When Kiasma, Helsinki’s contemporary art museum was facing an image problem, Hasan & Partners helped turn things around by asking the public to defend its own criticism; if you’re so unimpressed, why don’t you make a better work of art yourself? The campaign was feisty, intelligent and risky, and it worked. More than 600 people submitted their own pieces and thousands voted by liking the submissions on Facebook. The campaign sparked both conversation and debate and Kiasma saw an increase in ticket sales. Hasan & Partners CEO and Executive Creative Director Eka Ruola gives us the lowdown on the campaign and why today is such a great time to be in advertising.
How did you arrive at the concept for “Make a Better One Yourself, Then”?
I always say to the client, don’t brief us for the ad, brief us on the challenge. Kiasma had a problem on its hands. There was a lot of negative buzz surrounding the museum at the time – the public didn’t necessarily see the museum’s value and people weren’t happy about recent exhibition cancellations. Instead of taking the conventional route and apologize for everything, we recommended that Kiasma go on the offensive a bit, but in a clever way.
When we look at contemporary art, we’re often inspired by certain pieces, but sometimes a bit puzzled by others. A common reaction can be summed up by the phrase “My preschooler could have made that.” So we thought, let’s call their bluff and invite these critics to make contemporary art themselves.
So by getting people to talk about the issue, you made the campaign social from the beginning?
Yes, we wanted to engage people, invite them to have a dialog and challenge them to create something positive. Facebook provided a wide-reaching and useful platform that made the dialogue possible. The campaign’s web gallery used Facebook Connect to display all the submitted artwork, and then fans could vote for their favorites by using the Like button. Every piece of communication we put out was a call to action, a challenge to “make a better one yourself then.” We ran posters outdoors that leveraged real critiques from real people. Comments such as “Just like a two-year-old’s scribble,” dared the public to try their hand at creating contemporary art.
Before we launched the campaign, I thought 100 submissions would be a phenomenal response. When all was said and done, there were more than 600 pieces in the online gallery. It was truly astounding.
Sometimes people are wary of social media because its two-way nature means that your brand can open itself up to criticism. With this campaign, you put the criticism front and center and let people have a very honest and open dialog. Was it difficult to get your client to go with this approach?
To be honest, this type of campaign is always a bit of an unknown. You don’t know exactly what’s going to happen but you just have to be brave. When Kiasma first heard the idea, they fell in love with it. Now they had a solution that not only confronted the problem but also invited people to contribute something positive. We then focused on getting as much attention as possible, and creating ways participants could easily share their engagement with friends. We invited everyone, whether they loved us or hated us, and in the end, we changed people’s mind about Kiasma.
As far as the criticism goes, if people are saying negative things, it’s just their opinion. I think the consumer relationship can grow even deeper with criticism. We need to be bold and we need to give people fantastic content that enables a true dialogue. That’s what makes the campaign social.
You have said that the era we are in now is the most interesting time ever to be a storyteller. Can you elaborate on this?
Most refer to the Mad Men era as the golden era of advertising. But for me, today is the golden age of creativity. The advertising industry has never been forced to be as creative as it has to be now. We have all these wonderful instruments - Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, you name it – that allow us to deepen the relationship between the brand and the consumer. Audiences are willing to live in an ad if they are provided with the proper content.
With all the possibilities that these new platforms give us, the advertising opportunities are truly enormous. Facebook is one of the most important tools for opening up real conversations. We just need to be clever and use it the right way. It is clearly the golden age of creativity and we’re having the time of our lives.
Eka Ruola is CEO and Executive Creative Director of Hasan & Partners in Helsinki.