Tag Archives: marketing

Gray is the New Blonde

Search Trends

One of the advantages of working at iSPY is that we get to see and explore some of the best visual content in the world.  We can compare results side by side. We can explore media types and subject matter. We can also see popular search terms that often are driven from new trends. One that caught my attention recently was “gray hair.”

It seems that the fashion industry, and actually women of all ages are starting to embrace gray hair; from titanium to silver to platinum. I decided to do a little research and was surprised to see the first article that popped up on Google was from the Wall Street Journal entitled “The Hottest Hair Color of the Moment.”


My curiosity got the better of me as I tried to figure out what was causing this shift from coloring gray hair to embracing it.  It seems that the movement is related to an increasing interest in authenticity.

People care about authenticity… to a point. We want to relate to visual content. But social media makes us long for an idealized reality. We want authentic but really good authentic. As people, we strive for the perfect selfie or travel pic. We long for the best locations, best outfits and best experiences. We aspire for more.


In advertising and communications, however, authenticity is also about honesty. While consumers aspire for a more perfect world, they also want to be able to trust a brand. Ads can be beautiful but need also to be believable and relevant “to me.” Ads can be emotional but need to be engaging “to me.” Authenticity in communications is lost without trust.


Whether in an ad or editorial, trust is where the images and message come together in a true and powerful way that the reader believes; in how the message is presented, for sure, but mostly in how it is received. Whether in advertising or editorial communications, the reader must connect and believe in the story that is being told.


Companies are trying to find a balance. They want to deliver those “in the moment” amazing images but they also need to tell a compelling and believable story. For promotion, some images should not look real. They should look funny, clever or conceptual. But no matter the use, the message the image helps to deliver must be true to the story being told. It must be authentic in how the reader receives the message and how the image connects to the message being crafted.

So gray is the new blonde. Perhaps it is just hair color but probably not. There is a movement now to be more authentic and honest in this world where we can craft any kind of picture, real or not; where we want to embrace the best of ourselves in a truer and more authentic way. Readers need to connect with and trust communications and the communicator needs to find balance between honesty and using images that tell their compelling story.

Leslie Hughes is the CEO and Founder of iSPY Technologies, Inc. and iSPY Visuals, an intelligent search tool and workspace for visual content users. Hughes has over 20 years experience in digital media licensing, content production, and distribution, including having been President of Bill Gates’ Corbis Images, and President of the Markets and Products Group for Corbis Corp. She became an entrepreneur 10 years ago. Hughes has consulted or been part of 6 start-ups and 12 acquisitions.  She has an MBA from the Cox School of Business at Southern Methodist University, is the proud mother of two and lives and works in New York.

Connect with Leslie: Twitter | LinkedIn | Angel List

Meet Natalie Burns

Sat in Cipriani Dolci in 2015, on the West Balcony inside Grand Central Station, in my favourite city in the world, I spotted Leslie on her phone.

Five years on since we’d first met, I’d dropped Leslie a message to see if she fancied catching up over coffee. We’d a lot to talk about.

In 2010, I’d graduated from the then Arts Institute at Bournemouth (now Arts University Bournemouth) having studied commercial photography and had made my way across the pond to work for the marvelous Karen d’Silva (now our head of Content & Creative) as her assistant a few days a week. The rest of my time was split between working at a boutique stock agency, WIN-Initiative and then spending the weekends assisting photographers like Bob Carey and Brett Beyer. Under the wing of Chrissy Reilly, who was pretty much the glue at WIN.  I went to every photo event the city had to offer. We stacked up business cards and cocktails – and yet somehow I always managed to stay awake on the L train back to my weird Craigslist flat in Brooklyn. Over the 90 days I spent in the city, I had not only learnt a huge amount, but had developed a reputation for being the Brit who knows about the internet and this thing called social media.

Having begun the laborious and expensive process of talking to lawyers about a longer term working visa, the notion was canned when a better job opportunity came about at Orange Logic – the then leading provider of digital asset management and digital rights management software.

My relationship with photography was very quickly transforming into phototechnology.

The job was a steep learning curve; not just about agile technology, software as a service, and rights management, but about my own ability to learn, adapt and overcome. I quit, repatriated to the U.K and began going it alone. As Leslie said in her own post, life goes on.

So when I met Leslie in 2015, I was on a recce trip back to New York, but this time to learn about the challenges and opportunities for an international development company looking to open it’s doors to the US market. My then business partner and I were exploring the city’s digital scene, meeting others who had successfully bridged the Atlantic divide and soaking up as much as we could to take home and consider. Our business, a development agency with offices in the UK and Thailand, had started to flip the script. We were no longer just developing discreet projects for clients, but we’d started to take equity in startups – becoming their remote CTO and working in partnership with them to grow and fund their businesses.

Hearing about our setup, Leslie began to tell me about her idea for an app that would help creatives find great content faster by simply providing the facility to search multiple providers all in one place. Having seen my own team of creatives struggle to find the right shot so many times before, I knew firsthand how long it could take to source a single, licensable image for a creative campaign. If you haven’t ever been tasked with searching for a good stock image, I can tell you with great certainty that it is a pain in the arse. It’s a laborious process of flitting between one stock library and another – do they have the right content? How much are their images? Can I make a lightbox for my client with images from more than one provider? No. What a drag.

When I first heard the idea for iSPY, I was already sold.

My team got to work building the prototype and soon enough, we launched the Beta to a small group of friends, investors, peers and early adopters.

Since the launch, my day job has changed again. After a little over two years in the exclusive world of technology, I craved a broader creative scope, made my peace with my business partner and left the company building iSPY to join the senior team of a branding agency. It’s been a great transition personally, but it’s also been fuelling iSPY. In the world of branding, stock images are traded almost continuously – so it’s been an amazing opportunity for me to sit client side and experience the real need our iSPY customers have for this product we’re building.

I know we need iSPY, because I need it – and I’m motivated to keep improving it.

Natalie Burns VP Strategy iSPY Visuals LLC

Natalie Burns is the VP Strategy at iSPY Visuals, Inc., a search one and done aggregation tool for visual content. In the daytime, you’ll find Natalie working as a Strategist at the branding agency, Pixeldot, hosting and moderating events that celebrate women in technology and advocating women’s rights and voter engagement through projects like What Women Want 2.0. Prior to Pixeldot, Natalie was co-Director of an international technology company and began her career at the intersection between technology and photography.

Connect with Natalie: Twitter | LinkedIn | Angel List