According to Publicis France general director Valerie Henaff, advertisers were slower to realize the advantages of photography than they were for cinema. From the moment the Lumière brothers created the first promotional film in 1897 for Sunlight soap, they understood cinema’s strength; photography, on the other hand, only began appearing regularly in ads from 1930.
From the point on, advertisers exploited photography’s potential to instill desires, visually “mediating” between brands and people. Even today, advertisers draw most of their photographic inspiration — and most of their photographers of choice — from photos in women’s magazines or in the luxury sector, with hopes to increase the attractiveness of their products. We’ve transitioned from illustrative imagery, to imagery that “performs”, says Henaff.
But in the turn of the last century, digital democratized both the shooting and sharing of images. Photography is an integral part of digital communication modes: the gatekeeper to sharing and exchange. Communications strategies are replacing single messages, experiences are replacing examples, and building relationships are winning over one-time transactions. The terms of engagement between advertisers and users are now 24/7, not just “360°”, as the marketing speak goes.
Burberry provided a powerful example of this when it shared the history of the trenchcoat through a dedicated subsite, animated by professional photographers from around the world. Their photos — a kaleidoscope of global perspectives — were unified in a single digital gallery, available for anyone to find and appreciate.
Henaff concluded by pointing to two key challenges and opportunities for the photography industry: big data and augmented photography, which both demand that viewers be free to personalize the images they see.
After double-majoring in psychology and sociology & marketing, Henaff began her career as a strategic planner at French agency Callegari Berville. In 1996 she joined agency BDDP as a strategic planner before rapidly becoming a director. Two years later, she co-led the creation of BDDP&Fils alongside Olivier Altmann.
In 2004, Henaff joined TBWA Paris as director of strategic planning of Tequila and agency.com. For three years she led the SNCF account and its commercial brands (TGV, Corail Téoz, and TER). She joined Publicis Conseil in 2007 as general director in charge of strategy and development, where she manages accounts like Renault, Orange and Nestlé.