Posted by Andrew Marshall on Mon, Sep 23 2013

All Posts by Andrew Marshall

Time for a step change in financial services photography

Sibos is always a great opportunity for financial services comms geeks like me to pig out on trade publications. Catching up on some of them on the flight back from Dubai, I noticed a few bits of client coverage I'd missed during a hectic week, but what really struck me was the mixed quality and style of photography. Of course, financial software doesn't easily make for great photography, hence the explosion of interest in infographics (aka graphs and charts!) in our field. Publications like Global Custodian and Euromoney have long been – in addition to strong photography - at the forefront of more cutting edge use of illustrations and cartoons, as well as bolder design treatments.

It would be a boring world if Inside Reference Data or IBS looked exactly like Vanity Fair. But there's a lot of boring photography around that could fairly easily be improved ‐ with both banks/vendors and publications having to play a role. Firstly, let's consider stock head and shoulder shots of executives. There might have been some progress in the use of photos taken absurdly long ago ‐ I suspect many execs realise that an outdated photo in "on the racks" publications doesn't do anything for them when they meet prospects at a conference. But even head and shoulder shots don't need to passport‐like dull. How about more dynamic shots of execs speaking, three‐quarter profile shots that so easily make them look more engaged and authoritative? And how about deploying a variety of stock shots so we don't see an exec wearing the same tie or Hermes scarf in half a dozen Sibos publications?

Trade publications also have a role, recognising of course their limited resources for fresh, original photography. Quite often the "team of the month" type team photos ‐ taken specifically for the article ‐ are let down by a static group of people looking to camera, generally standing, often in suit jackets. It would not be difficult (and you see it sometimes) to take some less posed action shots of the team talking to each other, talking on the phone, looking at screens, or walking down the stairs or along a City of London street together.

This requires confidence and imagination from editors, photographers and in-house PRs. I'm aware as well that in many countries there's an expectation to see fairly formal photos of signing ceremonies, ribbon cuttings etc. Challenging that can be tough, especially when principals often have little time and expect to turn up for a quick photo call.

As to the multiple photos we get of black‐tied and befrocked bankers taken at awards dinners ‐ well for me a little of that can go a long way. There's a reason why image -conscious politicians try and limit press photos of them in DJs at midnight ‐ they know that outside Hollywood, this doesn't do most of us many favours! I know publications want to demonstrate the value of their award dinners, and taking pics of winners on the night is often most practical thing to do. But a team photo looking exuberant in DJs is going to be less useful to most institutions as marketing collateral than one of them in action in the daytime. And increasingly, it's marketing media coverage and awards success across all channels that really counts for most institutions.

Many publications – and increasingly banks and vendors - have taken to video in a big way. The power and naturalism of video, even if not expensively taken or edited, seems to me to raise the stakes and potentially make much photography feel a bit dull.

So these are some thoughts based on my unscientific skimming of the twenty or so publications on the racks at Sibos. Perhaps we'll look at doing a more scientific survey in Boston next year. And in the meantime, let me turn to the cobbler's shoes ‐ just when was that pic of me on Cognito's credentials deck taken??…

Marketing, Media, Photography, Sibos,
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