Most creatives are familiar with the printed illustration annuals like Directory of Illustration and Workbook that get distributed to advertising agencies and publishers. These large books showcase the work of a comprehensive collection of illustrators trying to make an impression on potential art buyers. But at upwards of $2,500 per full-page ad, is it worth it?
I ran ads in two Directory of Illustration volumes (25 & 26) and I did get a few relatively large assignments that were attributable to those ads. I only discontinued running the ads when the work coming in didn’t seem to justify the expense. Of course, any kind of marketing approach is never a guarantee. Who knows, maybe there was a $10,000 assignment right around the corner had I decided to continue with the annuals? Sales reps from the directories like to tell you that it’s a long-term commitment, and you can’t judge the effectiveness of any campaign after only one or two years. So essentially it comes down to the individual. As a single aspect of a multifaceted marketing campaign, I’m sure printed directories have been effective, and will continue to be effective, for certain artists.
So this kind of exposure can certainly reap new assignments, but I do disagree with some of the popular arguments for advertising in a printed directory, in particular the notion that artists in the annuals are somehow “more serious” about their work. Remember, these artists aren’t selected to appear in the publications, they pay to run their ads. An outlay of cash might be interpreted as a measure of professional success, but let’s face it, you can’t buy credibility. The idea that this huge book hitting the desk of an art director conveys an aura of status is passé.
All of this isn’t to say that I won’t consider running a print ad in the future. For now, I maintain various portfolios and listings of my work online, including a web-only portfolio with Workbook. I like to put myself in the buyers shoes. I ask the question “Where would I find a talented technical illustrator?” For me, and this is somewhat unique to the discipline of technical illustration, if I’m a busy art director I would be less inclined to heave a 600 page hard-cover book off the shelf and spend the next hour leafing through the various illustration styles that are completely unrelated to technical illustration. There are many fine examples of technical artwork just a few clicks away, via a simple online search and some appropriate key words. I’m not suggesting that a web presence be an artists only form of marketing (though a well-designed site is certainly critical nowadays), but one should think hard about the best way their potential audience is going to connect with them, be it via a printed directory or otherwise.
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