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On easel street: Canvas counts are up

Smock, an art magazine, has come up with an artistic way to hold on to ad pages. It commissioned legendary artists to do full-page "brand expressions" on spec. The advertiser simply pays for the page on which the "expression" appears and the artist is free to sell the work afterwards as an original piece of art. In two out of five cases, the sponsoring brand has acquired the art. In some cases, the "expression" is a bonus page for advertisers. For example, in the Winter 2002 issue, the back inside cover is a Lucky Strike ad, and in the same issue ran a bonus full-page, color-drenched print of "Strike Out on Your Own," a 60 x 48 oil-on-wood enamel rendering of Lucky Strike's "brand expression" by Graham Gillmore, one of the leading lights of the celebrated Young Romantics school of the 1980s.

"This has helped our publication after Sept. 11," says Scott Bennett, Smock's editor. "When advertisers were cutting back on their marketing, our participating brands indicated that they would stay on, regardless of doubts at the corporate level. The way I see it, for a publication to be successful, a key ingredient is that the readers flock to the magazine for the advertisements as much as the editorial."

But does a work of art actually help sell a brand?

"It's too early to tell," says Jeffrey Wernecke, senior VP-marketing, Smock, but added he believes "This is actually content that grabs the attention of the reader."

And what about the art? Don't these expressions kill the integrity of the art and the artist?

"No," says Anh Duong, who created a "brand expression" for Diane von Furstenberg's fashion line-a painting of the designer in one of her dresses. "Art tends to be too elitist. It is better to be more commercial and expose art to a larger audience." Anh should know; she is herself a living example of the blurring between art and commerce. "I came from the world of fashion, I was a model. That made the art world nervous. How can you create art and also know how to dress?"

Anh really knows how to dress. Her picture turns up everywhere in party and gossip columns, often wearing outfits by her friend Diane, which is perhaps the best kind of advertising.

"Strangely enough, ever since I've had a brand, my advertising has happened by accident," Diane tells Adages. "The first time I ran an ad I had no money. I just had this white cube and a tagline: `Feel like a woman, wear a dress.' I used that 25 years ago. And then this Smock idea came along. You see my advertising budget is very small, but when I see good opportunities I will do things." Diane not only got the "brand expression," she bought the painting.

Strutting her stuff

What on earth was on the mind of Cliff Freeman & Partners when it created its latest spot for Midas muffler? Midas says it has gotten complaints about the ad, which features an old lady who flashes her breasts to a Midas man after being told about the company's lifetime strut warranty. "What can you do about these?" she asks. Midas' Bob Troyer, director of investor relations and corporate affairs, says it's too early to say whether the spot will be pulled off the air. He called the execution "breakthrough creative not like anything in the category" and says it is in keeping with the agency's advice to target younger consumers 18 to 45 vs. its former 25 to 54 target. Hey Cliff, why limit yourself? Adages believes the ad could also appeal to the 75 to 90 consumer, if she only turned around.

contributing: jean halliday

Target this audience at rlinnett@crain.com

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