Stock Image Firm Now Lets Brands Sponsor Images

Unsplash, a source for free stock images, has launched a digital advertising service that allows firms to sponsor branded images in searches.

The company facilitates 65 million high-resolution image downloads per month, reaching 300 million people, says Mikael Cho, CEO and co-founder of Unsplash.

Unsplash is now working on digital marketing programs with brands like Google, Harley Davidson, Square, The Honest Company and Boxed Water, Cho adds. 

For example, people who search for bottled water “will see images from Boxed Water, which is taking their branded visuals and sponsoring them on top of those searches,” Cho says.

The images, which now number over one million, are also used by small businesses that can’t afford to pay for art when sending email newsletter campaigns. These are among “the top four or five use cases,” Cho says.

Cho notes that “people will evaluate email quality--who the sender is, the subject line and how it looks.” The latter element “has an impact on how people are reading the email or will potentially convert,” Cho adds.



Firms can also pay to post their brand images--early adopters include Google, Square, Boxed Water and Timberland.

The Montreal-based firm carefully curates incoming images, which photographers can load for free.

One user of the invite-only branding service is Square. 

“Unsplash was an entirely new channel that helped us reach our audience effectively and efficiently,” states Leann Livingston, Square’s brand marketing manager.

Livingston adds that Unsplash “successfully helped us increase awareness of our brand and allowed business owners to effortlessly see how we could be the payments solution for their business.”  

Unsplash is now also adding some archival images, which now go back as far as the JFK era, Cho notes. 

Unsplash had its origins at Cho’s prior company,, where Cho served as both CEO and web designer. The firm published an email newsletter via Mailchimp and had a wesbsite on Tumblr, but “I had a problem finding images,” Cho says.

A venture-backed company that now has $10 million in funding, Unsplash employs 22 people.

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