NEW YORK CITY, NY, October 30, 2015: Despite high winds and whipping rain, a nearly sold out Visual Connections New York 2015 Media Expo took place on Wednesday, October 28, attracting dozens of new exhibitors and a significant increase in the number of big budget art buyers and producers than past expos.
After four years at the Altman Building, the annual trade show for art buyers, producers, editors and sellers returned to the Metropolitan Pavilion, a larger venue that could handle more booths and increased foot traffic and had a separate floor for educational sessions.
According to Edward Leigh, Co-president of Visual Connections, the organization faced a few challenges this year, including a change in venue and a different format for the evening session. “Plus, of course, persuading buyers to venture out of the office on a wet and windy day,” said Leigh. “We were delighted to attract 24 new exhibitors this year, and a record 60 percent of new buyers attending.”
New Collaboration Brings First-Time Exhibitors
Less of a challenge and more of a win-win was a new collaboration with Workbook, the leading marketing resource for commercial photographers and illustrators. As Principal Sponsor of the event, Workbook helped attract, for the first time, artist reps to exhibit at the expo. Seven artist reps—including Anderson Hopkins, M Represents Inc, Richard Solomon Artists, Robert Bacall Reps—joined a growing number of exhibitors offering assignment and production services.
And the reviews from reps were glowing.
Ralph Mennemeyer managing partner of M Represents, a New York–based agency representing photographers, CGI artists and filmmakers said halfway through the day that the event was meeting his expectations and, he felt by the end of the day, it would go beyond. Why? “Energy out, energy in,” he said. “If you’re there and you’re seeing people, something good is going to come back. I’ve already made a couple of connections with people who I hadn’t seen in years, and I know right away that that’s going to get things rolling.”
Linda Levy, advertising sales representative for Workbook, showed no signs of disappointment when it came to the collaboration with Visual Connections. “It’s exceeding expectations,” she said. “I’ve been to many, many trade shows and there are benefits and challenges to each one, but the vibe here is terrific. People want to be here. They’re engaged with the people on the other side of the table. We have things they want, so it’s all positive. That’s almost unheard of. By contrast some of these more enormous trade shows you see a lot of zombie-like looking people trudging around, throwing things in a bag. I haven’t seen that at all here. It’s been completely the opposite.”
Networking: Real Face Time, not Facebook
Networking is often more about reconnecting than making new connections, as many exhibitors and attendees alike reiterated, and face time with people they’ve only communicated with online was a welcome change.
What hasn’t changed is the importance of networking. “The face-to-face connections to clients is always imperative for our direct sales team in the UK office,” wrote Dawn Bauer of Image Source, “so this was great time to do just that.”
Increase in Big Budget Buyers
With over 70 companies represented, 24 of which were new this year, Visual Connections represents a broad cross-section of agencies, including a strong showing for assignment and production.
Registration and attendance figures show a significant increase in the number of big budget art buyers and producers.
“It’s hugely encouraging,” said Leigh. “Twenty-seven percent of this year’s attendees spend more than $10K a year on assignment and production services.” That’s up from 22 percent in 2014.
Worth the Reward Miles and a 13-hour Flight
Exhibitors came from faraway places, including Beijing (PanoramaStock), Russia (Everypixel.com) and Argentina (Implementar Films).
Sophia Zhang of PanoramaStock flew more than 13 hours from Beijing to set up a booth to show off her stock agency’s offerings that specializes in Asian images. “We are the only Asian photo agency here,” said Zhang, “but I think there will be more next year.” The company has been around for more than ten years and want to expand their business. “This is a good place for that,” she said.
Russian Dmitry Shironosov came to New York (following business in Singapore) to get feedback from visitors on his visual search engine for microstock photography, Everypixel.com. Currently in beta, Everypixel does not use key words. It’s just a drag and drop for exact and similar matches and shows searchers how to obtain usage licenses for found images.
Educational Sessions: Knowledge is Key
Three panel discussions were scheduled throughout the day. The first was a two-hour open forum discussion about the different licensing models, pricing, shrinking budgets, large indemnities, copycat rights and the benefits (and pitfalls of social media).
For the second session, conversation focused on YouTube, pricing, key wording, fair use and Creative Commons license. Jessica Berman-Bogdan said in closing, “We’re all struggling to keep the doors open. We need more conversations and more common ground.”
What’s Happening Next?
The collaboration with Workbook will continue as Visual Connections prepares for the Chicago expo next spring. Said Visual Connections Co-president Deborah Free, “We are very excited at the prospect of growing our event to include artist reps, productions houses and hopefully more service providers. It makes sense given we are all about visual media. Workbook brings a lot to the table and are equally excited.”
As Linda Levy summed it up, “I’m thrilled. I can’t wait to do it again in Chicago in the spring.”