The most inspiring thing on the Internets today (for photographers and marketers) is this used car ad for a guy’s ’96 Suzuki Vitara!
What on Earth does this owner-made #BuyMyVitara car ad have to teach us as photographers and business owners? After all, there’s a lot of epic photo stuff going around today, not least of which is a wedding shoot on freakin’ Mt. Everest! Yes, the photos by photographer Charleton Churchill are worth seeing and definitely more directly related to our craft.
So why the car ad? First, just watch it. You’ll begin to understand…
It isn’t the car ad’s incredible visual impact we need to learn from. (The epic Everest shoot has impact, too. But we as artists are often so distracted by the visual, we miss the bigger picture!)
It also isn’t that this ad is completely fresh in concept. It isn’t. Google it, and you’ll find similar ads for old cars that tech geeks with used cars created in the past — all of them parodies of tired old techniques used in countless commercial car ads already. (This now famous 2013 used car ad by a guy named Luke Aker, though less visual effects-heavy, is probably my favorite — and even prompted Nissan to purchase Luke’s car and restore it for this clever response ad.)
If you think about it, even the “Jurassic Park” segment in this new ad is unoriginal, right? We saw that trick used by a wedding photographer in this photo that once went viral. It’s since been re-done way too many times at countless weddings since. (Show of hands: Who of you were asked to re-create this shot for your clients after the original went viral? Likely many of you!)
So what special value does this ad hold?
Since this video went viral, most online commentators have wrongly focused their discussions on how quickly this ad will help to sell the used car. Or they’ve guessed at how much higher the perceived value of the car might rise due to the fact that it played the “hero” in this ad’s many imaginary scenarios. Thousands of commenters on this posts are missing the point, and I think you know why!
Let me ask you: Do you think this guy really needed to go through this much trouble and work to sell his old Suzuki? That he has somehow increased the old vehicle’s perceived value so much that he can now sell it for $1m, because he supposedly made the car “famous?” No, absolutely not!
Who Is This Guy?
The seller, a man named Eugene Romanovsky, actually did NOT create this ad to sell his car. He created it to PROMOTE HIMSELF and his company Gravity (a Tel Aviv-based visual effects company where he is Creative Director). Therein lies the ad’s genius. Impactful marketing happens when we sell ourselves, rather than selling an item or service.
Romanovsky knew better than to buy a lot of Facebook ads for Gravity, ads that could have said, “hey, we have a really talented team here in Tel Aviv. If you need visual effects, hire us!” Instead, he invested his efforts in telling a simple and personal story that resonates (I’m selling my used car), and he didn’t even mention his company. He didn’t need to.
This video was a man’s personal project — a project with the dual purpose: 1. to grow his audience, and 2. to create credibility for himself and his company (which you probably didn’t know anything about before, but certainly do now). Credibility comes when you don’t feel the need to talk about yourself, but you make yourself easy to find.
Yes, he will sell his Suzuki eventually for a reasonable rate. But more importantly, his resume will forever identify him as the maker of a well known viral ad. If his relatively small effects studio had trouble competing for contracts from big companies before, he shall struggle no longer. The strategy worked! And when done strategically, it always works…
Do As He Does!
How do we — as photographers and business owners who sell not used cars but rather photography services — apply this?
Here’s how! Stop focusing too much energy on creating the “best” images. I’m not saying we shouldn’t continue to be passionate about our craft as artists or that we should stop improving. Continue to push yourself artistically, yes! But don’t neglect the more important practices that allow creative businesses to flourish.. even while the businesses of some of the greatest photographers I’ve known sadly fail. Find balance!
Balance comes when you realize time-tested, scientifically proven marketing practices are truly responsible for your success. These “best practices” are not rocket science. You can learn them and put them into practice. Then you’ll be free… free from the false belief that you now need to top the Everest bridal shoot in order to compete in our industry. The false belief that you can’t charge the living wage you deserve for your work unless you’re “better” than the best. Beliefs like that will paralyze you. And you need to get out there and “do!”
At some point, Romanovsky decided something like, “I’m not going to sit in another waiting room at a big ad corporation and wait my turn to try and convince the boss that ‘I can do work better than the other people you just interviewed.’ No, the ‘I’m best’ line is what everyone is saying. It’s unoriginal and ineffective! Instead I’m going to deliver a different message:
1. First, I am going to introduce myself as a relatable human being, not just another ‘worker bee.’ Counter-intuitively, it will be more effective to tell people that I am a seller of used cars than it is to tell them I’m an expert special effects director; and
2. Second, I will show that I don’t just talk. I do!”
Photographers, never again sit in the “waiting room” waving your little that says, “hire me because I can take really pretty pictures.” As photographers, we feel the pressure of a job interview every time we sit down to a consultation with a potential client. It’s constantly nerve-racking, and we never feel the peace of job security. We’re constantly running out of work! But we don’t realize our style of advertising screams DESPERATION — the very opposite of the confidence we need to exude in order to build the credibility that sells.
4 All-Important Questions to Lift Your Marketing Game!
What if, instead of telling clients, “I can take better pictures than everyone else,” we said confidently, “this is who I am. I am all about X”?
For Eileen and me, our “X” factor is the fact that we talk about and encourage our clients in their young marriages more than we talk about photography itself. We also are about personal projects for charity, particularly our ongoing work in Guatemala — clients know that working with us means being part of something greater than pretty pictures, which anyone can create but which don’t really mean that much. If the potential client shares our values and our way of thinking, the booking is 100% assured. If they don’t, all the better! They will be free to find a photographer who they better identify with, and we will be free to work only with clients whom we deeply enjoy and connect with on a deeper level!
Take the time to ask yourself these 4 all-important questions, and write down your answers. It will require some soul-searching. But be sure to keep your answers as a guide for all your future studio marketing:
1. Who are you?
2. What do you care about, or what makes you relatable?
3. How will you start DOING — living out your values and tackling the projects that are meaningful to you?
4. How will you start communicating WHO YOU ARE (instead of “what you do”) to clients?
I know everyone here would love to hear what you are thinking as we process through this. Comment below, and let’s work through it together to improve our businesses and balance our lives!..
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