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Getty kill off Colorific

19 July 2001 - EPUK

Colorific, the formerly successful UK photo agency bought by loss-making Getty Images a little over a year ago, has effectively been closed down by the parent company.

The agency is only the most spectacular victim of the latest round of cuts announced by Getty this week. 300 people – 13% of staff worldwide – are to be made redundant, and the sackings have already begun; EPUK understands that staff have also been laid off at Allsport, another of Getty’s UK acquisitions.

Shares in Getty Images, which posted first quarter losses for this year of $14.6 million, plunged 31% as the news spread.

Alarm bells began ringing amongst Colorific contributors two weeks ago when they received a letter co-signed by Getty Images Director of Artist Relations Anthony Harris, in which he thanked contributors for their patience, and then announced that due to “conflicting content issues” the agency would no sell longer stock and travel material, and that such material would be “regretfully” returned to photographers.

In plain English, rather than corporate-speak, what this meant was that Getty had realised they had bought up too many agencies with similar competing material, and it was time to prune what they perceived as deadwood, under the guise of those old friends consolidation and rationalisation.

The brilliance of Getty’s new marketing strategy was soon revealed when a national newspaper picture editor called Colorific for a picture known to be on their files only to be told: “No, you can’t have that now; we don’t deal in stock any more.”

In fact, Harris could have saved his regrets – Getty’s year long ownership of Colorific has widely been regarded as such a disaster by the agency’s photographers that many had already taken to placing their material with other agents.

One long standing contributor, upon receiving the letter, commented: “this reads like something from someone going out of business.” However, when the photographer called Colorific to establish what was happening, he was reassured: “No, things are really good, we’re actually taking on staff.”

In fact, nothing could have been further from the truth, although the person providing the reassurance was hardly to know – she, along with the majority of Colorific staff, was sacked this week; only two staff remain, primarily to handle Newsmakers/Getty website sales.

Calls to various various Colorific direct lines went unanswered at press time, and an attempt to contact the agency through the shared Colorific/Allsport switchboard elicited the response that “we don’t know who works there any more”.

It is a measure of how under-informed Colorific staff were of Getty’s true intentions that Anthony Harris’ co-signatory was David Leverton, Colorific Director of Sales, who was made redundant along with his staff this week.

We can only assume that Anthony Harris was similarly unaware of his company’s plans to close Colorific. After all, Getty’s Director of Artist Relations would hardly ask an agency director to sign a letter outlining sales strategy while knowing that same director and his staff were due for the chop within a month, would he?

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