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Corbis in France. Best in France Case Study December 2004 – January 2005. By: Damien Lamy, Christoph Aumueller. Business overview Corbis Products/services and clients Workforce Why did Corbis go to France? Do company values fit the French culture? Main (HR) constraints in France

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corbis in france

Corbis in France

Best in France Case Study

December 2004 – January 2005

By: Damien Lamy, Christoph Aumueller

Business overview Corbis

Products/services and clients


Why did Corbis go to France?

Do company values fit the French culture?

Main (HR) constraints in France

Adaptation to France

Key constraints of operating in France

Key benefits from being in France

Essential Advice

corbis business overview 1 2
Corbis Business Overview (1/2)
  • When did Corbis come to France?
    • Corbis came to France in 1999 by buying its main competitor on the French market “Sygma”, then the biggest photograph agency globally with 40 million images.
  • What's Corbis’ business?
    • Corbis is an imaging company who provides advertisers, editors, publishers, filmmakers, and marketers with different sources for their visual needs, not just images and film footage, but the services that make them easy to source, locate, and license.
    • With 80 million images and audio files commercialized, Corbis is today the second-biggest visual solutions provider globally. Corbis’ images are seen daily by millions of people around the world - in magazines, newspapers, and films, on television, and in thousands of advertisements.
    • Corbis is headquartered in Seattle, with offices in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, London, Paris, Düsseldorf, Vienna, Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur, and Tokyo.
corbis business overview 2 2
Corbis Business Overview (2/2)
  • Corbis key figures
    • World sales: $140 million in 2003 and $~160 million in 2004
    • Sales Growth: 20% in 2003 (industry growth: ~3%) and ~14% in 2004
    • French sales: Not publicly disclosed*
    • Profits: Not publicly disclosed*
    • Market share: Not publicly disclosed, but with ~80 million images in 2004, Corbis is the second-biggest provider of images globally facing 2 main competitors:
      • “Getty” (70 million images in 2001) and
      • “Hachette” (40 million images in 2001)
    • Number of employees world-wide: ~1,000
    • Number of employees in France: ~ 130
    • Number of photographers working (amongst others) for Corbis: ~3,000 world-wide
    • Number of photographers almost exclusively working for Corbis: ~20 in France
    • Number of images commercialized: 80 million**
    • Number of images digitalized today: 3.5 million**
    • Founder and owner: Microsoft founder Bill Gates
company products
Company products
  • Corbis Products in France and world-wide
    • The three categories of images commercialized by Corbis globally are
      • Photography (70 million images commercial, editorial, historical, portraiture, news, sports & entertainment)
      • Motion (film footage for use in film)
      • Art & Illustration (e.g. Andy Warhol and Michelangelo collections)
  • Main services offered by Corbis:
    • Assignment photo shooting and editing
    • Rights clearances for
      • Celebrities and celebrity estates
      • Feature films & TV clips
      • Athletes & sports Leagues
      • Fine art
      • Music & audio
      • Properties & landmarks
  • All products and services are offered globally.
  • Expansion/reduction plans for the offering
    • By the recent acquisition of the main competitor “zefa” in Germany (announced on the 3rd of January, 2005), Corbis accelerates the penetration of its key commercial markets, and expects to dramatically improve its market share in Germany, France, the UK, and globally.
    • The product lines of Corbis (editorial focus) and of zefa (advertisement focus) are complementary.
company s clients
Company's clients
  • Who are Corbis’ clients?
  • There is two different types of clients:
    • Editors and publishers, e.g.:
      • Editors for magazines and newspapers
      • Publishers, e.g. for school books and novels
    • Communication agencies, advertisers, filmmakers and companies (e.g. for recommending photographers and for advertisement purposes)
  • What are the clients’ expectations?
    • Corbis’ clients look for breakthrough visuals to for their imaging purposes.
    • They are also looking for a reliable service for easily sourcing, locating and licensing their visuals.
  • How will a French presence help the company's ability to satisfy client demands?
    • By acquiring its main competitor on the European continent “Sygma” in France, Corbis could expand its imaging offering tremendously and provide a complementary and more exhaustive offer of images.
company s workforce
Company's workforce
  • Corbis employs 1,000 employees world-wide in the following functions:
    • Client counseling and client service (mainly journalists)
    • Research
    • Photo edition
    • Art edition
    • Film edition
    • Web production
    • Various administrative functions
  • Furthermore, Corbis has 3,000 photographers under contract globally
    • As usual in the imaging industry, all of the photographers work for more than one imaging agency and/or other clients
    • In France, 20 top photographers work almost exclusively for Corbis
  • Corbis commercializes the photographers’ images and takes royalties Based upon the Type of Usage:
    • 50% for editorial users
    • 45% for commercial users
why corbis went to france
Why Corbis went to France
  • Corbis’ approach to international growth
    • Corbis pursued a “triangle” approach for international growth, starting out in the U.S. and building up business in Europe and Asia
