October Surprise


Or how my photo of the Hood Blimp made the Official Red Sox Post-season Program

blimp_scanLord knows I waste my share of time on social media, even though I’ve never been a huge Facebook user and by most standards, tweeting 7,000 times and sharing 4,000 photos on Flickr barely qualifies me as a piker among the ranks of the social media obsessed.

Every now and then it pays off, however, as it did on the morning of Tuesday, Sept. 5. I was wasting time of Twitter when my old-school land-line phone rang just after 9 a.m. I didn’t recognize the number which displayed with a 207 area code. Despite being on the National Do Not Call Registry, I still get lots of unsolicited calls from guys willing to power wash my siding or install free home security systems. So if I don’t recognize the number, I don’t answer.

But a few minutes later, I noticed there was a voicemail. A caller named Chris left a message saying that he was with an advertising agency in Portland Maine and they were interested in purchasing for commercial use a photo that they had found on my Flickr page.

scott_brown_microThis sort of thing has happened before, but usually they shoot me an email or send me a message through Flickr. In an era of tight budgets, magazines and other publications often scour the internet for photos to illustrate stories. Usually they offer nothing more than a photo credit, like when Boston Magazine used one of my photos of newly elected Senator Scott Brown. Or when a Los Angeles Times writer asked to use my photo of a statue of St. Patrick in her St. Paddy’s Day story. Or when the Guardian of London used one of my photos to illustrate a story on restaurants with amusing names.

tisei_memorial_day10Occasionally, the publication will offer to pay something, like when Reason magazine paid $75 to use my photo of Richard Tisei for their story on libertarian-leaning politicians.

People sometimes suggest I should always insist on getting paid, but with millions of photos on the internet, the risk is high that the requestor will just say “nevermind” and choose some other photo that they can get for free. Then I don’t even get the photo credit.

When I called Chris back, he explained that he was with Garrand, an advertising firm in Portland, Maine and that one of their clients was Hood. They had found on my Flickr site a photo that I had taken earlier this summer of the Hood Blimp flying over Fenway Park. I had managed to get a shot of the blimp on the right side of the frame, and on the extreme left was the façade above and behind home plate with the words “Fenway Park.” In the middle was clear blue sky.

hood_blimp_fenwayChris noted that Hood has had a long-term business relationship with the Red Sox and they wanted to use my photo in an advertisement. He said that they wouldn’t be able to pay me much, but when he mentioned a dollar range it was several times more than I had ever been paid previously for a photo. So I tried to act like it was all in a day’s work as we settled on a fee.

It was still unclear to me exactly what kind of ad they planned to use the photo in, but after several subsequent communications with Chris, I gathered that if the Red Sox made it to the playoffs, Hood planned to run a full-page ad in the official game programs for the American League Division Series wishing the Sox well in the post-season. I was asked to keep it to myself until the ad appeared.

So when I got a chance to go to last Saturday’s Game 2 of the ALDS, I don’t know if I was more excited about the game or the prospect of seeing the ad with my photo in the program.

Once inside the park, I stopped at the first booth selling game programs and bought one for $5. On page 37 was the full-page ad with my photo of the Hood Blimp flying over Fenway Park. In white letters over the blue sky were the words, “IT LOOKS EVEN BETTER FROM UP HERE IN OCTOBER. GO SOX.” Following that was the familiar red oval Hood logo. They used Photoshop to slide the Blimp up and to the left a bit to fit the space.

And no, I didn’t get a photo credit, which is usually how it goes with advertising photos. But I did get paid.

Who says social media is a waste of time?

[This column originally appeared in the October 10, 2013 Wakefield Daily Item.]

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