Interview with Stan Pavlovsky, CEO at Shutterstock

How do you feel about having such an important job in such a different moment in the industry? What are the real challenges?

I got my role as CEO of Shutterstock on the 1st of April, after the entire company had already been working remotely for about 2 weeks. Of course, taking on my first CEO role under these conditions was beyond my imagination, but as I look back on my first 30 days leading the company from home, I’m extremely proud of our potential and ability as a team that made us adjust to this new environment.

My top priority is always to make sure that our employees are engaged in a safe and healthy environment. As we started settling into working from home, the first thing that came to my mind was consistent and effective communication. Fortunately, we have technology and tools like strong internet connections, instant messaging platforms and video conferencing technology that have helped us stay connected and productive during this period. In fact, I have a daily stand-up with my leadership team. We’ve also created few new channels where employees can interact with each other and exchange helpful tips. Some of our channels also talk about mental health and wellness, work from home setup, and “Shuttertots” to show what it’s like to share an office with your children.

From a business point of view, we’ve shifted our focus to help clients interact with customers differently. We’re uniquely positioned through our large community of contributors and platform in capturing touching and impactful visual stories to project the global nature of the crisis that we are in.

Have image searches increased due to the pandemic and social distancing?

Now that people are settled into the new work-from-home environment, they’re getting back to their pending projects or starting new ones. With the restrictions regarding social distancing, we can see many companies have created an online presence for the first time, while others are increasing their digital communication efforts to stay connected with their customers. Traffic to our site has escalated remarkably during this period because brands and businesses are opting visual ways to interact with their audiences.

Globally, we are witnessing an increased number of inquiries about the types of services we are providing, as creatives are having to pivot from their traditional old ways of production to execute projects. The demand for creative content has increased enormously in the market because people have quickly adjusted to working remotely and are finding ways to communicate their story using authentic and relevant images, video and music.

Particularly taking about images, we have certainly seen an increase in demand for virus and scientific imagery, obviously as publications and customers are trying to find ways to visualize the abstract concept of the virus. According to our data, worldwide searches for phrases such as virus, infected, quarantine, COVID-19 and other related terms on Shutterstock.com were up 97% in January 2020, 255% in February 2020, and 1,920% in March in comparison to December 2019.

Our COVID-19 resource hub outlines some of the top searched for keywords right now which depict the ongoing pandemic. Searches for visual content related to food, family, education, indoor fitness and healthcare have all increased drastically. Brand narratives have changed, centring around those topics to deliver more human, concerned and community-focused messaging.

As much as it seems like a curious moment for stock images, it also is quite complicated as there is no production on new pictures, right? How are you dealing with that? 

The increased demand for fresh and relevant stock content at a time of limited production capabilities due to social distancing guidelines has created a huge challenge for the filmmakers and content creators.

Our global network has reached 1 million contributors all over the world and with isolation limitations in mind, many still have access to spaces and studios that allow them to safely continue their work. There’s also a lot we can create while staying at home. For example, one of our colleagues created this free pack of cooking sound effects while in isolation at home.

Creatives are creative and resourceful. As a result, the pipeline of content hasn’t suffered during this time. Rather, we have seen an increase in contributors looking up to Shutterstock as a means to supplement their income. People are finding they have time to go through their hard drives and archives of content, and they are uploading images, video clips, special effects and music tracks for license.

While scheduled shoots are being cancelled, pilot episodes are being postponed, and strategies are being reassessed, many customers are still continuing to work on their projects and need non-COVID-19 related content. For example, Marvel Studios’ movie, Black Widow which is soon to be released has recently worked with us to source content for their opening film sequence, as well as visual effects and background set dressing.

Do you think there are worries on pictures that project habits not recommended for the actual moment? Like pictures with hugs, kisses, etc?

Imagery is not the only thing brands require to deliver continuity in a scene for existing projects that need to be completed, they also need good content that supports the current ongoing conditions of the globe, including people carrying out social-distancing, wearing masks, waving from indoors and cars, interacting from safe distances or communicating via technology. Our global community of contributors watch trends closely and quickly respond to the pandemic in order to address these new content needs. Looking back at the time we had started to see artists, photographers and videographers upload content which showcased these concepts as soon as the virus started to hit the news towards the end of 2019 and the beginning of 2020.

