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The past present and future glories of Shutterstock - #BehindTheBrand

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Shutterstock is a name that has slowly but surely become almost as ubiquitous as Google and Wikipedia. The fact it's managed to do so in under 20 years is a testament to not only the flexibility of the platform, but the power of the brand.

In our latest sneak peek behind the brand, we caught up with a relatively fresh face to the Shutterstock empire, Global Chief Revenue Officer Jamie Elden. While he has only been with the company for just over a year, Jamie has been working and producing in the media & entertainment industry for over 15 years, developing programming for multiple networks, A&E, History, BBC, FOX, HULU and Amazon, to name but a few.

Today, he leads Shutterstock's Global Enterprise Sales and Revenue teams, Editorial, as well as Shutterstock Studios. He also oversees over 350+ employees globally, who service agencies, brands, and the entertainment industry, so he's pretty well placed to take us behind the velvet curtain of Shutterstock - the brand, the myth, the legend.

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Jamie Elden, Global Chief Revenue Officer at Shutterstock

How was your brand born and what does it do?

Shutterstock was born in 2003 when our founder and now executive chairman, Jon Oringer, set out to introduce a subscription model to the stock photography industry. At the time, the only option to purchase stock images was to pay per image and you had to know where you wanted to use the image, for how long, in what countries, in what formats, etc. It was complex and expensive.

Jon started Shutterstock with 30,000 of his own images and $10,000 to attract the first customers. He understood Shutterstock could only be successful if the marketplace had the networked effect from both buyers and sellers. From there, we opened up the platform and invited any photographer, videographer, musician, artist or designer to upload and sell their own images. In fact, in 2019, we proudly paid out a billion dollars to our contributor community. 

That definition has changed a lot over the years, as we have adapted and grown as a brand in line with our audience needs. 

We find ourselves now as a creative platform and partner, which offers full support to the creative industry. No matter how big or small a project is, I’m confident Shutterstock is able to support it. Creatives come to us for high-quality content, yes, but we also have the tools to be able to support brands, businesses, and media companies at every stage of a project or campaign. 

What is one unique aspect of your brand?

As we’ve mentioned, we don’t just offer a service; we are a creative partner

We are uniquely positioned through our immense community of over 1.6 million global contributors to tap into our vast network of creatives and assign them to a project. This enables us to partner with brands and agencies, no matter where they’re based or where in the world they need content from, as our network can capture localised, branded content.

The combination of our in-house creative team, from production directors to creative directors, and our contributor community establishes Shutterstock as a powerful partner to our clients to create authentic, bespoke, high quality and turnkey content. 

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Can you describe your brand’s personality in one sentence?

At Shutterstock we think creatively, differently, and big; we pride ourselves on producing industry disrupting work that engages and resonates with audiences globally. 

What was the biggest challenge for the growth of your brand?

The biggest misconception of Shutterstock is that we are purely a stock image provider. Yes, we have millions of images and video clips on our platform, but we provide so much more than this for the industry as a creative partner.

We’ve experienced amazing growth as we have innovated our services beyond stock, recently launching Shutterstock Studios, a global 360 production services division helping brands and agencies meet their current needs of more custom content to engage their clients on a global scale. Complementary to Shutterstock Studios, it has been key to emerge into other areas, such as 3D, AR, VR and AI music, with the acquisitions of TurboSquid and Amper Music.

Which was the first huge success that you can remember?

We are proud of how we quickly pivoted in response to the global pandemic back in 2020. Our CEO, Stan Pavlovsky, was appointed into his new role as the whole business transitioned to working from home. Last year was a critical point in the company’s history as we transformed the business into a trusted, creative partner to the world’s brands, agencies, production companies and media. The pandemic has presented new challenges for creative communication, and therefore has been an equally pivotal time for our clients who have needed turnkey solutions. 

