Letters to the editor: Barnes strategy

Considering the name of your magazine, we were surprised to find absolutely no reference to the word, or the concept, in Barry Base's criticism in the Aug. 8 issue of the ad campaign for the Barnes Exhibit ('Pick your group and...

Considering the name of your magazine, we were surprised to find absolutely no reference to the word, or the concept, in Barry Base’s criticism in the Aug. 8 issue of the ad campaign for the Barnes Exhibit (‘Pick your group and go all the way.’)

This campaign was developed by a team consisting of our studio, Marlene Hore of bcp, Pegi Gross and the marketing department of the Art Gallery of Ontario.

In the belief that your readers are interested as much in the strategic issues that underlie a campaign as fast and loose criticism, here are a few points they may be interested in considering:

- The objective of the advertising campaign is to reach an audience that does not typically go to art galleries to see Impressionist masterpieces or anything else.

Sales target

For a variety of strategic reasons, the Art Gallery of Ontario set a sales target of 500,000 tickets for the Barnes Exhibit.

Based on research, the gallery estimated that (by a long stretch) there are 200,000 ‘art-interested’ people who would attend the exhibition.

That means 300,000 tickets need to be sold to the rest of the population.

- Research shows that the intimidation factor of art galleries and museums is high.

A recent study of public galleries by the Ontario Association of Art Galleries found that the most prevalent negative image of galleries among the public is that they are elitist – 34% of respondents made this complaint.

These are the people Mr. Base called the ‘Depraved masses’?

- A major component of the marketing strategy is to give information about what the Barnes Exhibit is and why it’s something worth seeing.

Although Mr. Base knows what the Barnes Exhibit is, he is in the minority.

Several focus group participants actually did think that the Barnes was a barn and asked questions like ‘Are they going to be real oil paintings?’

It is unfortunate that Mr. Base has based his criticism on approximately 25% of the marketing campaign.

Perhaps he has not seen the ads that convey other aspects and information about Dr. Barnes and the incredible story of his collection with headlines like ‘James A. had to lie and scheme to see the art in the Barnes Exhibit,’ or, ‘It took a court order and a leaky roof to get The Barnes Exhibit to Toronto. It will take an act of God to bring it back.’

All these ads are based on facts.

- The objective of the campaign is to sell tickets. Regardless of Mr. Base’s snarky criticism, pre-opening sales of tickets in Toronto are higher than at any other venue in the show’s six-city tour.

The day after the ‘No cows’ ad ran, the gallery sold 1,000 tickets.

We are all delighted that Mr. Base will buy a ticket to the Barnes Exhibit not because of the advertising.

We are more delighted that another 499,999 will also have the opportunity to see this once-in-a-lifetime exhibit in Toronto because they got information through the advertising.

Lee Jacobson

Vice-President

Bruce Mau Design

Toronto