Zimbabwe’s stock image problem… or what ZOL, OneFusion, EcoCash & Telecel have in common…

Tapiwa Creates Avatar

The lack of appeal that litters a lot of the marketing campaigns in Zimbabwe is all thanks to a shocking trend that seems to have become the norm. This trend is the use of stock images which is now so rampant in marketing campaigns it is just embarrassing, to say the least. Stock images are photos that are available for purchase online, this means they can be used by anyone who purchases them.

The risky part of using a stock image for your brand’s campaign is the same risk that comes with falling in love with a hired car, it will never be yours alone. Someone else can hire your car and you cannot report them to the police when you see them driving “your” car. Basically, you have no ownership rights at all.

Local vs International

First of all, the internet has made the world smaller. We can access content in other countries at the click of a button. This has broadened the consumer’s exposure and they are no longer just served adverts from local companies only and neither do they just read local websites. Consequently it makes it even harder to get away with using stock images as another organization has probably used the same image.


As you can see above ZOL used an image which was used by Socialeemedia.co.uk as the featured image for an article on their website.  Socialeemedia.co.uk made perfect use of the stock image as stock images should only be used for blog posts and never for branding.

The fact that the image being used to humanize these brands can be used by absolutely anyone who has paid for it is scary when you think of the many industries around the world that can use it. Take the Telecel advert below for example which was also used on a website for sex performance drugs. Embarrassing isn’t it.

Telecel & sex?

GetCash also fell into the stock image trend but theirs is a bit more embarrassing because they used a stock a logo. As with the images, it creates the same problem but a logo is worse because it is what must differentiate and be a unique identifier.


Use of the stock logo around the world that is used by GetCash


The obvious downside of this is even you can use that logo for your Got Caught (Pvt) Ltd and Get Cash cannot drag you to court for using “their” logomark. What if someone from that country comes to Zimbabwe, will they trust your brand or consider the whole business operation a sham?

Local vs Local

Moving on to the local scene it gets a little bit more interesting as we are now the home of using stock imagery in marketing materials. The probability of using the same images in such a situation becomes higher since almost everyone is doing it.

NetOne’s OneFusion and Econet’s EcoCash using the same stock image

It even gets embarrassingly worse as TelOne, Netone, and EcoCash have all used stock images of the same woman in the same attire. She is used so much it seems we have all adopted.

TelOne & NetOne


NetOne and EcoCash


If branding is all about creating a unique name and image then the use of stock images in our campaigns is certainly the death of branding. In preparation for branding’s funeral, the stock image granny was used by those in the business of death.

Evidently, this means that the creativity of our marketing is being held hostage by stock image servers. Whatever those servers hold is what our marketing efforts in Zimbabwe will be built around. Stock images are the reason behind our boring marketing campaigns. Stock images are cheap and as much as technology should help to make our lives easier they absolutely have no place in marketing campaigns.  Especially of these organizations that have a huge a marketing budget. It is reckless to make a stock image the face of your brand when it can be used by absolutely anyone for anything. You need to be in absolute control of your brand’s image. Honestly, this trend is embarrassing and it should stop.

Tapiwa Creates is a creative (Web, Advertising, Branding) & a design consultant. He writes at www.tapiwacreates.com/blog when he is not fighting the design battle against ugliness.


  1. Ngoni

    Oopsy! The most irritating thing is some of the agencies who do these things claim to be creative geniuses and charge thousands for doing what? As for the GetCash Logo we will pretend not to notice.

    Quietly walks away

  2. Senator Tutu

    Haayaa zvonyadzisa izvi

  3. Techie

    that really hurts isn’t it?

  4. Tip

    Marketing managers are also part of the problem. They just approve anything these agencies “create”

  5. Chihera

    As a marketing person sometimes the budget really is the villain. Try getting money out of the finance department for a proper photo shoot when head count is getting cut and salaries are being paid late and little.

  6. malvern

    Mmmm sad and embarrassing sure

  7. Solutions welcome

    I’m in this industry. As a freelancer, a client will laugh all the way to the $5 freepik “designer” in town when you tell them you want no less than $250 for a unique corporate identity(and that’s a bargain!). In the end, a lot of us will cave in to pressure of survival and charge less, lowering our creative investment in projects just to get something. As an agency creative, most clients will fight you tooth and nail if they find a $1000+ charge for bespoke pro photography on their invoice (another actual bargain). $500 for a website when that a5 poster in town said it can be done (of course with a template pack) for $50 by the next day? Good luck with that!

    Honestly I have no solution for this. I recently priced out an exclusive image licencing contract from an international stock agency and it came to about $10000 for a year. Client obviously passed on it. The same with hiring a talented photographer and model, leaving either Google or my barely average but free photography skills and someone from their office to model as the last 2 options. From above, the ideal or even moral path is clear to me, but from the ground, things are grey. I think commercial creatives and clients play a role in this state of affairs, sharing almost equally the roles of victim, perpetrator and partners in crime. The economy and the now ubiquitous cheap, free or “free” online solutions make an already tough situation harder.

