Tuesday, August 28, 2007

False Profit - A Modern Outrage

Chicago, Aug. 28 - Just when you think it's safe to get out of town (nothing ever happens the last week of August) the entire world melts down around you. With spotty Internet access to boot, it makes the blogging life that much more difficult. So I'm on vacation and one of the biggest blunders in marketing history, right behind new Coke and the 300 page iPhone invoice from AT&T, Modern Postcard, one of our most popular suppliers, offered its customers a new service...

"Modern Postcard Partners with iStockphoto.com! SAVE BIG on over 2 million, royalty-free stock images from iStockphoto. As a Modern Postcard customer, you're entitled to free images, free credits and a 10% discount on any iStockphoto credit bundle over $20. So, skip the expensive photo shoot and create direct mailers with high quality images from iStockphoto.com!"

Skip the expensive photo shoot??? Hey, wait a minute, don't you know who your customers are?????

I think it's fair to say that the bulk of Modern Postcard's customer base is made up of photographers (and illustrators) who print promotional materials specifically to sell high-end creative services... you know, expensive photo shoots! Now, Modern wants to promote us out of business!

I've been a Modern customer for years. The last project I did with them was to create a line of customized Signature Series gift cards (see sample, above right) which I was all set to expand into other, mass-marketable, imagery. Needless to say, I'm looking for another printer.

I'm not the only one. There are many, many disaffected and now former Modern Postcard customers. From what I've read through my e-mail In Box, they've received the proverbial ton of e-mails themselves, and that flood of e-mails caused them to apologize. I don't think it worked.

"Call me a cynic, but does anyone else read [their] 'apology' as ringing more than a bit hollow" asked Ken Hawkins, a photographer from Altanta? "MP doesn't distance themselves from their partnership with iStockphoto, they merely state that they've sent their latest marketing ploy to the wrong target audience. If Modern Postcard actually wants to have that strong relationship with the artistic community they crow about, they should rethink their profiteering association with microstock schemes."

Ken's note epitomizes the response from across the professional photography community. Modern Postcard got so much e-mail on this gaffe that they've, according to an unverified story on PDN's Newswire this morning, canceled their association with iStockphoto.

And to think that I almost missed all the excitement. Good thing I'm not vacationing in remote, exotic Ubetya.


EPILOGUE: This just in from ASMP National Headquarters.....

After conversations with ASMP and other associations, and due to an overwhelming negative response from ASMP members and other photographers, Modern Postcard has decided to sever their newly formed relationship with iStockphoto®. We thank Modern for responding quickly and with consideration for their important photographer client base.

Also, we thank all of you who participated in this grass roots effort.

In their press release Modern writes:

“We recognize the challenges that face professional photographers today,” states Steve Hoffman, president of Modern Postcard. “It is our intent to support the entire photographic community as well as the other businesses we serve by developing solutions that benefit both.” The company will explore appropriate solutions in conjunction with the industry, including establishing an active steering committee comprised of trade groups, photographers and other industry leadership.

Discussions have already begun with ASMP in this regard.


So, does this mean they're off the hook for their egregious behavior? I wouldn't count on it. The handwriting's on the wall, Modern Postcard cares little for their core customers. I'll bet they find another way to partner with a similar organization and next time they simply won't be so stupid as to e-mail us about it.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your information is way off and I challenge you to support it with any documentation. While photographers make up a healthy amount of Moderns customer base, they are hardly the "core." "Overwhelming" negative response? Modern received approximately 150 negative comments. Out of Moderns entire customer base, 150 is overwhelmingly small. Steve Hoffmans decision to sever the relationship with istockphoto was because of his loyalty to the photographers who are already customers. Modern made a mistake. They apologized. They took action. Get over it.

12:17 AM  
Blogger Joe P. said...

Let's look at your comment for a moment...
A) You can't challenge me because you've chosen to remain anonymous.
B) You're obviously an employee of Modern Postcard or you wouldn't have any knowledge at all about how many responses Modern actually received, so I challenge YOU to support your information with appropriate documentation.
C) According to ASMP HQ and Photo District News, the response was "overwhelming."
D) Yes, Modern made a big mistake, and that was to telegraph its true intentions via an e-mail to their largest segment of customers... photographers.
E) No business severs an well-publicized arrangement with Getty Images unless they HAVE TO, and it wasn't motivated by "loyalty." Loyalty would never allow such an arrangement to exist in the first place.
F) Modern Postcard made a second mistake: asked you to cover their butt's here, where we see through this kind of thing on a regular basis.

8:07 AM  

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