The Australian Labor and Liberal Parties have been caught licensing the same 2009 US$36 stock photo of a distressed elderly woman for use in several political campaign advertisements.
The iStock photos have been licensed by the Labor Party in online campaigns from 2013, 2014, 2015, and August 2018.
The Liberal Party used the photo in a Tasmanian campaign in 2018, and this year she has appeared as the ‘poster granny’ for a campaign against Labor, the ABC reports.
She has featured in minor and major advertisements, from billboards and videos, to polls on websites, and Facebook and Twitter posts.
The portrait photo is from a set of eight, described as ‘Distressed Senior Woman with Bills’.
The lady is sitting alone at a table with a cup of tea, holding a bill in one hand while touching her head in anguish. She stares directly at the camera. Typically the image has been used as ammo against various policy changes which the political parties claim will harm pensioners and retirees, the elderly, or low income earners.
A Standard Licence of the image costs just US$36. It provides perpetual and unlimited, but non-exclusive, use of the photo, with an option to purchase an extended license.
Salt Lake City photographer, Todd Keith, shot the images in the town of Sandy, Utah back in 2009. Keith told the ABC the model was 72-years old back then and he suspects she has since passed away.
Beyond political campaign ads, the image has also been used by several businesses across America and in the UK, as well as in countless news articles.
It cost the political parties a tiny fraction of the cost of hiring a local photographer to create original images. But the risk is the ads could be perceived as insincere.
‘It’s surprising that they would do that,’ Dee Madigan, executive creative director of advertising firm Campaign Edge, told the ABC. ‘Why not just spend a little bit more on a proper photograph. Otherwise, this becomes the story, as it will. Then it’s an own goal.’
Knowing the distressed senior woman is from a different country and has likely passed away may distract the public from the original message. Additionally, as Keith points out, she could have ‘any political beliefs’. She may be a Trump, or worst still, an Anning supporter!
Inside Imaging contacted Todd Keith for more info, but he did not respond in time.