    • Corbis pursued a different approach to access new markets in different countries:
      • France: acquisition of competitor “Sygma” in 1999
      • Germany: acquisition of “Top Market” (Germany is the biggest communication/advertisement market in Europe), followed by an acquisition of competitor “zefa” in January 2005 (+140 employees throughout Europe)
      • Other European countries (e.g. Italy, Spain, Poland, Belgium): Represented by agents
      • Japan: local Joint Venture
      • China and Malaysia: building up subsidiary “from the scratch”
  • Why was France a key target location
    • After the already established presence in the UK (since 1990), France was the company’s first choice of continental European presence
    • With the acquisition of “Sygma” in France in 1999, Corbis got access to 40 million images for commercial purposes and thus more than doubled its global offer at the time.
    • The focus on photo journalism was a perfect completion to Corbis’ current product offering in 1999
  • Where else did Corbis consider to go?
    • For the above stated reason, France was the undisputed first choice of presence in 1999 in continental Europe.
    • In 2002, Corbis expanded its presence to Germany, mainly in order to provide their clients in the German publishing and advertisement industry with a central and local contact.
  • What are future markets for Corbis?
    • Corbis is currently not present in northern European countries
company values
Company values
  • What are the core values of the company that may or may not fit with perceived French values?
    • Corbis does not have formalized corporate values.
    • However, coming from an American business culture and being founded and owned by Bill Gates, the company can be described as extremely
      • Service oriented*
      • Commercially/sales-oriented
      • Strategic business approach
      • Technology-focused
      • Editorial focus, creating a product offering adapted to the evolution of trends **
    • Coming to France by acquiring an existing, French business structure with French employees, the American management found a quite different business culture:
      • More journalistic, “adventurous” approach of employees and photographers
      • More “traditional” business approach, less open to quick changes
      • E.g. when 2 years after the acquisition of the French competitor, a restructuring plan became necessary, reducing the French workforce from ~220 to ~100 employees, the employees went on strike, which was rather unexpected by the American management.
  • How did company manage to instill its values in the French unit?
    • The HR director who was present in 1999 is not with the company today.
    • According to the present HR director, the key factor of success for instilling a mindset of change within the French unit was taking a lot of time and effort to explain to all the employees why the change was necessary.
    • However, in the course of 5 years since the acquisition of Sygma in 1999, HR and the management have achieved a true change in the mindset of their employees.
constraints in france
Constraints in France
  • What are the principle constraints the company foresaw before going to France?
    • The American management did not really foresee a lot of problems when planning to expand their business in France.
    • There was an absence of comprehension for international problems.
    • Since the company had already succeeded in implanting a business unit in the UK, the American management thought that it would not be too difficult to succeed in France as well.
  • Did Corbis discover any constraints when coming to France/which were the worst constraints Corbis discovered?
    • When Corbis came to France by acquiring their competitor “Sygma”, the American management thought that the company would actually “buy” the images of the photographers associated with Sygma.
    • However, al images actually are the property of the photographers, so that Corbis in fact bought an “empty shell” .
    • The photographers went on strike, and Corbis got into legal fights with them and their lawyers and had to renegotiate the contracts with the photographers.
    • Team work is not institutionalized
    • Relations are more hierarchical
  • How do these constraints differ with their other locations?
    • Even if the property rights are comparable in other countries, the law is more strictly applied in France.
adaptation to france 1 3
Adaptation to France (1/3)
  • What kinds of adaptations did/is Corbis making to its people management systems?
  • Generally speaking, Corbis pursues a largely global approach to most HR practices and above all to HR procedures. However, some changes were necessary in order to adapt to the French culture, business practices and laws:
    • Recruitment/Selection:
      • The recruitment procedures are followed on a global basis.
      • However, the company had to adapt in terms of interpretation of local candidate profiles (e.g. what schools are the best in France, what does a certain evaluation of a previous job or university degree mean in France, etc.)
    • Compensation
      • Compensation follows global guidelines, but is adapted by carrying out a local benchmark for salaries in various functions.
      • Since non-wage labor costs are extremely high in France, total salary costs in France are 30% higher as for the same job in the USA
    • Management Development and performance evaluation
      • Both follow global guidelines and is strictly confidential.
      • Performance evaluation takes place on a daily basis between managers and their employees, and on a formalized basis 1-2 times per year for all employees.
adaptation to france 2 3
Adaptation to France (2/3)
  • What kinds of adaptations did/is Corbis making to its people management systems?
    • Motivation
