How To Not F**k It Up Like Adobe

Don Giannatti
5 min readJun 11, 2024

These stupid PR nightmares are so tiresome.

Photo by the author. Available on Unsplash.

So Adobe has a TOS change. Nothing new there.

And they screw it all up.

Nothing new there, either.

The release was an obtuse little notice, probably from someone at legal, that sounded dire, authoritarian AF, and a ‘take it or leave it’ attitude that many found offensive.

Which is OK, because it was offensive.

C’mon, Adobe, I’m not lyin’ here.

It seems as if the legal department is so far removed from the customer base that they have no idea, no idea at all, that there might be pushback.

Surprised, they were.

And so now we have wave after wave of “clarifying," "explaining," and “mea culpa” after mea culpa.

Hating on Adobe is now a cottage industry, and they should know that.

Some of it is warranted, I’m sure.

But most of it is unfounded disgruntlement by the permanently disgruntled.

I know that Adobe is deep in silicon valley, and that there is no love from silicon valley toward the rest of us. Fully half of those polled do not want AI to be in their lives.

It scares them.

It should scare them. This technology makes sense to only a few, and some of the biggest names working with AI tell us that they don’t know how it works.

But it can be explained in terms that people are more comfortable with.

The mere mention that a tech company would be “owning the rights” with terms like “perpetual” and “training” and other stuff artists don’t like should be explained. Like to a 5-year-old. OK, 8-year-old.

Treating your customers like they are Luddite losers with no real idea of how cool all the cool stuff from the cool people in the cool building are doing is, well, not cool.

YouTube has 10 dozen “Adobe is Stealing Your Stuff” videos, “be sure to click like and hit the subscribe button”, raining hellfire and brimstone upon any and every Adobe product.

Facebook is broiling in arguments over the TOS which should, you know, should be a simple paragraph or two.

X is… ah, who cares about X, anger is the default for them.

And so Adobe has to double back, reinforce, apologize to those who will never accept it, and help investors understand how a simple TOS could get so crazy and out of control.

And it all could have been prevented, although some would ask where the fun is in that?

So you have a small business, a graphic design or photography business and have some changes coming forth in your business.

Here’s how to not commit an ‘Adobe’.

(I’ll let up on them soon. Full disclosure, I have the entire suite, use it all the time, love it, and will not be revoking my subscription, although I may remove them from my Christman mantle and send a sharply worded letter to someone in the mail room.)

  1. Be totally transparent. It’s business. If you gotta do something because others have made it the only path, then you just gotta do it. Explain it to your customers. Show them why. They will understand.*
  2. Make sure your legal department isn’t wearing uniforms and saluting each other with chests full of medals while referring to your clients as “the schlubs”. OK, I know you all are too small for a legal department. Go home and thank whatever god you thank for that.
  3. Have a reason for what you do. You must have a reason, right? Make it known. “I have to raise my rates because my studio rent doubled” is a reason most people can understand. And look, they may not be happy about it, but that is just business.
  4. Always keep the receipts. People understand when you show them what transpired — or is transpiring.
  5. Here is the biggest thing: Explain it to them. Show them how it works. Let them see what has changed or is changing, and how that affects them as your customers. It’s OK, they don’t bite. Mostly.

The takeaway is transparency and consideration.

We are all experiencing changes at such a rapid pace that it seems that before the ink is dry on one TOS, a new one pops up to replace it. And this is happening with banks, insurance, healthcare, legal issues…. on and on.

The big stuff. The crappy stuff.

It would be so much better if those who we support actually supported us back.

As would world peace, no diseases, and people on X agreed on something.

But it would be terrific if they simply listened.

Listening can tell us a lot about how to proceed.

Maybe when AI takes over, it (she, he, what?) will be listening more.

To. Every. Thing. We. Say.

I, for one, will welcome our benevolent dictators when they arrive.

But for now, hey Adobe, just listen.


* Well, the customers you want to keep working with will understand. Those that don’t will fly over to X to tell everyone you suck. That’s just the way it is. You should be used to it by now.

This photo of me is by Carol Rioux: light-painted in Calgary, BC.

Hi, I’m Don Giannatti, a photographer and mentor for up-and-coming photographers. You can find me on my website, Don Giannatti, and at my Substack site, where I also publish for creative people. All subscribers to my Substack have access to a free, long-form workshop on the business of commercial and professional photography.



Don Giannatti

Designer. Photographer. Author. Entrepreneur: Loving life at 100MPH. I love designing, making photographs and writing.