Two Approaches to Crowdsourcing Photography for Brands

John Bell VP Enterprise Digital Marketing, Travelers

Posted on November 20th 2013

Two Approaches to Crowdsourcing Photography for Brands


There are 1.5 billion smartphones in the world.  According to Business Insider,

“The annual smartphone growth rate in 2013 is projected to be 44 percent, which is just ever-so-slightly down from 2012′s 45 percent but is still a torrid pace.”

With cameras built-in to most of these phones, that’s a lot of photographers. And with over 16 billion photos published via 3 year-old Instagram, a ton of people are getting better all the time at ‘pretty good’ photography.

We are all adopting new behaviors about capturing, publishing and sharing pictures. Brands can take advantage of this change (and should).

Empower your crowd of could-be photographers

Percolate has done quit a few smart things. I particularly like them because they are committed to design. Not ‘make-it-pretty-design’ but putting design at the heart of their products where they really listen to users and solve problems via design first, technology second. This includes their approach to image capture.


Photographer 2.0 is one of the great features in their platform for sourcing content. Simply put, it’s an app that allows a distributed group of photographers –like your employees in your marcom department – to grab images and send them to the Percolate content workflow. These images pop into a database ready for publishing via your content + community team via Facebook, Instagram, dotcom and more.

Imagine giving select people within your marcom team, the enthusiastic designer in the product design lab, the event-team, even the sales team, the simple instructions to be on the lookout for interesting visual moments. It could be behind-the-scenes at the brand film shoot, on the floor of the trade show, even a spontaneous customer testimonial. The IOS and Android app acknowledges that ‘pretty good’ and authentic photos are valuable.

You don’t need 1000 employees shooting images to make this worthwhile. 

Empower a crowd of photographers

This same idea can be broadened outside an organization to engage a world’s worth of photographers. Imagine yourself a home furnishings brand like Ikea or a property insurance company. What if you could enlist 500 photographers from 35 countries to capture images of what they consider “home?”  As part of a focused program (aka “campaign”), you could get unique content that really brought the idea of home to life via the visual images. These come from experienced photographers working in more of a journalism mode (nimble assignments).

Scoopshot is doing what is doing for infographics – providing a simple to access marketplace of photographers.

Here’s how they explain it:

“Scoopshot currently offers the media and brands unrivalled access to more than 280,000 photographers, and counting, in over 170 countries worldwide. Scoopshot's service is used by more than 60 publications globally including Metro International, WAZ Media Group, the Daily Star, De Persgroep, Ebyline, MTV3 Finland, Expressen and Hürriyet.

Scoopshot has recently launched a new web-based platform, Scoopshot Labs. The new service, published May 2013, aims to make crowdsourcing and authentic mobile photography accessible to everyone, individuals and companies alike.”

As brands adjust their ideas about where content comes from, crowdsourcing visual imagery either through a field-force of friendlies (people who know your brand like employees or agency partners) or through a world-wide, efficient marketplace deserves a section of the New Marketing playbook.


John Bell

VP Enterprise Digital Marketing, Travelers


I head up Enterprise Digital Marketing at Travelers. Just as Travelers anticipates the needs of personal and business insurance customers in an ever-changing world, we approach marketing differently. The customer journey has changed. To meet these new behaviors, we put data-driven content, digital marketing and social engagement at the heart of marketing.  


Previously, I developed, grew and ran Ogilvy’s global, social media solutions practice – Social@Ogilvy.  The world’s largest network of social media and business strategists, the team believes in the power and impact of truly integrated social media business solutions. I drove senior client engagements, the development of Ogilvy’s social planning framework, and a global training program for staff and clients, alike. Our work  combines deep disciplines like crm, public relations, advertising and shopper marketing and rooted in what drives behavior.  

I have developed and executed enterprise social media strategy for the Ford Motor Company, Nestle, IBM, Coca Cola, and DuPont - including work winning a Silver Lion at Cannes.  I launched a single brand Facebook initiative in 20+ countries, helped telcos in Australia and Greece adopt social care and marketing and consulted with consumer goods marketers in Turkey. 

Discovery Communications

Discovery Channel was one of the first media properties to really experiment with the Web. I was brought in as Creative Director to transform a single Web site into a network of 14 Web properties known as We had live, online expeditions from the field. Reporters posted stories, audio and video from Australia in search of giant spiders and from the bottom of the ocean where they explored the Titanic wreckage for the first time. All while the events were happening.  I designed and built online experiences for TLC, Animal Planet, Discovery Kids, Discovery Health, Travel Channel not to mention a host of digital TV network sites and global sites.

AT&T, Viacom & Media Circus

The first wave of innovation was Interactive Television (iTV) in 1990.  I headed up the Visual Design Studio at Downtown Digital, a joint venture between Viacom and AT&T to create the most futuristic vision of interactive television anyone could imagine. I created programming for kids, gamers, and fully interactive applications for Paramount Studios and Entertainment Tonight.  This model of set-top box delivered interactivity remains a vision for all iTV innovation.

I created the first Interactive Advertisement for American Express during that ITV trial. Then, as a founding member and Creative Director, I formed Media Circus Interactive Advertising in New York during the 1990's. We created award-winning CD-ROMs including designing the first interactive advertisement on Launch, then a CD-ROM zine, for Sony. I also designed the first I-Spy CD-ROM for Scholastic extending the brand into the electronic space and pushing the limits of what an interactive experience could be. At the same time the Internet was exploding. I designed and built complicated transaction sites for Gateway Computers and wild experiments like MTV’s Web service that connected “stringers” all across the country reporting on the music scene in their community (sound a bit like blogging? It should and the year was 1995).

Charlex, M&Co. and RGA

My early career was in television design and production. I literally grew up at Charlex, a design and production company, producing some of the most artful and innovative television commercials and pioneering the use of complex blue and green screen effects. I count Alex Weil as a huge influence as well as Tibor Kalman. Tibor ran M&Co. (and  was CD at Interview Magazine) and taught me what it really means to be a Creative Director. We produced his first moving media designs including a design prototype for Godfather III titles using a vacuuform machine. I produced complex, design-based television commercials with RGA and learned a tremendous amount from Robert Greenberg and, at that time, Executive Producer Andy Arkin.   

I graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with a Bachelor of Arts in European history and spent a lot of time at the Annenberg School of Communications.I loved Philly and worked at an innovative, post-punk restaurant - the Knave of Hearts - on South Street.  

Memberships & Affiliations

  • I served on the board as past president of the Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA)
  • I currently serve on the Advisory Panel for Social Media Today
  • I served on the advisory board to PBS Engage at
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