ARTvertising: Ads nouveaux

Most ad agency types would contend that all their work is art, but this trend more convincingly proves the point. Whether to appeal to design aficionados or to simply stand out, more marketing executions are starting to take on an artistic flair. And like a true art movement, some have tapped the artistic as well as the wider community for involvement.

Most ad agency types would contend that all their work is art, but this trend more convincingly proves the point. Whether to appeal to design aficionados or to simply stand out, more marketing executions are starting to take on an artistic flair. And like a true art movement, some have tapped the artistic as well as the wider community for involvement.

Knorr’s Paint by Palate

Marketers behind the Unilever premium frozen food brand learned from research that Knorr consumers are art lovers, too. So this eye-catching campaign invited three art school students in Calgary, Toronto and Montreal to use the brand as creative inspiration to paint new work in public spaces. Agency DDB Canada also included an online push at knorrmasterpiece.ca where lay artists could get interpretative by designing post-modern takes on works by Vincent van Gogh and Raphael. Since March, the campaign had made more than 10 million media impressions in such national publications as the National Post and the Montreal Gazette.

Stella Artois’s Trap

Designed by Toronto agency Lowe Roche, this installation made of wood and metal pays homage to sculptures of yore, communicating the timeless nature of Stella Artois. And at 15 ft. and weighing two tons, it’s also hard to miss. Inspired by sculptors Jean Tinguely (Swiss) and Masato Tanaka (Japanese) as well as 18th-century clock engineer Thomas Wright, the trap debuted at Toronto’s Yonge and Bloor intersection last October to much fanfare and will travel, much like an exhibit, to New York and Sao Paulo later this year. The installation, which protects a chalice of the premium beer, was supported by teaser print ads, coasters at select bars, and chalk art as well as the website unravelthetrap.com, which challenged visitors to a game of wits to decipher the workings of the trap.

Vancouver Sculpture Biennale

To promote an art show, use art. The Sculpture Biennale, which inserts dozens of art installations throughout Vancouver’s urban landscape,

did just that. Vancouver-based ad agency Rethink was clearly inspired by the artwork when it created 1,000 plaster sculptures that incorporated shelves, and covered construction hoardings around the city with them to raise awareness of the exhibition. The result was interactive art, providing Vancouverites with the option to take home a piece of an original sculpture (the shelves had removable items on them for the taking) or to create their own and place it on the shelf space provided. The 18-month show wrapped in April. In May, ‘Shelf’ copped a gold in the Innovative Media category at the 48th annual Clio Awards in Miami.

Ad imitating ad

They say great minds think alike. So there must be some particular smarts behind the fusion of ’70s montage illustration and hip brands. From an art perspective, there is method to the madness. Says Paul Dallas, associate professor at Toronto’s Ontario College of Art and Design’s Faculty of Design: ‘The images all represent a kind of movement in illustration that employs traditional low-tech hand-drawn elements collaged with digital elements. You could cite Robert Rauschenberg, Max Ernst, and animé as influences. They are a deliberate response against sterile, slick forms normally associated with Modernism and digital art.’ Hmmm, with its anti-establishment vibe, we’ll loosely call the movement cool ad art for a cool cat crowd.

Consider this: Coke, with the help of Toronto-based agency MacLaren McCann, recently unbottled fresh ad inspiration from eight artists: five from Toronto, two from Quebec and one from Alberta. Their mission: ‘to express the spirit of the ‘Coke Side of Life’ in their own terms.’ The work is part of a global campaign, which will be seen in ‘unexpected’ executions throughout the summer.

Vespa first launched a butterfly-inspired campaign last year. The new spring effort, by Toronto-based agency Dentsu, embeds the butterfly art with a new technology called QR codes, which allow cellphone users to download content.

And the granddaddy, the iPod work by L.A.’s TBWA fused CD cover images for its whimsy-filled campaign. The billboards were erected in downtown locations in Toronto and Montreal for six months.