To help combat these challenges, we shifted our focus to help clients communicate with their customers differently. We saw an increased volume of inquiries about what types of services we are providing, especially in relation to production and the execution of projects that were impacted due to lockdown restrictions. Jetting off to a tropical location to capture an idyllic sunset just isn’t as feasible as it once was. Even shooting in your own city comes with a unique set of challenges.

As a result, we launched Shutterstock Studios, a remote creative solution designed to help companies and agencies meet growing content demands and navigate the ever-evolving path to production. The launch of Studios and the way the business strategy adapted to tackle the challenges faced has been a huge success for the business, and is partly why we’ve had such an exciting and fruitful last year where we exceeded revenue expectations and published record earnings. 

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What’s the biggest opportunity for you and your brand in the next year?

We’re excited about many aspects as we move further into 2021. It’s been incredible to watch how the company has thrived as we have launched new offerings for our clients over the last year, so the next twelve months are really about establishing these partnerships and ensuring we continually drive exceptional results for our customers globally.

We are increasing our share in the creative workflow space with our clients globally, enabling them to access all of our platform services through their preferred workflow platform (for example, Microsoft and Wordpress). 

We’re really excited to have one of the largest archives in the world, The Vault, which contains untold stories yet to be uncovered and publicised. We are partnering globally with networks, producers, documentary filmmakers, and publishers to enable historical brand storytelling opportunities across multiple verticals, including the Royals, politics, fashion, music and culture.

We have some very exciting announcements in the pipeline, so watch this space! April is going to be a momentous month for us.

Do you work with an in-house creative team, an agency or both?

We have our own in-house creative team, situated globally to support our clients. The teams are skilled across a full creative spectrum from pre to post production, animation, 3D, AR and VR, 360, 4K, and 8K to meet the ever changing needs of our clients. This also brings huge cost savings and efficiencies to our clients globally.

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What do you look for in the creatives you work with?

I think the key to success in creativity, whether you are working in-house or outsourcing talent, is diversity, authenticity and locality. Shutterstock is continually expanding our creator network, looking at areas of specialty, globally different skill sets, perspectives, backgrounds and cultures, to meet the ever changing landscape.  

That’s why we launched our 2021 Create Fund on International Women’s Day earlier this month. We created the initiative with the aim of filling content gaps, further diversifying our content library and the artists that contribute to our network. This specific grant was established to celebrate and embolden female and non-binary artists' diverse perspectives by highlighting their visual stories, giving them a platform to provide a glimpse into their world as they portray it through their art.

Authentic storytelling is incredibly important to our industry; it is achieved through using content that truly reflects an individual's experiences and our society. Through this initiative, we hope to give a platform to talented creatives from around the world to tell their stories. 

What is one tip you would give to other brands looking to grow?

Over communicating and being transparent with your employees is critical to get full buy-in and trust from your staff. The function and delivery of your internal team is essential to the success of your business, and therefore the growth. One thing we’ve learnt during the switch to working from home is: you can’t just take for granted and assume people understand what you’re trying to achieve.

Not every decision is also going to be something that is always wanted by everyone, but if you’re transparent, it will help build understanding and credibility. Once your internal team is happy, it’s paramount that you constantly think about what your client wants and needs. There is no point in growing your business if you’re growing away from the demands of your clients. Always tap into your data and truly build an understanding of your business and where you need to be. 

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What is your current role about? Any ‘typical’ day?

My day starts at 8 am, going through revenue forecasts, any large strategic initiatives and partnerships in play, monitoring training and development with teams in all departments, and working with product and innovation departments who are constantly elevating the client experience globally. It’s fast-paced, fun, and extremely rewarding being surrounded by such amazing, diverse and talented people

What’s your one big hope for the future of branding?

That it will become simpler. 

Do you have any websites, books or resources you would recommend?

I’m a fan of AdAge, and I utilise LinkedIn as a resource for daily news, what’s happening in the industry, as well as news about our clients, competitors and trends. And I’m always ready for a Jack Welch book

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