Shutterstock’s New Partnership Might Bring You More Ads With Icons Like Marilyn Monroe and Elvis Presley

Famous images will now be licensed for commercial use

Shutterstock images will now have iconic photos available through its partnership with Greenlight. - Credit by Nara Archives/Shutterstock, Shutterstock, John Rooney/AP/Shutterstock
Headshot of Diana Pearl

In the next year, you may see some of the world’s most iconic historical figures pop up more and more in advertising.

That’s because Shutterstock is about to make it a lot easier for brands to access the images from estates of icons like Marilyn Monroe, Steve McQueen, Elvis Presley, Martin Luther King Jr., among others. The stock photography provider is partnering with Greenlight, a clearance and rights agency, to provide brands and advertisers with the rights to previously unavailable photos.

Shutterstock may have a vast library of images available, but many of these are licensed for editorial only, meaning that they can only be used in a non-commercial format like a magazine, newspaper or blog.

“Clearing and licensing third-party rights for commercial use can be a daunting task,” Tamra Knepfer, senior vice president of Greenlight, said, explaining why these images have remained in the commercial vault for so many years. “Some people may be hesitant to use the best content simply due to tight timelines and potential legal complexities.”

Since Greenlight’s primary purpose is to navigate these difficulties, they have an expertise in the area. They have spent 30 years working with brands and advertisers to help license these editorial-only images for commercial use and will now do the same for Shutterstock’s portfolio of images.

This exclusive partnership will help clear images that were previously dubbed editorial-only. Greenlight, which is a division of the Bill Gates-owned Branded Entertainment Network, has its own exclusive partnerships with the estates of several celebrities and other prominent people. The company will use its expertise in negotiating these sorts of rights to open up Shutterstock’s wide-ranging library to a greater audience.

This means that brands, agencies and other creatives will now be able to use iconic photos of Thomas Edison and Albert Einstein in their advertising in a way that was rarely available before. When images like these are available, the resulting product is impactful: Think of Apple’s now-famous “Think Different” campaign, starring people like Einstein, King and John Lennon, that ran in the late ’90s.

“We are thrilled to be working with an industry leader in this space to bring preferential rights clearance services to our customers,” said Donna Granato, Shutterstock’s general manager of editorial. “As specialists, Greenlight can help get most editorial images in the Shutterstock collection licensed for our clients’ commercial needs, such as branded campaigns and product launches.”


@dianapearl_ diana.pearl@adweek.com Diana is the deputy brands editor at Adweek and managing editor of Brandweek.