By: Nada Ashraf

For years now advertisers relied on stock images for their brand advertisements, and especially in social media content. We thought we had it all figured out buying copyrighted images professionally taken with perfect models, lighting, and scenes. But getting deeper in 2017, trends have started to show that stock images are becoming more and more irrelevant. And audience are favoring more brand personalized photographed images. Here are why we might be saying goodbye to stock images by the end of this year
• Lack of differentiation
As a digital advertising agency it is our duty to scan the market and keep a very close (sometimes stalkery) eye on our clients’ competitors. And on one of my market raiding sprees, that was when it hit me, we are all fishing in the same pond. Yes our talented creative associates and designers will add an extra touch to a stock image and brand it, but at the end of the day we are all repackaging the same images.

• In the moment
What we all in the digital advertising field are witnessing lately is that customers are shifting to more in the moment content. They are not interested in prerecorded content anymore, which is why the trends are drifting towards live videos and social media channels that support that. So it doesn’t come as a surprise that what target audience want to see now are images from real life events, happening in the moment. They don’t have to be perfectly photographed and edited as much as they value a brand involving them in their live moments. This explains the increased popularity of hashtags like #happeningnow and #inthemoment.
• Target audience don’t relate
Has it ever happened to you as a regular fan shown an ad on one of the social media channels, for instance of a new cosmetic brand targeting the middle east, where a gorgeous blond model with blue eyes and fair skin happily plays with her kid and the advertising brand is trying to convince you that she looks this way because she is using their dry skin cream. Advertisers need to understand that if the target audience can’t relate to your ad, you lose part of your credibility and customers won’t buy the product.

Off course hiring a photographer whenever you wish to post an image is not what we are suggesting here, especially since some small startup brands may not have the budget for it. So here are some tips that could help you when using stock images.
1. Always brand the images you buy with your company logo. And go the extra mile of developing a layout for your posts, add some shapes or colors that represent your brand identity and differentiate it.
2. Get creative with the images, turn them into a GIF, combine elements, change the background…etc. there are a lot of ways you can recreate an image.
3. Keep the target audience always in mind, appeal to them through your images try to reflect their consumer pain or goal.
4. Make sure you try out different content types, a little mix can benefit your brand and give you more insight on what is working for you. Experiment with images, videos, gifs, status updates, animation..etc.
And finally if you decide to use a photographer, make sure that you invest in a good professional one that will display your company or products the best possible way instead of backfire and hurt your brand.