MarTech Interview with Stan Pavlovsky, CEO at Shutterstock

“Brands don’t just need imagery that delivers continuity in a scene for existing projects that need to be completed, they also need content that fits the current mood of the globe, including people social-distancing, wearing masks, waving from indoors and cars, speaking from far distances or communicating through technology.”

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What’s the feeling of having such an important job in such a different moment in the industry? What are the main challenges?

I transitioned into my role as CEO of Shutterstock on April 1st, after the entire company had already been working remotely for over 2 weeks. Of course, I could have never imagined taking on my first CEO role under these conditions, but as I reflect on my first 30 days leading the company from home, I’m incredibly proud of our ability as a team to adjust to this new environment.

My highest priority is always to ensure that our employees are safe, healthy and engaged. As we started settling into working from home, I knew it was more important than ever that we communicate effectively and consistently. We are fortunate to have technology and tools like strong internet connections, instant messaging platforms and video conferencing technology to enable us to stay connected and productive during this period. In fact, I have a daily standup with my leadership team. Additionally, we’ve created new channels where employees can interact and share helpful tips. Some of our channels also cover 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 perspective, we’ve had to shift our focus to help clients communicate with customers differently. We’re uniquely positioned through our large community of contributors and platform in capturing touching and impactful visual stories to showcase the global nature of the crisis that we are in.

Have image searches increased in light of the pandemic and social distancing?

Now that people are settled into the new work-from-home environment, they’re getting their projects back on track or working on new ones. With social distancing restrictions in place, we are seeing many companies creating an online presence for the first time, while others are amplifying their digital communication efforts to stay connected with their customers. Traffic to our site has increased during this period because brands and businesses are seeking visual ways to communicate with their audiences.

Globally, we are seeing an increased volume of inquiries about what types of services we are providing, as creatives are having to pivot from their traditional ways of production to execute projects. The market demand for creative content is increasing as people have adjusted quickly to working remotely and are seeking ways to communicate their story using authentic and relevant images, video and music.

As for images specifically, we have certainly seen an increase in demand for virus and scientific imagery, simply because publications and customers are seeking ways to visualize the abstract concept of the virus. According to our data, worldwide searches for phrases such as virusinfectedquarantineCOVID-19 and other related terms on 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 reflect the current pandemic. Searches for visual content related to food, family, education, indoor fitness and healthcare have all increased. Brand narratives have changed, centering 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’s also complicated because there is no production on new pictures, right? How do you deal with that? 

The increased demand for fresh and relevant stock content at a time of limited production capabilities due to social distancing guidelines has left filmmakers and content creators in a challenging predicament.

We have a global network of 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 you can do in the confines of your 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 a surge in contributors signing up and seeing 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 canceled, pilot episodes are being postponed, and strategies are being reassessed, many customers are continuing to work on projects and need non-COVID-19 related content. For example, the soon-to-be-released Marvel Studios movie, Black Widow, recently worked with us to source content for their opening film sequence, as well as visual effects and background set dressing.

Are there any worries, somehow, on pictures that represent habits not recommended for the actual moment? Like pictures with hugs, kisses, etc?

Brands don’t just need imagery that delivers continuity in a scene for existing projects that need to be completed, they also need content that fits the current mood of the globe, including people social-distancing, wearing masks, waving from indoors and cars, speaking from far distances or communicating through technology. Our global community of contributors watch trends closely and quickly respond to the pandemic in order to address these new content needs. We started seeing artists, photographers and videographers uploading content to reflect 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 want brands to 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 unifying message of this crisis is that we’re all living it together so we can all relate to one another. And — of course — communicating this in the right tone is crucial. The key to achieving this is keeping messages authentic, heartfelt and real.

Tell us more about the 2021 Predictions on Color Trends – How have the recent geo-political and pandemic events influenced the color themes for marketing, sales and service related digital campaigns? 

The world was shaken to the core this year by a relentless pandemic, wildfires, elections, and countless protests around the world. Throughout it all, people continued to look for ways to stand in solidarity with each other: from small businesses, to front line heroes, and many more. As we look to 2021, there’s an underlying feeling of hope. Shutterstock’s 2021 Color Trends reflect 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 fluid and inevitable. Our customers include marketers, creatives, and designers that often prepare 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.

How do you see the 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 are providing QR codes instead of menus to minimize contact. In 2021, marketers and designers will leverage online creative tools and virtual workspaces to collaborate remotely. This, paired with the agility to pivot strategies and align with cultural trends and circumstances, will benefit creative companies as they bounce back.

I also anticipate they’ll be creating personalized experiences and UGC-style content for their customers. When faced with production limitations created by the pandemic, our clients turned to us to produce localized, real-time content for their brands through 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 clearly communicated in your resume and portfolio. Invest on building a portfolio that stands out. Prioritize quality over quantity when it comes to projects, and showcase more of the type of work you want to build your expertise in. Learn different creative and marketing tools that will make you stand out in front of employers who generally would like to save time onboarding new members on different programs. It will allow you to jump onto new projects quickly and be resourceful to execute your ideas easily.

Tag a person from the industry whose answers you would like to see here –

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

Thank you, Stan! That was fun and hope to see you back on MarTech Series 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,, as the brand’s President. Stan holds a B.A. from California State University, Northridge and an MBA from the City University of Seattle.


Shutterstock, Inc., is a leading global provider of high-quality licensed photographs, vectors, illustrations, videos and music to businesses, marketing agencies and media organizations around the world. Working with its growing community of over 60,000 contributors, Shutterstock adds tens of thousands of images each week, and currently has more than 40 million images and 2 million video clips available.

Headquartered in New York City, with offices in Amsterdam, Berlin, Chicago, Denver, London, Paris and San Francisco, Shutterstock has customers in more than 150 countries. The company also owns Bigstock, a value-oriented stock media agency; Offset, a high-end image collection; Skillfeed, an online marketplace for learning; and WebDAM, a cloud-based digital asset management service for businesses.

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