      • Motivation is pursued by daily dialogue between managers and theirs employees.
      • HR is closely involved into this dialogue and often acts as a mediator between management and their employees.
      • Motivation has been extremely difficult in harsh times as for example the restructuring plan in 2001, where a lot of additional communication was necessary.
      • The most time is still needed in order to explain changes to those ~50 of the ~130 employees, who have already been with Sygma before the acquisition by Corbis. With some of them, the dialogue is still difficult today.
    • Legal HR aspects
      • Generally speaking, the company had to adapt to French laws, especially regarding their contracts with the photographers working for them, as explained before.
      • Laying off employees is of course much more difficult in France than in the U.S., the U.K. or Asia, except for Japan, where it is also extremely difficult.
      • Furthermore, oral agreements are much more common in France than in the U.S., where practically everything is written down in contracts in order to avoid legal dispute.
      • Therefore, in order to follow the global guidelines, Corbis had to enforce much more contracts in the existing French business structures.
adaptation to france 3 3
Adaptation to France (3/3)
  • What kinds of adaptations did/is Corbis making to its people management systems?
    • Communication Policies
      • Communication policy is largely global.
      • As explained above, much time is needed in order to explain changes to the employees, especially to those who already worked for Sygma.
      • In the course of larger events (like e.g. restructuring plan in 2001), large meetings with HR and all employees are carried out in order to explain the scale and necessity of the change into detail.
    • International Transfers, Use of Expatriates
      • International transfers are strongly encouraged and carried out on a continuous basis at Corbis.
      • In 2004, 4 employees on a managerial level have been transferred from France to other countries.
      • Furthermore, ~10 employees on a managerial level have been transferred from the U.S., U.K., Asia and Germany to France.
    • Training
      • There is formalized, but confidential training for management and top management level.
      • For levels below there is a large offer of e-learning in English language on the intranet.
      • Also, English courses are offered on an e-learning basis for all employees who are not sufficiently proficient in this language.
      • However, since Corbis has been recruiting more and more international profiles, English becomes less and less of a problem.
key constraints in france
Key Constraints in France
  • What are the key constraints and/or constraint costs of operating in France that are more or less than operating in other locations?
    • Administrative costs
      • The administrative costs are much higher in France than in the U.S. or the U.K., mainly due to French law.
    • Any or all HR type costs (hiring, paying, training, dismissing, etc.)
      • Above all, costs for laying off people are much higher in France than in the U.S. or the U.K.
    • Integration of French managers into global organisation (does it cost more to use French managers than managers from other cultures)
      • Since total salary costs in France are about 30% more expensive than in other European countries, integration into France is costly.
    • Less professional experience of young recruits
      • Employees recruited from French universities have largely no professional experience in terms of internships etc. before starting their first job after graduation.
    • Lack of team work
      • People aren’t used to that, since it is not taught at school.
    • Hierarchy
      • French organizations tend to be much more hierarchical than U.S. or U.K. firms.
    • Obligation to dissent
      • French employees are much less dissenting than for example German employees.
      • This means that it can be difficult sometimes to know whether employees have understood what has been explained to them.
      • It is also difficult to know what they really think about a decision that has been taken, since they are much more used to “taking orders”, even if they don’t agree, but probably, they won’t let you know this.
key benefits in france
Key Benefits in France
  • What are the key benefits of being in France?
    • Product offering
      • As explained above, Corbis’ product offering has more than doubled by acquiring the French competitor Sygma.
      • To enter into the French market was important, since it is the reference market in photojournalism (compared with Germany, for example, which is the reference market in advertising).
    • Government assistance
      • There was no financial government assistance for Corbis when coming to France.
      • However, government relations in terms of administrative help have been quite satisfactory.
    • Qualification of recruits
      • French recruits generally speaking have a good level of general education compared to other countries
      • They also specialize early on, which makes them interesting to companies.
    • Productivity
      • French employees are passionate about their work.
essential advice 1 2
Essential Advice (1/2)
  • What advice do you offer to other companies in this sector concerning about France as a location?
    • Before going to France
      • Companies, especially American companies should be aware of cultural differences and international problems before coming to France.
      • They should gather as much cultural information as possible before acquiring a French company.
      • They should also gather as much legal information as possible (see problem with photographers)
    • When coming to France after having established a presence in the U.K.
