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The ‘Exposure’ Currency

” Please design it for me and i’ll give you exposure.”

” I have 100k followers. I’ll give you exposure”

These are some of the statements a lot of clients make to designers in Ghana. In a lot of creative groups, we find a lot of designers discussing and lamenting over why clients treat creatives like that. In a world where a lot of people are looking for fame on social media, some creatives easily jump on these statements.

For creatives who are now starting out and think it’s usually a good opportunity, I have a post on that you should check out. Even though I’ve had my fair share of these remarks and I still do get them from time to time, in putting together this blog post, I tried to analyse the situation from a neutral point of view. Hence, I created a very simple scenario to establish what exposure is, it’s relevance and why a lot of designers fall for it.

So I want to organise an event that promises to fill an auditorium that has a capacity of 5000 people. I send Company A a sponsorship proposal and they agree to sponsor and in return brand the event with their colours, have their logo on your fliers, brochure and other print materials and give you some live presenter mentions. In this case, all that Company A wants is exposure in exchange for the sponsorship package they’re giving you. They’re paying you to expose their brand to the 5000 people coming for the event. They’re probably not going to get direct sales from it. Most of the time, it’s for brand awareness – to keep their brand in the minds of their customers and to expose it to potential clients. So exposure is very good.

In recent times where power has been put in the hands of Social Media ‘Influencers’, brands pay these influencers and sometimes celebrities (who mostly have large following) to endorse their products at a cost. Like you see your favourite celeb post a photo of them wearing a Gucci belt and you go crazy over it and you want to buy one because you love them and want to be like them. A lot of brands ride on this and it is undeniably very good value when promoting your products via Social Media. So most of these influencers feel their number of followers can be converted to money and they’re not entirely wrong.

However, all these are not reasons enough for people to decide to pay you with ‘exposure’ because this is your work! When you work, you get paid with money. I bet none of those people who want to pay with exposure work for same. Most of the time, it’s not even realistic. A very active influencer with over 20k gets in touch that she wants some creative works done for an event he’s organising. You give him your quote and then he tells you, ” I have 20k followers. I’ll mention you and you’ll get jobs.” The truth of the matter is that, out of the 20k followers, only about 2k will see it because of the algorithm these platforms use to get you to pay for more reach. Out of the 2k that would see and like, it’s just about 10 of them who would probably be looking for a designer and those 10 people will check whether your design is good or not before they’ll probably get in touch and it wouldn’t have anything to do with who posted it. As a matter of fact, if this client still paid you for the design and the design you produced is great, he’ll still pay you and get people asking him who did the designs and you’ll still get true and original referrals.

The whole point of this post is this, anyone who comes to you to ask for free creative jobs when they know it’s your work, doesn’t respect you. And you should never work for people who don’t respect you or your job. Even though we all have projects we decide to work on for free from time to time probably because of what we’re looking to get in return or the kind of collaboration it is, as creatives, we all need to start saying no to people who don’t want to pay us for our work and it must be a collective decision. If you’re ever going to consider any offer like this, do a critical analysis. Is that what your business needs right now? Let the client be very specific about the metrics they’re offering you; the reach you’re getting and any other metrics you want to measure and then put it in a contract for clients to sign.

If just a few of us stand up against this while others do it just go ahead and do it, in the end, we will all suffer.

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