A lesson for marketing world from charmed life of Jade Albert

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If you haven't met Jade Albert, you should. You will be charmed-plastic- bangles-around-your-neck, scarabs-and-stars-and-butterflies-dangling-from-your-wrist, gold-leprechauns-and-tiny-trombones-hanging-from-Fido's-collar charmed.

Ms. Albert is a well-known commercial children's photographer who has transformed herself into a purveyor of sumptuous commercial entertainment. With writer Ki Hackney, she has just brought out "The Charm of Charms," an opulent work, published by coffee-table literary specialist Abrams Books, that celebrates and celebrifies the evolving American fascination with-yes-charms.

"Two-and-a-half years ago, my mother found and gave me back my childhood charm bracelet," Ms. Albert recalled over a recent lunch at Ciprani, her arms and neck bedecked with a multitude of trinkets. "I realized it was like an American quilt-it's things you bring together. You wear your whole life on your wrist. I thought it was a great idea for a book. It just meant something to me."

Her life transition also has meaning for the marketing world. The ad implosion is releasing a wealth of creative talent into the culture market. Copywriters, art directors, producers and others whose mainstream ad work is drying up are leveraging the new tools of cheap creativity with their aesthetic ability and marketing acumen, loosing themselves in the risky-but fulfilling-entertainment world.

Not that long ago, Ms. Albert was among the top two or three children's ad photographers-a flat-out expert at persuading 18-month-olds to throw up their hands in unison so she could capture them for a disposable-diaper ad. But the economics of consumer-goods marketing began to change. As everyday-low-price retailers rose up and trounced traditional retailers, work started to disappear, and competition grew fiercer."I knew I needed to reinvent myself," she said.

Spurred by the rediscovery of her childhood ornaments-and by the sudden realization that charms were everywhere, from Mark Jacobs ads to Mariah Carey albums to the best-selling novel, "The Lovely Bones"-she did. A lifelong adherent to film, Ms. Albert immersed herself in the intricacies of digital photography.

For two years, using space lent by Space, a digital studio in Manhattan's Chelsea Market, she shot such celebrities as Muiccia Prada, Betsey Johnson and Cornelia Guest posing with their personal charms; she took thousands of still lives of jewelry high and low, from Cartier to Juicy Couture. As this spring's publication date for the 162-full-color photo book approached, she turned on her marketing understanding, arranging launches at Bergdorf's in New York, Chateau Marmont in Los Angeles and elsewhere.

Et voila! A children's photographer was changed into a portrait and still-life commercial artist, thanks to a bit of Darwinian evolution in the marketplace of marketing. "Ironically," she said, "it was a blessing in disguise."

Would she return to the world of children? Ms. Albert tossed her curly blonde hair to one side, and a few charms around her neck thunked against each other. "I liked not being locked into a studio all day squeaking plastic toys at babies," she answered. "I liked capturing the meaning behind something. I discovered I like to be out talking to real people.

"After so many years with kids," she said, with charming innocence, "I was surprised I could do that."

Randall Rothenberg, an author and longtime journalist, is director of intellectual capital at consultancy Booz Allen Hamilton

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