      • If an American company has successfully established a presence in the U.K., they should not feel tempted to think that they will be equally successful in France or other continental European countries, since the cultures are still largely different.
    • When choosing a first country for a presence in Europe
      • Often, American companies feel tempted to start their European presence in the U.K, since the language is the same and they feel that the business culture will be very similar to the U.S.
      • But this is not true and thus American companies should be careful with this interpretation.
      • For establishing a truly European presence, American companies even should not start out in the U.K., but rather in a large continental European country, preferably in France or Germany (for their importance in the European market) or in the Netherlands (for their fiscal advantages).
essential advice 2 2
Essential Advice (2/2)
  • What advice do you offer to other companies in this sector concerning about France as a location?
    • Adaptation while in France
      • When acquiring a French business structure, it is advantageous to first leave the French management largely in place in order to avoid culture clashes.
      • A little later, a mix of foreign and French management can help to overcome communication difficulties between foreign headquarters and the French subsidiary.
      • If there are harsh decisions or radical changes to be made after acquiring a French company, management should carry out the changes quickly, and not only after one or two years of presence in the country (as for example the restructuring plan at Corbis France, which was carried out only 2 years after acquiring Sygma).
      • After acquiring a French company the HR director in the foreign headquarters has to be in daily contact with its counterpart in France in order to identify and solve possible areas of problems quickly.
      • Foreign companies should try to recruit employees with as much international profiles as possible in order to link the different business cultures together.
      • Corbis for example has around 20 of its 130 employees in France who are not French
      • The atmosphere today at Corbis is much more global than in has been some years ago, which helps tremendously in working together with the American headquarters.
we thank
We Thank
  • Anne Sophie Curet HR Director International (Europe, Asia)
  • Email:
  • Address: 40 Avenue des terroirs de France 75012 Paris
  • Telephone: +33 1 53 33 35 45
  • Corbis Media Contacts: Michael Croan+1 (206) 373-6158
  • References:
appendix 1 questionnaire 1 3
Appendix 1 – Questionnaire (1/3)
  • Business overview Corbis:
    • Short description and key figures (as far as public) of your business: sales, profits, market share, number of employees (global and in France)
    • Are there expansion/reduction plans for your operations in France?
  • Products/services and clients Corbis:
    • What are your products and services in France? Is your offer the same world-wide?
    • Who are your clients and what are their expectations?
    • How will a presence in France help the company's ability to satisfy client demands?
  • Why did Corbis come to France?
    • What is the company's approach to international growth?
    • In what other countries did Corbis consider to expand the business?
    • Why was France a key target location?
  • Do your company values fit the French culture?
    • What are the core values of your company?
    • To what extent do they fit with perceived French values?
    • How did you manage to instill your values in the French business unit?
  • What are the main (HR) constraints in France?
    • What are the principle constraints that your company foresaw before going to France?
    • Did you discover any others?
    • Which are the "worst" constraints in France?
    • How do they differ from other locations?
appendix 1 questionnaire 2 3
Appendix 1 – Questionnaire (2/3)
  • What adaptations had to be done in France regarding HR practices in the French media sector?
    • Recruitment/Selection
    • Compensation
    • Legal aspects (e.g. contracts with photographers)
    • Management Development
    • Workforce Planning
    • Performance Appraisal
    • Motivation
    • Job Design, Job Assignment
    • Communication Policies
    • International Transfers, Use of Expatriates
    • Training
    • To what extent are American and French managers mixed?
    • How do the two management cultures work together?
  • What are the key costs of operating in France that are more or less than operating in other locations?
    • HR costs: hiring, paying, training, dismissal, etc.
    • Communication constraints like language, infrastructure communication costs, etc.
    • Other organization structure costs like real estate, travel, taxes, etc.
    • Integration of French managers into global organization (does it cost more to use French managers than managers from other cultures?)
appendix 1 questionnaire 3 3
Appendix 1 – Questionnaire (3/3)
  • What adaptations had to be done in France regarding HR practices in the What are the key benefits of being in France?
    • Product/service cost, productivity, customer image, etc.?
    • Productivity: revenue/profit per French employee?
    • Location benefits: transport, time zone, quality of life, employee satisfaction with France, etc.?
    • Government or administrative assistance?
    • Market Potential: growth potential, launch platform for other European countries, etc.?
  • What is your essential advice to other companies in this sector concerning about France as a location?
    • Before going to France?
    • Adaptation while in France?
    • Future investments in Western Europe?
  • Additional comments
appendix 2 press coverage
Appendix 2 – Press coverage

