Those who enjoy talking about the Digital Disruption or Digital Divide will encounter a fine material and food for thought is this post. I decided to wait a bit after the original hoopla was already gone, regarding this amazing situation, and here’s a brief description of it all:
Earlier this year, (probably late last year), the well known fashion firm Burberry was getting ready to prepare their Spring worldwide photographic campaign. Traditionally, the most sought-after shooters are called to send their estimates for such a juicy and interesting project, since the visuals will certainly define trends in both imaging and marketing for the year.
Now, the marketing team in charge of the Burberry account came out with what they think is a genius idea, and basically, the decided to make a move that caused a lot of frustration and anger in the market, as the selection of the photographer bypassed any professional or aesthetical consideration, and the agency decided to put 16 years old Brooklyn Beckham, the son of the ultra famous Victoria and David Beckham, in charge of the campaign.
The reason for this choice was that the kid has shown some ability taking pictures in his iPhone, specially selfies, and 35 mm DSLR cameras PLUS the huge list of 6.5 million followers he has in Instagram, not to mention the additional “back up” and support of two powerful brands, the parents, and their own followers!
The strategy behind this idea is that Burberry considered that they wanted to knock doors on an already captive 6.5 million kids/consumers who are watching whatever Brooklyn publishes in his Instagram account, and if you take a look, you will find tons of selfies during his vacations, some portraits, little birds, friends, etc, etc, this is, what a 16 years old kid does with his instagram. Simple! If you locate the behind the scenes images at the Burberry Instagram account (@burberry), you may see the kid was handed a medium format camera, and it is sad to notice how he does not even know how to grab such a camera, but that did not matter, as long as someone took some pics of Brooklyn (in his iPhone, of course) “taking some shots for the campaign” with the MF camera….
Needless to say, young Brooklyn has no knowledge whatsoever on lighting, production, has never before done a fashion shooting, etc,etc, but the agency took good care of all this, by providing the best Art Directors, Fashion Stylists, Models, Assistants and Production Crew money can buy, so this kid could come up with what amounts to good photos (what in the industry is called good enough images). As a matter of fact, we have previously seen this situation has happened before, when talent like Steven Meisel and Annie Leibovitz, who don’t know anything about artificial lighting, are always working with the best lighting assistants around, but at the every least, these guys are super talented and brilliant, genius creators, and have actually committed a lifetime to their work as photographers!!
So, the question here is, are we seeing a starting trend where Instagram followers are going to replace talent for some type of campaigns??
Granted, Brooklyn Beckham, there is only one, but there are tons of sons of equally famous celebrities and millionaires and billionaires around, and you can read in the links at the end how photographers did not take this in a good manner. Those of us who are working our asses to build a presence and name in order to arrive to those levels when you are called to shoot some of those amazing clients, feel a good deal of frustration.Once again, granted, the most vocal complainers when the news came out, were shooters with the smaller number of instagram followers, although their portfolios are just the top of the line….
Months have passed, and If you check today Brooklyn’s Instagram account, you will find, again, new, regular selfies and simple images shot by a teenager, and the number of followers just keeps growing. Maybe there are some purchased followers (as most everyone seem to do in this time and era), but much certainly, the advertising and marketing geniuses see more value in those potential consumers than in the image-making creative process, involving true creators, which could drive both the sales and the brand up.
On a personal note, I think this is but one more attempt from the Advertising market to visualize millennials barely as “top consumers”, and nothing else, using one of them to reinforce the concept.
About the author: Jorge Parra is a Fashion and Advertising Photographer, based in Miami, who, among other things, is looking after getting his first (not purchased) million followers in Instagram.
You can see my work at my website at www.JorgeParra.com, but first and foremost, pls do not forget to start following me in my Instagram account, @jorgeparraphotography, just in case…