In this interview, art buyer Birgit Meinhof from CarlNann – rooted in Germany’s oldest ad agency – talks about getting started, the changes in the industry, future trends and more.
With an ever-changing creative scene, the role of art buyers expands year by year, becoming a world on its own and requiring new skills. To find out more, we reached out to expert Birgit Meinhof who has been in the art buying industry for around 20 years.
Keep reading as we dive into her experience working at CarlNann (previously FCB Hamburg), how her role has evolved, the changes in the industry, appreciating art in times of social media, and much more.
1. Tell us a bit about yourself. How did you start and get where you are?
I trained as an advertising saleswoman and started as a junior art buyer after my training. For me, the step was quite clear because I loved photography and advertising, and art buying is therefore the perfect combination.
I quickly realized that producing and being in contact with creative minds inside and outside the agency was exactly my thing. I had a wonderful teacher. I learned a lot from her and gradually took on bigger and bigger projects. With the responsibility and experience gained, I gradually became a senior art buyer and can now look back on almost 20 years of professional experience.
I quickly realized that producing and being in contact with creative minds inside and outside the agency was exactly my thing.Birgit Meinhof
2. As art buyer at CarlNann, what does your day-to-day look like?
The exciting thing about art buying and why I love the job so much is that no two days are the same. One day I’m researching cityscapes from the 18th century so that a historical illustration will look as realistic and well-founded as possible, and the other I’m looking for lotus flowers in March, or I’m finding out which espresso a prominent testimonial likes best. But there is one constant thing: I have the honor of working with outstanding creative personalities day-to-day.
3. How has your role evolved considering the transition from FCB to CarlNann? What’s new and what were the challenges?
Going from a large network agency to a boutique agency naturally brings change. You become faster, more agile and more flexible. And that also applies to art buying. The areas of responsibility from other departments are also merging more and interlocking. The challenge – if you want to name it like this – is to become a hybrid employee. For me it just makes this job so exciting. You can’t stop moving.
Many of my colleagues no longer call themselves art buyers, but art producers.
4. You’ve been working in art buying for more than 20 years. What is key to doing your job now that was not before?
Not only did the budgets and projects change, but the way of working naturally became enormous over the years.
As an art buyer, you have to pull all the strings and make sure that not a single piece of information gets lost. You have to have a talent for organization and the ambition to always find the best possible artist for the client’s project. That hasn’t changed, but the main art buyers work isn’t longer focused on photography. The borders to moving images are blurred. That’s why many of my colleagues no longer call themselves art buyers, but art producers.
You always have to be open to new things. When digital photography came along, no one thought it would catch on. Nowadays it sounds bizarre, because the business changes every day. I think that’s the difference. Nowadays, you have to think outside the box more quickly than you did in the past.
You have to have a talent for organization and the ambition to always find the best possible artist for the client’s project.Birgit Meinhof
5. You have worked with multiple international and local clients, how does your approach differ for each?
To me, it honestly doesn’t make a difference whether it’s a small client or a big one, whether it’s international or local. It’s always about finding the best implementation for the project, whether with young talent or experienced artists. For me, every project is like a jigsaw puzzle and it gives me immense pleasure to put together the individual puzzle pieces to form a complete picture.
6. What has been your favorite project so far? Why?
Here I have to say: all of them. Because with every project I learned something new, met fantastic people, and was proud when the puzzle was complete and the customer was satisfied.
7. What are your major sources of inspiration?
That’s easy: All the people I met and will meet.
8. What are your most useful tips for art buying at an ad agency?
Be open to everything and always keep calm.
9. If there was one thing you could change in the industry tomorrow, what would it be?
The flood of images on social media provides us with countless snapshots every second. Unfortunately, this reduces the appreciation for a professionally commissioned image and the creative work behind it. In order to ensure the production of these images, many work steps are necessary, sometimes by many people, who create creative products with precisely coordinated work processes. I would like to see more awareness of this.
10. Last but not least, what can we expect for 2022 when it comes to art buying?
Art buying will continue to adapt to the needs. In 2022 many projects will follow the spirit of human values and sustainability combined with colorful minimalism and geometric shapes.
We thank Birgit for her time and her insights on art buying. If you liked to hear from Birgit Meinhof, stay tuned for incoming interviews with more industry experts on our blog.
In case you missed out, check out our interview with Kolle Rebbe’s creative director, Thomas Knüwer.
What do you think is the future of art buying? Let us know in the comments!