Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels: The State of Asia Stock Photography

“Can we buy this person to look more Asian?” While totally insensitive in any other circumstance, these are the all-too-real requests agencies and studios receive from clients struggling to find an Asian face to headline their Asian campaign.

The ivory world of advertising and marketing is slowly losing its grip here in Asia. The lines in the sand are being drawn clearly. Brands can no longer fit Western campaigns and lifestyles here and are hoping to gain the same populist traction they used to back in the day (read: 90s and early 2000s). We no longer aspire to ‘be like Mike’ or ‘keep up with the Kardashians; we thirst for connection, we aspire to be inspired by our own culture, and we long to be spoken to in a language we can understand.

The almighty Consumer stomps on their feet and brands are trying to respond in kind. Localization is no longer a buzzword, but a necessity to produce effective communication campaigns. So the big stock image houses respond: They send photographers, fix sets, and fill their libraries.

At first everything is fine, but then the internet age had a trick up its sleeve, and it was an avalanche.

Today, the average user is inundated with over 3,000 pieces of content daily across the various platforms they interact with.

Netflix, tablets, smartphones, digital TVs. Coupled with the fact that the human brain can identify and retrieve an image from memory in less than 1 second, it seriously diminishes the value, currency, uniqueness, and staying power of the content. The concept of ‘old’ has taken on a new meaning. Anything more than a week is dated. More than a month? Ancient. Couple of month? Old and irrelevant. One year? Forget this.

What does this mean? It means that consumers demand to be constantly engaged with fresh, new content. This is the reality for brands that want to stay relevant.

Personalization, localization and uniqueness are the three pillars that now hold up the pagoda of Asian content. Brands can no longer get away with the “business as usual” philosophy.

The rise of the visual market here in these lands is a response to the transformation of an industry, a transformation that is occurring most significantly in Asia, the nexus of Globalization 2.0. As the region slowly overtakes Europe and the Americas in terms of overall internet users, millennials, smartphone penetration, new technology adoption, and the rapid rise of the connected consumer, the need for visual content that speaks to the Asian perspective will never it is more pressing than it is today. Marketers and administrators who are simply lazy and resistant to change will only be left behind.

The rhetoric is simple: if an average user can create 2-3 pieces of new content per week in multiple formats, what else can a brand with far more resources?

With marketplaces connecting buyers with talent across Asia, crowdsourcing content should no longer be a problem.

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