Stock Photos + E-mail = Lousy

Ian Lurie

To a car manufacturer who will remain nameless: If you are sending out an e-mail newsletter, don’t use stock photography in the e-mail.

You know what I mean: Those pictures of models pretending to be businesspeople/parents/whatever else that scream ‘I bought this from Getty Images’.

Even if I did sign up for your e-mail newsletter six months ago, I may not remember. I’m already annoyed at receiving your message. Don’t compound it by sending me something that loads slowly, gets tagged as spam because of the image, and completely dehumanizes your company.

Trust me. No stock photos. And while you’re at it, don’t put stock shots on your web site either, if you can help it.

Instead, design an e-mail that tells me, right away, why I should read it. Don’t be cute. Don’t beat around the bush. Don’t try to tell me I’ll have six-pack abs (like the ‘typical’ driver in the stock photo you sent me) after I buy your car. Tell me how the car is nice to drive, and what reviewers said about it, and what kind of deal I can get.

Treat me like a person, not a stock photo.

Ian Lurie

Ian Lurie is the founder of Portent. He's been a digital marketer since the days of AOL and Compuserve (25 years, if you're counting). Ian's recorded training for, writes regularly for the Portent Blog and has been published on AllThingsD, Smashing Magazine, and TechCrunch. Ian speaks at conferences around the world, including SearchLove, MozCon, Seattle Interactive Conference and ad:Tech. He has published several books about business and marketing: One Trick Ponies Get Shot, available on Kindle, The Web Marketing All-In-One Desk Reference for Dummies, and Conversation Marketing. Ian is now an independent consultant and continues to work with the Portent team- training the agency group on all things digital. You can find him at

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  1. Let me guess; was it a non-luxury car company? I could see the email now. A happy family photo in the suburbs trying to tell you about the new mini van…..
    I say non-luxury car company because my first perception of a stock photo: “Generic”, “Stock”, “Nothing Special” just like the car that they are advertising; a generic family car.
    I bet BMW does not use stock photos, but photos of the car driving a winding road in lush green hills.
    If I am wrong and that it was a luxury car company, someone should tell the head of the marketing department not to drive their nice flashy luxury car to their first day of work, but a generic Honda. Then ask them if people would think of them as “wow that must be the new head of marketing” Most likely they will think “O that must be a new accountant.” (I have nothing against accountants, but could not help pass up the stereotype).
    People need to realize that you will be judged on every angle. Even the angles you do not see.

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