Landing Work for Dream Clients: Christian Kozowyk for Bank of America

November 9, 2016

By David Walker

PDN recently spoke with three shooters and photography brands to find out how they identified, pitched and eventually won work from “dream clients”—those who embrace and support their creative visions and pay well for their work. Here, one of those photographers, Christian Kozowyk, shares the story of landing his dream client.

Bank advertising can be corporate and stiff, but Bank of America stood out to photographer Christian Kozowyk as a bank with heart. “They seemed more community-oriented,” because of their corporate responsibility initiatives and advertising that featured everyday people, Kozowyk says. “I thought they would be a good fit for me.”

As a lifestyle photographer, Kozowyk likes to shoot genuine interactions between non-professional models. “That’s what I do best,” he says. “It’s really important to find the core of what you do” and match that to brands that will embrace it.

Over a period of several years, he got progressively bigger Bank of America (B of A) assignments, culminating with a three-week shoot two years go to build an image library for the bank’s national consumer advertising campaigns. Kozowyk did it by identifying creatives at various agencies working on B of A accounts, and building relationships with them.

He began with Boston agency Hill Holliday, which handled corporate responsibility promotions at the time. (Now, Hill Holliday handles nearly all B of A business.) “It was a perseverance thing,” Kozowyk says of his efforts to get Hill Holliday’s attention. “I was sending them work all the time.” Finally he got a meeting with art buyer Carolyn Dowd, “who saw my enthusiasm, and gave me a chance,” he says.

The first assignment was to photograph people working for various Boston community organizations sponsored by B of A. The assignment gave Kozowyk the chance to demonstrate his ability to make non-professional talent comfortable on set and shoot a lot of usable images quickly. That led to a second assignment, piggybacking on a commercial production for a TV spot. Kozowyk’s task was to shoot stills for print and web components of the campaign.

© Christian Kozowyk

After Kozowyk decided the bank would be a good fit for his work, he built relationships with creatives at agencies that handled their various accounts. “It was a perseverance thing,” he says. © Christian Kozowyk

Afterwards, he kept in touch with all the agency creatives he met on those shoots. “If you’re out of sight, you’re out of mind,” he says. He periodically sent promos to show new work. “But you don’t want to bombard them with [images],” he says, so he often just dropped personal notes to people he’d worked with, inviting them to catch up over drinks or dinner.

Meanwhile, he was knocking on doors at other B of A agencies. He found out who had the business “mostly by word of mouth, and through sites like Agency Access, Workbook and Yodelist,” he says. He visited agency websites, and kept up with their new work by following their social media feeds. He figured out who worked on the accounts and sent them promos.

That led to a third B of A assignment, through Digitas, to shoot an image library for the website of one of the bank’s non-profit partners. The site was intended to educate people about how to manage their personal finances. Kozowyk was responsible for the entire eight-day production. “It was my first opportunity to cast people for a [Bank of America] job and do things the way I thought they should be done,” he says.

Within a year, Y&R invited him in for what he thought was an informal meeting. They handled creative for some B of A consumer business at the time, and Kozowyk had been sending work to art buyers there. When he arrived for the meeting, Y&R’s executive creative director and head of accounts were there. Kozowyk learned he was up for the biggest shoot of his career.

“They told me the reason I was there was because of the [library] I’d shot for Digitas,” the photographer says, explaining that a hard drive containing that image library had been circulated among all the ad agencies doing work for B of A.

Kozowyk was suddenly making a pitch. “I just spoke from the heart about how my work was 100 percent focused on connections, and so was their new creative direction,” he says. “When you do [work] you believe in strongly and have a passion for, you can’t go wrong. You feel excited about [it], and people see that.”

He won the assignment: a three-week tour of major U.S. cities to shoot another image library for a variety of media. “It was a lot of money, and a huge production” that involved more “real people” casting, he says. In the process, he learned how to streamline his production and maintain his creative energy on a big shoot.

Since then, he’s shot a few assignments to supplement the big assignment. For instance, he did a week-long job with B of A’s Hispanic agency, Lopez Negrete Communications, to fill out the Latino demographic for the library. He’s also had assignments to shoot images for mobile advertising. And the strategy he used to reel in Bank of America has worked with other clients, including Visa and Intel. “It’s like you’re planting seeds,” he says. “It doesn’t get you work today, or tomorrow, or next month.” But with persistence and luck, the effort eventually pays off.

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