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Why marketers should think more like artists

David Shrigley 'No Smoking' for Ash to Art
David Shrigley 'No Smoking' for Ash to Art

In David Hockney’s most recent retrospective at the Tate Britain, a recording of the famous British artist says, “the teaching of drawing is teaching people to look… A sense of place as experienced in time”. When life can be captured on a smartphone in a fragment of a second, it can be easy to forget to stop and appreciate what it is we’re looking at.

I’m not saying we should all take up painting, although I agree with Hockney that this should be given more importance within the school curriculum. But it wouldn’t hurt to start thinking like an artist.

It’s impossible to stand out if you fail to leave your bubble. Whilst his peers were listening to rock n roll and playing at being pop stars, the legendary musician David Bowie experimented with mixed media, cinema, mime, Tibetan Buddhism and acting. Through boundless curiosity and enthusiasm, Bowie was able to find seemingly obscure references that inspired him to push the boundaries of musical performance.

“As was the case with Miles Davis in jazz, Bowie has come not just to represent his innovations but to symbolize modern rock as an idiom in which literacy, art, fashion, style, sexual exploration and social commentary can be rolled into one.” Rolling Stone magazine.

This constant exploration of social commentary gave Bowie a futurist’s outlook, which is demonstrated in his famous 1999 interview with Jeremy Paxman, on the topic of the internet. Whereas Paxman describes the internet as “just a tool,” Bowie has the foresight to imagine its impact on society, specifically its potential to erode the barriers between audience and creator. He essentially predicts social media. "I embrace the idea there's a demystification process going on between the artist and the audience," he says.

Foresight like this only comes from being totally and utterly culturally aware. Not only of the space one occupies, but also to find inspiration in both the everyday and the extraordinary, across all walks of life. In the eternal quest to create culture and find relevance in people’s lives, brands must continually look outwards.

Next time you start planning a campaign, ask yourself, what does the artist see?

JWT Ash to Art

Glasgow School of Art turns ashes into art

In May 2014, fire ravaged one of the most important buildings in 20th century architecture, Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s masterpiece, the Glasgow School of Art.

Seeing beyond the devastation, J. Walter Thompson London sent 25 world-famous artists a piece of charcoal salvaged from the Mackintosh Building fire. The idea was for them to use the charcoal to create new works of art. These would then be auctioned to raise funds and publicity for the rebuilding of the school, thereby creating a new building from the remains of the old.

Artists chosen included Grayson Perry, Sir Antony Gormley, Sir Peter Blake, Anish Kapoor, Jenny Saville, David Shrigley and 19 others, including seven Turner Prize winners. This carefully curated group come from a variety of disciplines and backgrounds, and have created a distinctive body of work, reflecting the international importance and influence of the Mackintosh Building.

The artwork was sold by world-famous auctioneers Christie’s in London, raising over £700k with bids from 28 countries. All the proceeds were donated to The Mackintosh Campus Appeal, and the campaign succeeded in creating a much bigger, more positive conversation around the school.

Agency: #AshtoArt, J. Walter Thompson London (JWT)

raised at auction
countries bid
Ash to Art
Ash to Art

Tourism Ireland's Doors of Thrones

For over 6 years Northern Ireland has been home to the filming and production of the HBO series Game of Thrones. The series has become part of Northern Irish culture and it’s landscape. On January 2016, the Game of Thrones filming location, and 400-year-old tourist attraction, The Dark Hedges, was hit hard by Storm Gertrude. Over ten weeks, Publicis worked with Tourism Ireland to transform the trees that fell that day into 10 beautifully crafted, bespoke doors that celebrate Northern Ireland's heritage and craft. Each depicts an episode from Game of Thrones season 6 and is designed to celebrate the country’s connection with the award winning show. Each week a new door was installed at the beating heart of a Northern Irish community – the local pub - in 10 filming locations. Together, the doors now form a pub-crawl through season 6 that spans the length and breadth of the country.

Agency: Game of Thrones Exhibition, Publicis London

Publicis Door of Thrones

The V&A's mind of a child, eye of an artist

To celebrate the amazing, never-to-be-repeated creative power of children’s minds, The V&A Museum of Childhood hosted an amazing, never-to-be-repeated exhibition. Dozens of children were asked to share their ideas for what they thought tomorrow would look like. The workings of their incredibly fertile minds were then given to 50 of the best illustrators in Britain to bring to life. Most were produced over a three week period, but 10 of the best ideas were produced live, by both the children that dreamt them up and the fantastic illustrators who knew how to bring them to life. The ultimate combination of creativity and craft.

Agency: Mind of a child, Eye of an Artist, AMV BBDO

Mind of a child, eye of an artist at The Museum of Childhood

Fearless Girl vs Charging Bull

The celebrate International Women’s Day, State Street Global Advisors, McCann New York and artist Kristen Visbal created a new piece of public art that has since taken on a life of its own. The Fearless Girl is a statue of a young girl fearlessly facing off to the Charging Bull, the famous Wall Street landmark. Originally intended as a symbol of female leadership in business, and of the need for companies everywhere to hire more women onto their boards, the statue has evolved into a universal representation of feminist strength. The plaque connecting it to the investment management firm has been removed and, though she was only originally meant to remain on-site for a week, the city has extended her lease through to at least early 2018.

Agency: McCann, New York

Fearless Girl vs Charging Bull

About the author

Kara Melchers, Managing Editor, BITE

Kara has editorial control over BITE, Creativebrief’s daily insight into global marketing trends and the cultural movements driving them. She runs BITE INSPIRE sessions in the UK and US, for brands including Virgin Atlantic, A.G. BARR, British Gas and Pepsico. She also presents at our BITE LIVE events series and industry festivals in London and New York. Get in touch if you’re working on an interesting project

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