Bill Gates, deuxième banquier d'images mondial

Le créateur de Microsoft collectionne les photos depuis 1989. A titre perso mais à usage lucratif. Son agence Corbis avale méthodiquement les autres.

Göksin Sipahioglu en rigole encore. « Je suis vraiment un vieux c... de ne pas avoir accepté l'offre de Bill Gates. Je devais toucher 1 million de francs par mois seulement avec les intérêts », révèle le fondateur de Sipa Press. Hiver 1998, le fondateur de Microsoft mandate deux avocats d'affaires pour négocier à Paris le rachat de la célèbre agence de photos de presse. Les mondes se percutent avec violence. D'un côté, les lignes de bilans et le contrôle de gestion ; de l'autre, la gouaille et les coups journalistiques. Les hommes de Bill Gates, venus de Seattle, sont prêts à aligner une grosse somme, mais exigent le départ du « Turc ». Du haut de sa grande carcasse, le septuagénaire refuse tout net la proposition. Difficile d'acheter celui qui fut le seul reporter à entrer à Cuba en décembre 1962 au moment de la crise des missiles. Sipa, c'est toute sa vie. Alors, pas question de céder face aux financiers américains. Ces derniers se tournent donc vers une autre proie : Sygma, fondée en 1973 par Hubert Henrotte, un ancien photographe du Figaro. Bill Gates met la main en juin 1999 sur cette autre institution française de l'image, peut-être la plus grande agence photographique du monde. Sygma rejoint ainsi la collection d'agences qui bâtit l'empire de photos du milliardaire de Seattle.

