Technology has accelerated the pace of online innovation changing how we communicate and engage audiences. This was keenly expressed in the topics explored at Cannes Lions last month, with AI and neuroscience highlighted as strategies for the future of creative communications. From behaviour-driven marketing to interactive media—the emphasis is on integrating algorythms and encouraging corporate and community sectors to adopt interactive technologies that speak to our digital culture.
Visual media is still a powerful language for generating impact and emotive engagement―but what we want to see, and how we use it, is changing. In this series of conversations, BEJournal looks at creative communications in the age of AI. Our first interview is with Dr Rebecca Swift, Director of Creative Planning for Getty Images. Her conversation with Inga Yandell explores imagery and its influence on culture, creating visually relevant narratives, and the responsibility of media to represent diversity, equality, and authenticity.
How is Getty Images engaging new generations through creative collaborations and innovative storytelling models?
The Gen Z audience has a greater desire for transparency in imagery. As ‘digital natives’, this demographic has grown up with the internet and as a result are much savvier to marketing than previous generations. Getty Images recognises and understands this generation’s desire for authenticity, and is a passionate champion for the realistic representation of all through imagery and is proud to be leading the visual industry in the creation and promotion of powerful, relevant imagery which celebrates diversity and authenticity in every area of life.
All the projects we are working on internally are tackling different aspects of the same need for realistic representation. An example of this would be the decision we made as a company in October of 2017 to stop accepting creative images depicting models whose body shapes have been retouched to make them look thinner — this was a first in the industry. Since then we are putting our energy into who is both in front of and behind the camera- whether that is someone who is a professional creator or someone who hasn’t had their break in the industry yet.
What percentage of imagery reflects gender equality?
As today’s creative industries are constantly changing and evolving, we aren’t able to put an exact percentage on gender equality in imagery. We are seeing more women as business leaders in advertising imagery, we are seeing more men as caregivers but it is not yet mainstream and when you analyse it across ethnicity, lifestyle, age etc, more work is needed.
What I can say for certain is that there is more imagery of women than men BUT because the commercial industry has been dominated by men, a very narrow definition of women dominates. As we have delved deeper into gender representation as a company, we have found that rather than percentages, it is the less quantifiable — the depiction of gender — that needs more attention. Both men and women are stereotyped and this is what needs to be adjusted.
How can we elevate the presence and impact of women in visual culture?
In this digital age, imagery as a communication tool is more important than ever before. The more we can get images of diverse women in the media landscape, the more quickly these concepts become normalized. And it’s not just about who is in front of the camera — the power of the female gaze behind the camera is just as vital to positive change. While we’re seeing changes in the way women are visually represented in popular culture, the closer we get to gender equality behind the lens, the more real these representations will become.
Where are you witnessing this shift and awareness?
In 2012 we began noticing the beginnings of what turned out to be a sea change in the ways women and girls were being talked about and portrayed in media. We noticed this trend was reflected in our own image sales. Our top selling image of a woman in 2007 showed a woman who looked like a perfect model, naked, covered only by a sheet, and lying in bed without very much to do. Five years later, our top selling image of a woman looked completely different. She was much more relatable, she was on a train looking out of the window at the horizon, going on a journey. And, most significantly, she was wearing clothes!
Finance brands for example have been very careful to bring diversity into their imagery in their ATL communication but when you start to analyse the more prevalent digital communications across all sectors, it starts to look less impressive.
Why is this representation vital to responsible branding?
We believe that anyone who has a role in creating, distributing and selecting imagery at any level and in any industry has the ability — and responsibility — to better represent the diverse audiences they are speaking to. At a time when imagery is the most widely spoken global language in broadcasting and branding, it has never been more important to produce and promote a visual language that is progressive and inclusive and to support diverse voices in doing so.
What is the value of showcasing women creatives in shaping the future of storytelling?
As much as we all like to think we are open-minded and objective, we are affected by unconscious biases that stem from our experiences. There are certain nuances and visual cues that some people are blind to if they haven’t experienced it themselves. Female creatives are needed in order to accurately portray the female experience — ultimately raising the standard of storytelling in visual culture at large.
Follow #BEJournal and @EarthEndeavours for more conversations from this series. And #ShowUs to learn more about Getty Images inclusive campaign for authentic and relevant media.