.
Roman Presnyakov: Professionalism is all about compromising, but quality is certainly above terms. Art-buyer, as any producer, has no right to offer alternative that breaks the terms of manufacture and placing. But with media and prints producers we can usually strike a bargain on a short delay.
Anna Ivannikova: We are very exacting to the executors. We always need an interesting result of a good quality. That's why talent is more important for us. If it is necessary it’s always possible to agree on the timings, to compromise.
Elvira Krutina: Work of a talent, executed in time. :-)
Tamara Leeckok: Usually the task for an art-buyer stands like that: “beautiful and in time!” There is no need to choose.
Art-buyer Marina Shponko, agency BBDO, illustrator Evgeny Katin
How many links it appears to be in a chain between the client and an executor? How often do you face a problem of misunderstanding?
Ekaterina Pastukh: Nevertheless I would break this chain on two parts: "client - art director" and "art director - executor". We face a problem of misunderstanding really often even in the short chain "art director - executor".
Marina Shponko: We try to make only one link. Art director collects the opinion of the client and brings it to the executor in clear words.
Anna Ivannikova: No, not really often. The most important is knowing what you want to get and defining details before the project starts. All that comes with experience. The only link is a manager.
Tamara Leeckok: It is not a lot of links, but, unfortunately, they sometimes don’t work harmoniously.
How many letters in a week (on average) do you get from illustrators and photographers, who search cooperation? Do you answer to all letters?
Ekaterina Pastukh: I get a lot of them and try answering to all of them, of course looking through their works first.
Marina Shponko: Not so many. Most of the illustrators and photographers are already known. I get up to ten letters in a month. Yes, we answer everyone.
Roman Presnyakov: Few. I try to answer to all questions.
Anna Ivannikova: I also try to answer to all questions. Yes, letters do come, but how often - I can’t tell.
Art-buyer Anna Ivannikova, agency Leo Burnett, illustrator Evgeny Tonkonogy
Do you like working with venerable artists and photographers or the beginners?
Ekaterina Pastukh: It depends on a project, tasks and a character of the person.
Marina Shponko: If a person is talented it is not important if he is a beginner or not. It is always nice working with such people.
Anna Ivannikova: It is more interesting with venerable, of course. They are more professional. But we are always open to new talents.
Tamara Leeckok: I like working with talented and understanding people.
Give some advice to the beginning art-buyer.
Marina Shponko: Treat people how you would like to be treated.
Anna Ivannikova: Enthusiasm and patience!
Tamara Leeckok: Do not betray yourself and your art-director!
Art-buyer Elvira Krutina, agency Rodnaya Rech, illustrator Evgeny Katin
Do you feel stressed at work, and if yes, how do you struggle against it?
Ekaterina Pastukh: It happens, but not really often. I do not struggle against it, because it disappears when the project is closed.
Marina Shponko: I don't feel “stress”. I’d call it “load”. I practice yoga to get rid of it. By the way, I recommend yoga to everyone :-)
Tamara Leeckok: I do not struggle at all. It’s useless. Stress disappears when I come back home to my child and a husband.
Roman Presnyakov: Hassle is what I like about my job in advertising. Liveliness and variety of projects give me energy.