Fill out your Corbis PhotoVS bracket before March 19th

I’m very excited to say that today, I launched Corbis’ new contest – Corbis PhotoVS (said Photo-verse).

Corbis PhotoVS is a tournament bracket with 32 of our favorite images chosen by our team of professional image editors and curators.

We’re asking our users to choose their favorite image in each match-up until they’re down to their one final and favorite image. When completed, they will submit their bracket. After all brackets are submitted, we’re asking our Corbis customers to vote on each image pairing in each round. When all voting is done, the top three brackets that best reflect the winning images win.

The grand prize winner receives a fully-loaded Mac Airbook, a Lecia D-Lux camera, Adobe Creative Suite 5 and a year subscription to Corbis’ OnDemand: Royalty-free image service.

The second prize winner will receive an Airbook and a Leica camera and the third place winner gets a new iPad 3 with a camera.

There are five rounds of voting that determine the final master bracket, and in each of the five rounds, we’re giving away 20 $50 gift codes to – a t-shirt site with shirt designs voted on and accepted by the Threadless community.

Corbis PhotoVS was conceived in early January when I was trying to figure out what we could do for a promotion in March. From January to February, we had a promotion in market in which anyone who made a $350+ purchase could choose between a $50 Fandango card (for creatives who like to stay indoors during the winter) or a $50 REI card (for creatives who are active when winter cold hits).

Our goal for March was to create an engaging experience for our customers. Ideally, it would reinforce our brand and show off our diverse and deep inventory.

PhotoVS accomplishes this for Corbis. By using 32 images from across our major collections – with an equal amount of images from the Commercial side of our business (images for creatives and marketing designers) and the Media side (images for magazine and online publication editors) – we’re able to show off the breadth and depth of the Corbis inventory of images.

And along with getting customers engaged in our product beyond the normal image search and purcahse, the selected images also show off the expertise of our team of editors and curators.

It’s not my nature to give up easily (or ever, really). When I want something to happen, I’m very stubborn and persistent, and I’ll will something to life if that’s what it takes. Corbis PhotoVS was one such project.

This one was my baby from the beginning, and if I didn’t see it through, it probably wouldn’t have happened.

When I thought of this in January, I knew it was going to be a tight turnaround, so I started looking for a web development team that could complete the project. Because it takes a bit to become an approved vendor for Corbis, I started by working with the agencies we already use.

Only one of our existing agencies could have handled it, but their bid came back about $20,000 too high, and it wasn’t clear they understood – technically – what the project was. We went back and forth on bids and trying to remove scope to get the price down, but I ultimately decided I didn’t want to neuter the vision for the project, or it wouldn’t be worth doing.

When I was with, I had one developer and one designer build a similar site for me in two weeks – by themselves – so I had some familiarity with what was possible. And fortunately, that developer had just moved to Seattle from Boulder and was temporarily living in my guest room. So when he looked at the agency’s bid, he was able to see they weren’t looking at the project correctly and helped me map out what it needed to be and how the supporting database needed to be set up.

But the agency still couldn’t bring their cost down, and I was ready to give up until our Community Manager recommended I call a vendor he had just worked with on a Facebook project. The company’s name is Bobira, and when I asked them for a bid, they came in $20,000 below the first bid and committed to completing it in the necessary timeline.

So off we went.

Along the way there were many other obstacles. Our editors produced a long list of images for consideration, but before we could use them, they needed to be vetted by our legal department. There are a number of reasons why an image can’t be used. In some, the models didn’t sign the release and in others, the photographers didn’t want the images used to in any advertising. In all, we lost 17 images to this process – some pretty great ones, too.

There were other legal hurdles, too. We wanted to give away 100 $50 Amazon gift cards, but their legal team won’t get involved in contests like ours unless the contest host commits to spending $100,000 or more with Amazon – which made sense to me. We were only going to spend $5,000, so we weren’t allowed to use them.

Fortunately, a designer friend of mine suggested, which I’m actually much more excited about because it’s different, more interesting and more relevant to our customer base – designers.

In general, it seemed like every time I turned around, another obstacle was presenting itself. This was clearly one of the greatest challenges my creative problem solving skills have ever faced.

In fact, right down to the final decision on whether or not to launch, with 50 minutes before pushing it live, we discovered an Internet Explorer bug that I thought was surely going to derail it. But based on their work up to this point, I had faith that Bobira’s team would come through. And sure enough, they had it resolved with minutes to go.

Some of the obstacles seemed like the marketing gods were simply conspiring. We were supposed to launch the week of March 5 – before the NCAA tournament. But it just so happened that the project our CEO had been working on since he was 3 – GreenLight Music, a simple, one-stop way to license music – was set to launch on March 7. Given the resources dedicated to the GL Music launch, I was simply going to have to wait a week.

I don’t give up easy, and when I want something to happen, I always find a way to make it happen. This project was a true test of my determination. I had to coordinate nearly all of Corbis’ departments and an outside vendor, and it had to be done in just over a month.

But we got it done, and today it’s live for all to play. So hopefully, you can take a minute away from your NCAA bracket to check out some really cool images. If you pick right, you just might walk away with a pretty cool prize package, too.

– My name is Jon Friesch, and I hope you enjoy completing your PhotoVS bracket.

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