Companies have had to pivot quickly from traditional marketing language and imagery to visuals that speak to the current situation. Most consumers like brands that reflect on what they’re seeing and feeling around them. Brands that aren’t doing this come across as disingenuous or tone-deaf in a world of change.

Brands need to lead with empathy and listen to customers’ as their needs change. The sole message which unifies us during this crisis is that we’re all living it together so we can all relate to one another. And — of course — spreading this message in the right tone is crucial. The only way to achieve it is keeping our messages heartfelt, real and absolutely authentic.

What are your thoughts about the 2021 Predictions on Color Trends – How are the recent geo-political and pandemic events influencing the color themes for marketing, sales and service-related digital campaigns? 

The world has gone through a lot this year, the cause well known is this relentless pandemic. Adding to the chaos, we have also witnessed some hazardous wildfires, elections taking turn and countless protests around the world. Throughout it all, people never stopped looking for ways to stand in support with each other: from small businesses, to front line heroes, and many more. As we head towards 2021, there’s an underlying feeling of hope, a silent cry for peace. Shutterstock’s 2021 Color Trends is here to showcase this collective desire for positive change. Fortuna Gold, for example, is named after Fortuna, the Roman goddess of good fortune. Set Sail Champagne is a neutral hue that epitomizes escapism, and Tidewater Green is reminiscent of ocean tides, and how change is constant and inevitable. Our customers include marketers, creatives, and designers. They are often used to working and preparing for projects months in advance and their downloaded content suggests rich, earthy tones will be prominent next year, from digital ads, to fashion, to interior design.

What do you think about Digital advertising and graphic designing companies bouncing back in 2021 – to what extent would you attribute this reversal of slowdown to technology adoption?

It’s obvious, but the shift to digital has accelerated and amplified; events are now virtual, and restaurants have started providing QR codes instead of menus so that the rules are followed and interaction is minimized. In 2021, marketers and designers will leverage online creative tools and virtual workspaces to collaborate remotely. This, combined with the agility to pivot strategies and align with cultural trends and circumstances, will prove to be quite beneficial for creative companies as they bounce back.

I was also hoping for them to create personalized experiences and UGC-style content for their customers. Our clients, when faced the production limitations caused by the pandemic turned to us to produce localized, real-time content for their brands using our new Studios service.

Hear it from the pro: An advice to every young Creative Marketing professional looking to join an advertising / graphic designing agency.

Work on your brand and make sure your strengths and your missions are nicely, in clear terms conveyed in your resume and portfolio. Invest in creating a portfolio that stands out to others. When it comes to projects, quality should always be a priority over quantity. Try to showcase more of the type of work you want to build your expertise in. Learning different creative and marketing tools will make you stand out in front of employers who generally like to save time onboarding new members on different programs. It will help you to start investing in new projects quickly and will make you execute your ideas productively.

Name a person from the industry whose answers you would enjoy seeing here –

I think I’d like to hear from TikTok’s interim CEO, Vanessa Pappas.

Thank you, Stan! It was great having you and we hope to see you back on V3Media soon.

Stan Pavlovsky is Shutterstock’s Chief Executive Officer and a member of the board since April 2020. Prior to this, Stan served as President and COO of the company where he was responsible for the successful implementation of the company’s vision as the leading creative platform. In his role as CEO, Stan drives the company’s long and short-term strategic vision to become a comprehensive platform business. Stan joined the Company in April 2019 as the Co-Chief Operating Officer and Head of Strategic Operations. He brings decades of experience successfully growing and leading eCommerce, retail, and digital media businesses. Most recently, he served as President of Meredith Digital, and Executive Vice President, Meredith Corporation. Prior to that role, Stan successfully led strategy and development for Meredith’s largest digital food enterprise, Allrecipes.com, as the brand’s President. Stan holds a B.A. from California State University, Northridge and an MBA from the City University of Seattle.

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