Art as Advertising

October 8, 2014

I’m of the opinion that art is not just about the piece itself but the people around, experiencing something creative with a group of friends or complete strangers. Visiting theatres, museums, cinemas etc., there are times where I can’t help but notice that I’m not the only one experiencing this and the sense of a shared experience is a lot more memorable.

But digital advertising is less about the group experience, instead it is used to seek out the individual. The digital revolution isn’t limited to digital display and search, TV has suffered as well with box-sets and on-demand services meaning less people sitting down together for traditional “appointment to view” programming, even cinema attendance is in a small but steady decline. Personally, I have to bring someone to a film with me and I insisted on watching the final episode of “Breaking Bad” with friends.

The exceptions are viral social media movements where hundreds of thousands of people engage with one idea, like the Ice Bucket Challenge generating huge amounts of media coverage and charitable donations.

Digital is one of the most useful tools at our disposal but I do think that advertisers have a responsibility to keep the artistry in what we do. And, for me at least, that means bringing a sense of community to our work.

The proliferation of smartphones means the eyes of the public are glued to screens as people wait for friends or public transport. Almost 60% of adults in Ireland own a smartphone. OOH is suffering as people just aren’t paying attention to what’s around them. This is one of the last advertising mediums that is truly public, experienced by consumers as a group and it deserves a little more love from advertisers. In 2013, 11% of reported spend in Ireland went on outdoor, slightly ahead of radio but way behind press & TV.

We have seen some brilliant examples of OOH in Ignition 5, my personal favourite is the “Social Swipe” – a digital 6-sheet where you could swipe your credit to donate to charity and instantly see what your $2 could achieve.

A new campaign has caught my attention, originating in the UK but has “gone big” in the US: “Art Everywhere”, a campaign supported by 5 of the biggest art museums in the US along with the Outdoor Advertising Association (OAA).


The campaign has been dubbed the biggest art exhibition in history. The intention is commandeer public spaces transforming them into public art galleries with the hope that people might look up from their phones for a couple of minutes and prompt some conversation.

The starting point for the campaign was, in fact, digital. An online public vote to select the nation’s favourite 58 pieces of art and voters were encouraged to share their selections on social media.

Then, in AuguArt Hunt - Twitter 1st, fifty thousand sites across America were taken over by the public’s selections for 4 weeks. The campaign genuinely surprised people, encouraging treasure hunts across US cities.

The exhibition gaveArt Hunt - Twitter 2 the OAA an opportunity to demonstrate new technology – an augmented reality app scanned the artwork and delivered information on the work straight to users’ phones. It might seem like a strange move; a campaign designed to get people to look away from their phones driving them back to their devices, but why can’t advertisers engage audiences on their terms? Advertisers are beginning to embrace 2nd screening when it comes to TV, OOH can do the same.

Social media also played a large role in the campaign, the 10 best selfies taken with Art Everywhere were given prizes, a simple but effective way to encourage a Twitter conversation.

To coincide with the campaign, the museums involved organised public talks and generated enough media coverage to get a real conversation going about art, culture and advertising in American society.

Art as great advertising, it’s a nice twist on McLuhan’s declaration.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: