- The Washington Times - Monday, February 21, 2000

High-tech firms in need of art turn to agency

Julia Malakoff grew up watching her parents experiment with photography in their free time. Over time, she fell in love with the field and decided she wanted to do something with it.
Now she helps professional photographers find clients, having sold work recently to the growing number of technology companies along the Dulles Corridor as well as large companies including American Airlines, Absolut Vodka and McDonald's.
After studying commercial art at Iowa University, Ms. Malakoff worked for a commercial illustrator, and later as an ad manager for Creative Source magazine, a source book for photographers.
But she was unsatisfied.
"I got so fed up with selling photographers' ads," she recalled. "I wanted to help them. So I jumped the fence."
Still, those jobs taught Ms. Malakoff, 33, about the inner workings of ad agencies and about commercial artists. And she made many contacts, which were helpful when she decided to start her own business in March 1995.
Envoy Creative Consultants, started with a $20,000 investment from Ms. Malakoff's family, is still essentially a one-woman show, though she gets some part-time help from a college student.
Ms. Malakoff plans to hire representatives in the area, in New York and on the West Coast.
For now, from her office in Old Town Alexandria, Ms. Malakoff manages four photographers. Each artist concentrates on a certain topic: architecture, lifestyle, environmental portraits and products, and corporate photography.
"So for clients, it's one-stop shopping. They call me for portfolios and I supply them," she said.
The art work is used for company brochures, magazine and newspaper ads, bus back ads and billboards.
The area is a good market for art representatives right now, said Ms. Malakoff, who also occasionally helps an additional 12 illustrators and photographers.
While New York always has been considered "the art town," Ms. Malakoff said new high-tech companies in the area need ad campaigns, brochures and corporate photography.
Some companies, instead of hiring commercial artists, rely on stock photography for their ad campaigns and brochures.
That is no good, said Ms. Malakoff, because no company wants to see its competitor using the same art.
She said that New York-based photography companies have begun to open offices in Northern Virginia and the District, giving Envoy fresh competition.
Envoy's larger clients include the Watergate Hotel, MCI WorldCom, Pizza Hut, the Baltimore Sun, Teligent, Ritz Carlton, Bell Atlantic Mobile and US Airways.
Art representation is a profitable business, Ms. Malakoff said. Envoy's revenues last year were $450,000, and she projects a 20 percent increase this year.
To achieve success, Ms. Malakoff worked hard these past five years, taking time off only twice. The first was last year for maternity leave she and her husband have a 9-month-old baby boy, Benjamin. Also last year, she took her first vacation since becoming a business owner a trip to Breckenridge, Colo.
Michael Mooney, art director at McCann Erickson in the District, worked with Envoy Creative Consultants on several projects, including a US Airways ad campaign.
"We've used them on a couple of different jobs, and my experiences have been very positive," he said. "I run some ideas by [Ms. Malakoff] and ask her if she has somebody shooting a particular style I might be interested in. So like a good rep, she is part of the process."
On a regular day, Ms. Malakoff is either out of the office presenting portfolios and ideas to clients, or in her office working on estimates.
How Ms. Malakoff chooses which photographers to represent is simple: "I need stable photographers."
Andy Dumaine, creative director at the Campbell Group ad agency, said Ms. Malakoff is "very good at finding undiscovered talent."
"She brought in this book, and it had lots of fresh, new imagery by this new photographer," Mr. Dumaine said. "And I just said to myself, 'Boy, I want to see this guy, his stuff is amazing.' "
Discovering and seeing talent develop are two of the things Ms. Malakoff loves most about her work.

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