A conversation with Conor of BlueFrog Digital
Conor Lay

Think of Paris. What is the first image to come to mind? Nine times out of ten, it will be the Eiffel Tower. And that’s normal; we tend to recall places by their most popular landmarks. Yet, if you are a Parisian business seeking local photos for your website or social media handles, for instance, this ratio becomes an issue: you don’t want to be just another company using an image of the Eiffel Tower. Sure, if you have the budget to commission a photographer to go around and shoot precisely what you want, from a variety of angles and under specific light, there’s no issue at all. But for the majority of small-to-medium-sized businesses who have to rely on online libraries to find images, whether in Paris or in Auckland, the reality is that the variety of high-quality photos portraying the essence of their location is meagre.

“The mountain [Mount Taranaki] is probably the most popular identifier of Taranaki, but there are a lot more options and possibilities for local businesses looking to capture a local feeling,” says Conor Lay, director of BlueFrog Digital, a marketing agency based out of New Plymouth. Conor is someone who has witnessed first-hand how beneficial it can be for local businesses to embrace, tap into, and celebrate the uniqueness of their locality – and how difficult it can be to find the right images to do so. After spending a few years cutting his teeth at various agencies around New Zealand, he started BlueFrog Digital in June 2021. His rationale for going out on his own was quite simple: when you’re working with sizable businesses that have decent advertising budgets to spend, it is relatively easy to get your hands on whatever you need for projects and campaigns, including location-specific photographs. But what about mum-and-dad-owned businesses, companies that have under five employees and need and want help yet haven’t always the level of investment as larger firms?

“Our beaches are world-class, we have some excellent walking and hiking trails, our walkway, wind wand, and Te Rewa Rewa Bridge (whalebone bridge) are all pretty identifiable, as is the main Devon Street going straight through the centre of town. For those in more rural Taranaki, there are countless locations amongst the small towns that are largely local secrets and can be hidden gems; there’s a real quintessential feel and aesthetic to rural/Southern Taranaki which the locals typically recognise.”

"Lake Dive, Te Papakura o Taranaki" by Shaun Barnett

For Conor, and probably many agencies working with small-to-medium-sized companies, the main challenges in finding images that truly reflect the vibes of a given client’s town/region “are typically a combination of the budget to make it happen and the understanding of what they are actually looking for in terms of ensuring cohesion and relevancy for their brand, service offering, and target market.” But a lot of it also has to do with how slim is the range of authentic, localised images found in online databases: You either don’t find what you’re looking for or find it portrayed in the same cookie-cutter fashion as always. “For New Zealand, and particularly Taranaki, these issues are also exacerbated due to the lack of options for local/Kiwi imagery,” explains Conor. “Most stock photography options have a very ‘American’ tone to them, which is something I really try to steer away from.

"Mussels on a beach in Taranaki bokeh" by Alan Blundell/Bokeh Street

Hence the paradox: you want high-quality, unique images that pay tribute to your business’ neck of the woods whilst also being in line with the theme you’re covering, but the traditional stock libraries fall short of your expectations, and getting custom photos taken can, as Conor puts it, “end up being a hassle and a much more sizeable investment for the clients.” A new alternative developed by Excio is to draw on a large pool of local photographers from all corners of New Zealand, gather their photographs in a user-friendly library with tags and locations, and make it both accessible and affordable for local companies.

As with Conor’s rationale behind the creation of BlueFrog Digital, Excio’s rationale is quite simple: by nurturing our photo community and rewarding photographers fairly for their work, we stimulate them to get out there and explore their districts and communities, camera in hand, thus ensuring our library is constantly replenished with fresh, high-quality, unique photographs. That way, even if the first image that comes to mind when thinking of Paris is the Eiffel Tower, you’ll still be able to find other Paris-related shots to represent your business.

Looking for location-specific photographs of New Zealand to touch up your website or illustrate a social media campaign? Head to the Excio Library and search for the NZ town, region, or landmark you are looking for.

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