La banque d'images qui sera baptisée Corbis serait née d'un délire de Bill Gates. Il rêve de voir défiler les plus belles images du monde sur les écrans muraux haute définition de sa maison. Alors, dès 1989, il rachète méthodiquement, avec ses deniers personnels, les archives visuelles de la planète. Il signe des accords de reproduction avec la National Gallery et le musée de l'Ermitage et met la main sur différentes agences de photos d'illustration et collections, notamment le fonds Bettman. Enfin, outre Sygma, Corbis a pris le contrôle depuis 1999 de quatre agences de presse : Saba (news), Kipa (télévision et cinéma), Tempsport (sport) et Outline (people). A l'arrivée, avec ses 68 millions de clichés, Corbis se retrouve dans le trio de tête mondial des banques d'images aux côtés de Getty Images et d'Hachette.

Rêve de toute-puissance ? Dans cette débauche de dollars, certains décèlent une tentative de toute-puissance : qui domine l'image domine les esprits. D'autres y voient un hobby de milliardaire. Ou juste un bon filon, Bill Gates n'étant pas réputé pour investir à perte. « Bill a réagi à une opportunité technologique et financière. Il a vu que le numérique et la distribution sur Internet allaient créer une nouvelle demande pour les professionnels de la presse et de l'illustration, d'une part, et pour les particuliers, d'autre part », raconte Steve Davis, vieil ami de Bill et patron de Corbis. Sur le site, on peut acquérir en ligne une vue du désert ou celle d'un mannequin en maillot de bain moyennant quelques dollars. Mais les résultats déçoivent. « Corbis présentait la vente de photos aux particuliers comme une révolution. Pour l'instant, le marché est tout simplement inexistant », dévoile Thierry Faulques, expert des industries de médias pour Deloitte & Touche. L'affaire a tout de même réalisé un chiffre d'affaires de 1 milliard de francs (152 millions d'euros) en 2000, le montant des pertes restant confidentiel. « Nous visons l'équilibre pour l'année prochaine. Notre première phase d'activité devait aboutir à des pertes. Car elle nécessitait de lourds investissements dans la numérisation des photos, la mise en ligne et l'intégration de nos agences », assure Steve Davis.

Sygma n'est pas pour rien dans le flop. Avec 75 millions de francs de pertes (11,43 millions d'euros) pour 115 millions de ventes (17,53 millions d'euros), les chiffres de l'agence sont mauvais. Quand Steve Davis a décidé de s'aventurer dans les news, il n'avait sans doute pas conscience de la galère dans laquelle il s'embar-quait. « Corbis a racheté l'agence Sygma pour se faire un nom et prendre pied sur le marché européen », explique Franck Perrier, directeur général de Corbis France. Les Américains, qui pensaient rapatrier tirages et négatifs à Seattle pour mieux les exploiter, sont victimes d'un vrai malentendu, puisque, en droit français, les clichés appartiennent aux photographes. « Les Américains imaginaient qu'ils allaient pouvoir récupérer et exploiter librement nos images. Mais ils n'ont finalement négocié qu'une coquille vide », explique un photographe de Corbis Sygma. La profession se sent menacée et contre-attaque. « Au début, Corbis plaisantait sur les susceptibilités du village d'irréductibles Gaulois. Après, ils ont moins ri », se souvient Brigitte Richard, avocate des photographes de Corbis Sygma. Un an et demi après la crise, Steve Davis a rangé au tiroir ses contrats assimilant les photographes à des « fournisseurs de contenu » et reconnaît volontiers ses erreurs : « Corbis a péché par manque de concertation et de communication. L'incompréhension avec les photographes s'est installée. »

