Montreal View: Taxi’s Fine Art

Maybe it's because some of the best creative work is produced under pressure, but Montreal hot shop Taxi is turning out some heavy-duty advertising for plum client, The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts.Strongly pressed for time, and with no outdoor media...

Maybe it’s because some of the best creative work is produced under pressure, but Montreal hot shop Taxi is turning out some heavy-duty advertising for plum client, The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts.

Strongly pressed for time, and with no outdoor media available, Taxi was forced, poor fellow, to create a campaign with only posters and full-page newspaper ads.

The museum normally knows two years in advance about the exhibitions it will host. Perhaps reflecting the wild personality of the exhibited artist, the Tamara de Lempicka exhibition gave the museum only two months’ notice.

No big deal. This campaign rips. The newspaper ads roar. Taxi art director Martin Beauvais has once again turned out powerful stuff for what has to be the account every art director dreams of getting.

Never mind every art director, every ad agency with a brain cell knows there isn’t a more perfect account to show off your creative chops than a museum, particularly for small shops looking to develop a rep.

The full-page ad features prominently (roughly two-thirds of the ad) a reproduction of a self-portrait of the Art Deco artist sitting in an automobile.

At the top of the ad in a reverse panel is the headline: ‘Passionate, independent, the very image of a free woman.’

The headline box almost looks like one of those boxes found at the top of a comic strip. The headline doesn’t scream, it invites the reader to look at and read the ad.

There is a lot of display copy, about 200 words, devoted to explaining who was Tamara de Lempicka. An appropriately large tag reads: ‘Tamara de Lempicka, This woman is free.’

Beauvais says the concept belonged to Francois Sauve, the founding partner and concepteur/writer at Taxi. ‘We wanted to tell people who the woman was.’

The agency wanted to take advantage of the artist’s background and reputation to intrigue people. Beauvais says this is why there is a lot of copy, adding, ‘there is a lot to say about her.’

The agency also wanted to display in the ad as much as possible the artist’s work.

‘We think that it’s the work of the artist that will entice people into the museum, not the advertising,’ Beauvais says. ‘We don’t want to interfere with the effect created by the art.’

The really hip thing about this ad is its typography.

The whole ad is set in Courier, which looks like it has been written by a typewriter.

The point sizes are perfect, allowing the type and the layout to breathe. The type in the headline and tag is very loosely kerned, making the font appear more elegant than it really is.

Beauvais took a chance here. Let’s face it, Courier is not an intrinsically pretty font. But the way he uses it in the ad, it works. He doesn’t overdo it with the point sizes, the breathy kerning helps, and the headline and tag are in lower case.

This is also one of the hippest fonts right now, which allows him to pull it off, and the client, after all, is a museum. ‘It’s like a non-advertising font,’ Beauvais says.

Beauvais is well aware of the quirkiness of his font selection.

‘One minute I really like it, and then, the next, I think, maybe, it is too much,’ he says. ‘It also works well with long copy. It’s like a news story font.’

The ad in the Montreal dailies is black, white and blue. The display copy is set on a panel of medium blue. Did Beauvais not want to go four-color?

‘I’m, frankly, scared of going four-color in most dailies,’ Beauvais says. ‘You never know what it’s going to look like. It’s risky.’

He’s right.Why is the color thing so unpredictable in dailies? After all, this is supposed to be the age of USA Today, where color in newspapers is supposed to be as commonplace as sports sections.

There was no time for the customary tv, outdoor and transit blitz the museum normally runs to promote its exhibits, so other media had to be employed.

In addition to the newspaper ads, the museum literally bought up all the poster space in the city.

‘We bought the city for one day,’ joked Danielle Sauvage, the museum’s director of communications.

‘One Friday morning you woke up and all you could see were 40-inch by 60-inch Tamara de Lempicka posters all over town,’ Sauvage says.

Michael Judson is president of Judson Woods, a full service advertising and public relations company in Montreal.