Car ads are some of the most beautiful on our screens and billboards, showcasing shiny, state of the art vehicles and breathtaking landscapes. Almost more than the cars, those landscapes are paramount to the whole thing, selling consumers on visions of long drives on the Swiss Alps or the Grand Canyon. Of course, it’s quite easy to figure out the problem here – these ads are expensive to produce and even billion dollar automotive brands are tightening their belts.
Enter Bear Stock. Founded by Urs Buhlman and Josie King in 2013, the startup has created a stock image library specialising in “photographic back plates, environments, and 360º HDR Domes” for the automotive market. Put more simply, the platform can be described as Pixc but reversed; instead of photoshopping backgrounds out, Bear Stock gives clients stock images onto which they can photoshop cars.
According to King, who comes from an ad agency TVC and post-production background, the idea came to Buhlman, a professional photographer, when he noticed auto shooting briefs were “under threat” by budget constraints.
“He also noticed agencies and car manufacturers were starting to embrace the build of 3D models as a very real option to shooting. That’s when the idea to create a stock image library to cater for these environments was born. It took a long time and a lot of hard work to build a volume of assets to allow a site launch and to start to build the business. As the assets were gathering in volume the site was also being built. This build was massive, time consuming, stressful but we were totally focused,” she said.
And so they came together to create Bear Stock, self funding the build. Similar to the likes of Getty or Shutterstock, it works by allowing users to browse through images and search according to criteria such as weather conditions or time of day through to the surface of the road.
Users then shortlist their selections, with registered users being able to access lightbox and non-watermarked images sized for layout or client-presentation purposes before buying an image. All images have been retouched and lightly graded, ready to use across any medium, from web to outdoor billboards.
The level of detail put into in the images to make them look realistic is incredibly specific. For example, since the consumer’s eye is accustomed to a metallic car being reflective, images are released with 360° high dynamic range image ‘domes’ that have been shot on location to capture the environment data and help creative departments incorporate the lighting and reflection references onto the completed image.
As Bear Stock’s images are rights managed, pricing depends on specifics regarding usage, including duration, territory, and the media it will be used in.
“Clients will either phone or email us their brief and usage detail or in some cases they choose to complete the simple online price enquiry page. We like to be hands-on in the quoting process to allow flexibility if necessary. One size does not fit all. We respond quickly and ask questions where necessary,” King explained.
The startup has a handful of contributing photographers on board, along with a CG environment creator putting together anything from roadscapes, seascapes, urban landscapes, conceptual images, and specific commissions.
Bear Stock is aimed at a number of clients involved in the advertising sphere, from advertising agencies themselves to design and post production companies. According to King, the startup has around 1000 clients on board across Australia, New Zealand, Europe, the US, and Asia, with interest also coming from countries including South Africa and Russia. As well as automotive ads, the startup’s images have been used for tourism advertisements and, strangely enough, book covers.
The startup faces competition from a number of sources – as well as the big known names in the stock image market, King said Bear Stock has a number of specialised competitors overseas.
However, she said the Australian startup differs in the fact that it is a more “boutique and organic offering” with a personal touch. Buhlman’s experience on the photography side and King’s in post-production also underscores their knowledge of and expertise in the space, while the fact that 90 percent of Bear Stock’s imagery has been shot across Australia and New Zealand means it is more relevant to local clients than overseas offerings.
“Smaller in size and offering than the bigger players out there means we are very much about service, consistent quality, and flexibility,” King said.
Bear Stock can also look to the success of other local startups in the space; muru-D and 500 Startups alum Pixc has grown through a focus on the ecommerce space, while Box Brownie has established itself in the real estate market.
King and Buhlman have simple goals for the year ahead. They are aiming to bring on another photographer or two, and expand into new markets by securing new partnerships.
Image: Urs Buhlman and Josie King. Source: Provided.