Et les photographes dans tout ça ? Il est vrai qu'avec le chamboulement d'Internet le métier est passé, en quelques années, de l'artisanat à l'industrie. « Les photographes voient leur rôle se diluer dans une organisation qui les dépasse. Ils étaient des seigneurs, ils deviennent des numéros », constate Michel Guerrin, journaliste au Monde, spécialiste de la photo. L'esprit de famille disparaît petit à petit. Les photographes sont déboussolés par les nouveaux patrons qui ne sont pas journalistes, le manager américain qui ne parle pas un mot de français et l'obligation de consigner leur heure de départ le soir. Et puis la crainte est toujours présente de voir les enjeux financiers l'emporter sur le propos des images. « Les photographes craignent que Corbis n'envisage de devenir une simple banque d'images et plus une entreprise de production », explique Alain Noguès, un photojournaliste de Corbis qui a trente-cinq ans de métier. Dans la photo, il est vain d'établir un budget prévisionnel. « Les businessmen à la tête des agences doivent comprendre que la production d'aujourd'hui est l'archive de demain. C'est ce qui fait la richesse d'une agence », rabâche un professionnel. Corbis dit l'avoir compris, et investit sur ses photographes. Mi-octobre, la société de Seattle s'enorgueillissait de compter parmi ses rangs le photographe Patrick Robert, qui suit les combattants de l'Alliance du Nord dans la montagne afghane. Les événements du 11 septembre ont donné un coup de fouet au photojournalisme et aiguisé l'appétit d'images du public. Mais un peu trop tard pour Göksin Sipahioglu, qui a finalement vendu dans les tout premiers jours du mois de septembre. Sipa est tombée dans l'escarcelle de Sud Communication, un groupe qui appartient aux Laboratoires Fabre. A l'heure de la chute du dernier bastion indépendant, Göksin Sipahioglu reste fasciné par la vista de Bill Gates : « C'est un génie. Il a compris avant tous les autres l'importance de la photo et a anticipé les mouvements de concentration inévitables. Il contrôle aujourd'hui une part de la mémoire de l'humanité

» Marie Bordet

appendix 3 press release 1
Appendix 3 – Press release 1

Corbis Reports 2003 Growth at 5X the Industry Rate CEO Steve Davis presides over “pivotal moment” in company’s evolution; owner Bill Gates sees 20% growth as market validation for founding vision

NEW YORK (January 15, 2004)—Corbis announced today that its revenues grew 20 percent in 2003, more than five times the consensus growth rate for the advertising/publishing sector. The announcement was made at the company’s first-ever annual meeting, at which Corbis CEO Steve Davis, along with owner and founder Bill Gates, addressed an audience of more than 250 media and publishing executives, reporters, and industry analysts. Davis estimated the company’s 2003 revenues at approximately $140 million, making it the largest single brand name in the global image-licensing industry. He attributes Corbis’ strong performance to ongoing changes in the ways businesses are using imagery, which play to the company’s founding vision. “Professional communicators are demanding more sophisticated solutions for their visual storytelling needs,” said Davis, “in terms of both imagery and the ecosystem of rights and permissions associated with their use. While a traditional photography agency is not positioned to meet these growing needs, Corbis was conceived and built with exactly these needs in mind.” According to Davis, the demand for imagery is at an all-time high—and growing—as end-users find more and more applications for it in their daily lives, not only in traditional media like newspapers, magazines, and television, but also in emerging technologies like cell phones and plasma screens. This leads marketers, publishers, and other creative professionals to rely increasingly on visuals to tell stories, build brands, sell products and entertain audiences. “As more and more imagery floods the marketplace to meet that demand, our clients need to cut through the clutter in more arresting ways,” Davis explained. “That often means clever, new combinations of content—from still photography to footage, motion picture clips to the Mona Lisa, celebrity portraiture to hard-hitting photojournalism—all with varying degrees of exclusivity. These complexities require greater emphasis on service, in which Corbis enjoys a three-to-one advantage according to global market research. And Corbis is the only global provider to combine a world-class collection of images, with a suite of highly consultative services twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.” Corbis’ clients evidently find value in its approach—analysts estimate industry growth at a median of three and a half percent, so Corbis’ disproportionate growth indicates that the company is taking market share from its competitors. This is likely the result of its ability to meet the increasingly complex needs of image users. Advertisers, for example, increasingly find a competitive advantage in associating their brands with particular celebrities—Tiger Woods, for instance. But getting the necessary rights clearances can be so costly and time-consuming that creative professionals will often settle for a less powerful idea than pursue the elusive clearances. Corbis provides both the imagery and the clearances, saving the advertiser valuable time and money. “On its own, the old vending machine model—insert coin, remove image—cannot deal with these growing complexities,” Davis explained. “There has to be an additive layer of expertise and service. Today’s professional communicators need more than a vendor. They need a partner.” Despite the company’s growing emphasis on consultative service—and given that Corbis is owned by Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates—it is no surprise that technology plays an important role in Corbis’ business. “From the beginning we foresaw a marketplace where technology would enable unprecedented access to the world’s most powerful images,” said Gates. “Of course, unfettered access opens a Pandora’s box of challenges with regard to intellectual property rights, so Corbis pioneered the use of technology to manage and control rights. Without this control, clients could never be sure that the rights they’ve licensed will be protected.” ccording to Gates, a business model that combines technology and rights in such a unique way requires a uniquely qualified leader to oversee it. Gates found the right balance of attributes in Davis. “Some people are calling him my ‘other Steve,’” Gates laughed, “but his business acumen, technological know-how, and strong background in intellectual property law make him singularly qualified to run Corbis—a company that exists at the convergence of art, commerce, technology and law. The amazing growth Corbis is enjoying is a tribute to his leadership and focus.” Our business model—the broadest, deepest combination of world-class imagery and expert services under a single, global brand—was a long-term play from the beginning,” said Davis. “To grow twenty percent in a flat economy is an unmistakable validation that our investment and perseverance are beginning to pay off. It is a pivotal moment for Corbis.” Through many years of research and development, acquisition and integration,” Davis continued, “we were able to maintain our focus thanks to Bill’s unwavering commitment and support. Without such a patient investor, we would have been forced to yield to short-term pressures long ago, resulting in a less compelling offering for 21st-century clients.”

