Members of The Photo Marketing Association (PMA) woke up last Thursday morning with a brand new affiliation to a brand new association, The Imaging Alliance, while their venerable retailers’ association was no more.
PMA, formed in 1928, has been dissolved and the PhotoImaging Manufacturers and Distributors Association, established 1934, has been reformed as The Imaging Alliance, potentially bolstered by the hundreds of now-former PMA members in the US and around the world.
As part of what has so far been a pretty slick changeover, in train most of this year, the new Imaging Alliance website, featuring a seamless combination of PMA and PMDA content, went live at the time of the merger announcement – and with remarkably few dead links!
PMA members will automatically qualify as members of The Imaging Alliance through to the end of this year. Affiliate membership – the category offered to former PMA members – is ordinarily US$495.
The moment of truth for the re-structured PMA came in October last year, when membership fees for the new-look association fell due. That the PMA-PMDA merger plans had been in discussion ‘from early this calendar year’, according to The Imaging Alliance president, Jim Malcolm, indicates that there was not sufficient member support for PMA as envisioned with its ‘four pillar’ framework by CEO Georgia McCabe and president Gaby Mullinax.
But The Imaging Alliance appears to move PMA in the direction Georgia and Gabby conceived of for PMA.
And while The Imaging Alliance president, Jim Malcolm, told PhotoCounter they were ‘actively moving PMA members into The Imaging Alliance’ the new group will also be seeking new members from beyond the PMA membership lists. He expressed an ambition to get big players like Facebook, Instagram and Google on board, as well as larger retailers like B&H.
He mentioned VR, augmented reality, and drones and aerial photography as the kind of innovative applications for imaging that The Imaging Alliance wanted to explore and promote.
‘We formed The Imaging Alliance to best serve a stronger, bolder and more diverse industry. We will be bringing together an incredibly broad spectrum of companies that offer products, services and applications and will promote the growth and development of the imaging industry, at large,’ said Jim.
He is joined at head office by the highly-respected photo industry editor and columnist, Jerry Grossman (DI Reporter), who will play the role of executive director.
Something else again
While the ‘traditional’ PMA was primarily a group which represented the interests of photo retailers, and the PMDA was a distributors’ association – roughly similar to Australia’s IDEA – as mentioned before, The Imaging Alliance aspires to be something else again, expanding membership to new frontiers in imaging.
‘The Imaging Alliance is openly soliciting new members from the growing spectrum of companies offering hardware, software, online services, and applications as well as from retailers, photographers and media representatives who service the imaging industry,’ stated the official announcement.
The new PMA also had plans in this direction, as illustrated by its Innovation Now event, which has now been adopted as a key event in The Image Alliance calendar.
The Imaging Alliance will not be organising large trade shows, however. Jim said many of the potential exhibitors are now committed to the giant annual CES event. The focus will be more on conferences and education.
‘But an end-user trade show – like PhotoPlus (pros and enthusiasts) in New York or WPPI (wedding photographers) – those events we absolutely want to get behind.’
The PMDA has been holding an annual Celebrate Imaging Night dinner coinciding with CES, this will be expanded next January to incorporate five award categories, including a Retailer of the Year award.
He also said The Imaging Alliance wanted to involve international PMA members, and planned to meet with them at Photokina in September. ‘We will be US-based but with international participation,’ he said.
The PMDA had around 15 members – at its peak it only ever had 18 – including most of the camera companies including Fujifilm, a couple of publishers – National Geographic and Popular Photography – and other companies such as Unibind, Shutterfly and Vivid Pix. Membership is from $3000 to $6000 depending on the sponsorship package – bronze, silver, gold or platinum.
This is what you can expect for your $495 Affiliate Membership:
– Exclusive consumer and trade research reports developed by the Consumer Technology Association and Suite 48 Analytics, delivered bi-monthly. (The first of these, on VR and 360-degree photography, has already been posted for members only);
– A seat on subcommittees of The Imaging Alliance board;
– A daily newsfeed of industry news delivered to your inbox;
– Educational webinars funded through Imaging Alliance sponsors;
– Licensed use of The Imaging Alliance logo (eg, window stickers are being developed for retailer use);
– Participation in the ‘Portraits of Love’ program, where you can have military portraits taken at your location;
– Participation in Networking Receptions, including the annual Celebrate Imaging Night event at CES;
– Listing in The Imaging Alliance Member Directory;
– Partner discounts and benefits – ways for your company to share in collective negotiations and buying power – for instance discounted FedEx accounts, saving on insurance, etc);
– A powerful voice in the future of the industry.
So far, the only former representative of PMA at The Imaging Alliance big table is former president, Gaby Mullinax, who will become an advisor to The Imaging Alliance board.
However, Jim Malcolm outlined a future structure of sub-committees, chaired by members of The Imaging Alliance board and focussed on particular issues or interests. These working committees would seek participation from the membership and provide a feedback loop to the Board.
Jim said The Imaging Alliance is in good shape financially, and with a small staff augmented by contributions from volunteers, and sponsorship and membership revenue from member companies, can chug along at the current scale and expand in scope when required.
There is now a clear demarcation between the role played by the IPI Network, which is all about practical assistance to independent photo specialists and labs to improve their marketing endeavours; and The Imaging Alliance, which is casting a broader membership net and has more of a ‘Big Picture’ approach.
Perhaps this creates an environment where the two groups can work closer together?
‘I don’t have enough background and understanding of IPI to answer that effectively,’ said Jim. ‘There has been no discussion about not allowing that to happen,’ he added.
In, say, 12 months from now, what The Imaging Alliance looks like will very much be subject to the level of participation from former PMA members and other sources of expanded membership. If they don’t get involved, it will be a re-branded PMDA. If they do, it will be something more ambitious.