Why visual storytelling is the future of digital

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In November 1995, I had a job selling ad space for tech magazines. One afternoon, the office fax machine scrolled out 12 pages worth of insertion orders from a software company I'd been pitching for two months. I did a happy-dance in my cubicle. The order confirmed that the magazine had committed to running a full page ad in every issue published in 1996. I called the client to confirm the mailing address and the creative instructions (i.e., right-reading film, emulsion-side-down, etc.) and got the further good news that the ad creative was already on its way in a FedEx pouch. The ad creative. A single photo with ad copy that would serve as the campaign's creative all year.

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I don't miss the inky mess I'd make of my hands when I had to change the cartridge on that fax machine, but those sure were simpler times in the world of advertising and publishing.

Back then, the brands on the other end of those fax machines could afford to sink significant time and resources into the production of each creative unit. Hiring a renowned photographer, a model, a team of set designers, makeup artists, art directors, and post-production editors might set them back $25,000 for a single photo for a single print ad. But given the enormous role played by that one photograph, it would likely anchor a $15-million national ad campaign across many magazines for months -- the time and dollars invested in getting it exactly right could fairly be called a rounding error. Twenty-five thousand dollars in creative development divided by $15 million in media spend is less than two-tenths of a percentage point.

While the math still works for brands advertising in glossy fashion magazines, there is trouble in paradise. Or rather, paradise has moved to the internet. If brands want to engage with consumers online (which, more and more, is where their consumers spend time), they need to compete with publishers and social media sites that refresh their bins of eye candy every few minutes. By the time they've art directed, developed, and shipped a piece of right-reading, emulsion-side-down film to a publisher, Gangnam Style has been replaced with parody videos of Gangnam Style.

The digital landscape changes fast, and pictures are a main catalyst. Netscape released the first commercially available web browser in 1994, and fewer than 15 years later Flickr housed more than 6 billion photos -- that's more than 450 times the number of photos held by the Library of Congress. In 2009 more than 2.5 billion camera-enabled devices were in the hands of would-be photogs who, in the course of a year, produced 10 percent of all photos ever taken. Instagram -- the mobile photo-sharing app that Facebook bought earlier this year for $1 billion -- measures its customer engagement in uploads-per-second. Back in the quaint old days of December 2011 -- pre-acquisition and before comScore released data showing Instagram's daily usage is now greater than Twitter's -- that engagement was 60 uploads per second. By early 2012 Facebook members were uploading more than 300 million photos every single day to the site.

"This slurry of data signals the end of the Kodak Era where we took photos on birthdays and vacations and shared them only with a small group of friends," said Bob Lisbonne, CEO of Luminate and former SVP for Netscape's browser group. "We've now entered a phase in which visual communication is supplanting the written word -- what some are calling the dawn of the 'imagesphere.'"

Source: 1000 Memories Blog