appendix 4 press release 2 jan 3 2005
Appendix 4 – Press release 2, Jan. 3, 2005

Corbis Acquires zefa, Third-Largest Image Licensing Company in the World,

Addition expands comprehensive creative choice and services in one place

SEATTLE and DÜSSELDORF (January 3, 2005)–Corbis today announced its acquisition of zefa Visual Media Group, the third-largest image licensing company in the world, resulting in combined revenues in excess of US$200 MM. The addition of zefa advances Corbis’ strategy of offering complete visual solutions, encompassing existing imagery, custom production, and rights services.

“This deal further solidifies our plan to accelerate penetration of key commercial markets,” said Steve Davis, President and CEO of Corbis. “Moreover, as a result, we expect to dramatically improve our market share, not only in Germany, France, and the UK, but around the globe.”

Headquartered in Düsseldorf, Germany, zefa has more than 140 employees and eight offices throughout Europe. The company represents more than 450,000 images, used daily by advertising agencies, corporations, and publishers around the world.

“zefa’s fresh, fashion-forward photography is a perfect complement to Corbis’ imagery and services,” said Jennifer Hurshell, Corbis Senior Vice-President, Image Licensing. “Our clients demand tremendous stylistic breadth of imagery, and this takes us another step forward to building one of greatest creative resources in the world.”

“Corbis and zefa share a deep commitment to offering our clients the most relevant imagery to communicate their ideas,” said Tomas Speight, CEO of zefa. “This will enormously benefit our photographers, who will gain global reach from Corbis’ global sales network and industry-leading services.”

In 2005, Corbis will integrate zefa into its website, global sales organization, and marketing programs, offering comprehensive access to Corbis and zefa imagery and services. Erwin Fey, zefa President, will transition into a strategic consulting role with Corbis, and Tomas Speight, CEO of zefa, will enter a new role as a Vice-President, leading international operations expansion activities.

ABOUT zefa VISUAL MEDIA zefa visual media gmbh is the largest European group in the professional stock imagery market, and currently ranks number three worldwide. The main office of zefa visual media group is in Düsseldorf, Germany. There is another sales office in Hamburg as well as 16 subsidiaries and partner agencies around the world, all forming the zefa visual media group. The range of images offered by zefa covers a wide selection of rights-managed and royalty-free collections. In addition, zefa visual media also has its own global network of top creative photographers. Over 70 group partners license the usage rights to the group´s images via its global image portal

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