    1. Anonymous

      I can bet my last dollar that the agencies that did the work shown in the article got quite the dollar! We know them. We see them driving their fancy cars.

    2. Kevie

      you are spot on, as a freelancer too im faced with a similar issue every day, but regardless of that using stock images or others tools one has to at least try and find a not so popular stock image.

  8. Charles Muzonzini

    I beg to differ. 99% of the people those ads are targeted at don’t care that they used stock images. There is very little upside to using original images except for the feel good factor that you were original but it does nothing for your bottom line.

    1. Kevie

      thats very true, the end user sometimes doesn’t notice or don’t care, only a designer can notice certain similarities, i can be 100% correct that most people didn’t even notice any of these until this post, even on the issue of websites the end use only cares about ease of use etc whether the website is a template,made with WordPress or joomla etc or hand coded from scratch they don’t care about all of that, what matters is it attractive enough to pull clients too your business

    2. Ngoni

      I do not think that warranties a get out of jail free card for the advertising agencies. They are paid hefty sums for these ads by the likes of Econet and Netone. Don’t you think they should at least not use what the competitor has used?!

  9. peterc

    Ah, Telecel is expanding into the sex industry.

  10. Ghost

    Unsurprisingly, there aren’t any stock footage companies in Zimbabwe, but is this news? It’s easy to spot this trend but perhaps what’s hard is to identify what can be done to support this market

    1. Tendai Maguwu

      I tried to cajole the guys at The Herald to start a stock footage service using its huge photostockpile to no avail. They still sell images at US$10 per copy when they could make more by making them more affordable. The irony of it is that they file copies of their images with the National Archives which sells them at US$2 each, The Archives are, however, not doing enough to market this service

  11. sonic

    Most agencies and client wants to cut costs they don’t want to pay for a proper photoshoot no wonder why in zimthey is no advertising agencies are ripping off people coz every advert is more of the same nothing new or innovative i feel sorry for the creative cos their only now cut up artist even a 3 year old is way more creative than these called agencies producing mediorce adds

  12. Anonymous

    The consumer really doesn’t care. I’ve seen the repeat images all over the place and I’ve never minded. If it reduces the company’s advertising costs I say they should do it.

  13. Anthony

    Sorry but why should stock images only be used for blog posts? Stock images are made to be sold to whoever wants to use them in whatever context is relevant to them. Use of same stock photo on 2 completely different campaigns/products in 2 different countries could be seen as purely coincidental rather than blatant copying of an idea. Same images within local scene and market sector, yeah that is just poor play by the marketing agencies being too lazy to come up with original ideas. as well as said companies Marketing departments for not actually being on the ball enough to notice

    1. Ngoni

      I think the real issue is competitors using the same image. It kind of shows a bit of ‘non-competitiveness’ don’t you think?

  14. ndizvo

    zim advertising is pathetic,lacks proper creative and marketing personal who think creatively and strategically for its progress.you can’t tell me stock photography is the only way you can relay a message,why isn’t 3D,character design,animation, typography to say the least been exercised,you aim creatives like easy cheap things zvisinganetse “jus put a pic zvibaye”.the economy too thanks to our politics has jus embedded itself in everything the way we think and do,it chased away proper advertising practitioners who could have passed on knowledge of the trade.this industry yazara nevanhu “vakutsvaga zvekuita” its a talent driven industry not for every jack and jill hence the junk we see everyday. regai Shift Engage ikumamiseyi with their good work!…besides its tora mari don’t give a damn about creativity and our myopic marketers who contradict themselves everyday and don’t even know their own brand which they have been working on for 5 years plus.advertising sets the pace and thank u for setting rubbish ads for us!

  15. Imi Vanhu Musadaro

    I don’t think there is a problem with stock photography. The problem is that there aren’t enough images available that look authentically African, i.e, with black people in African looking dressing or contexts. There’s a wealth of stock photo’s of white folk. The one’s of black folk are generally in a first world setting, making the advert look unrealistic, requiring some photoshopping before it can be used. This means that the few “authentic” looking African photos tend to be used over and over. You have to look far and wide to find photos that haven’t been used as yet. Over time, the variety and number of photos will increase and you won’t have these problems anymore.

    1. Tapiwa Nyati

      I think advertising agencies should go for photoshoots…period. They must not rely on stock photography.

      1. Imi Vanhu Musadaro

        Photoshoots aren’t feasible all the time, especially for smaller agencies. Why should one hire a Ferrari for a photoshoot when you get a stock image to use? High end stock image sites have exclusive photos where the number of downloads are limited. There are plenty of adverts out there that use stock photography that you’d assume were done from a photoshoot.

  16. Tendai Katsuwa

    Are the people in those adverts given any royalties??

  17. Sagitarr

    Use of a stock image for your brand logo is crass madness. You get into business and expect it to grow at some point, then bam, logo is used elsewhere…how embarassing!