It is one thing to see a world-famous painting. It is another thing to stay in it.
That is the idea behind a creative campaign for the Art Institute of Chicago, which gave art fans the chance to rent a reproduction of Vincent van Gogh's bedroom for a night. The room rental became a key component of an overarching campaign and helped the museum see its largest influx of visitors in years, gain thousands of social media followers and capture $6 million in earned media impressions.
The painting "Van Gogh's Bedroom" is one of the most recognizable in the world. Paintings, actually. Three versions, created in 1888 and 1889, hang in Amsterdam, Paris and Chicago. In February, the Art Institute opened an expansive exhibition that brings the other two paintings to hang near the one that came into its collection in 1926.
The Art Institute knew there would be interest in a comprehensive exhibit on Van Gogh's iconic work. Yet it needed to quickly build buzz. The exhibit, which blends art, history and technology, could only run for 12 weeks before the two other paintings returned to their owners in time for summer displays. The Art Institute turned to Leo Burnett for help finding fresh ways to draw people in.
Early on, the agency met with curator Gloria Groom to learn about her vision and inspiration. The team decided on a strategy of "Let Yourself In," a line that has been used on materials such as posters with keyholes revealing a close-up of Van Gogh or the room. "It's a voyeuristic experience of Van Gogh's life," said Mikal Pittman, senior VP-creative director at Leo Burnett.
The agency has done pro bono work for the Art Institute since 2012. Past efforts had their own unique touches. In 2014, the "Unthink Magritte" campaign for an exhibit of that artist's work included dropping on a Chicago beach a 7.5-foot tall, 1,600-pound pair of boots inspired by his "The Red Model" painting.