What the artist saw - Winner of the Corporate Sponsorship Category 2015



National Portrait Gallery


Ogilvy, Lonely Leap, Mindshare & Bloomberg


What the artist saw is a branded content series that marked 25 years of the BP Portrait Award and helped BP achieve a step change in recognition of its vision for the arts. By unlocking the power of the human stories that sat behind each portrait and creating online and broadcast distribution methods, BP was able to increase recognition of its vision to help make the arts accessible from 37% to 53%. In a world of cynicism towards big business, reputation matters and the campaign helped BP to enhance theirs.


Campaign background
In 1989, our then CEO Lord Browne had a vision to help make world class art as accessible as possible in the UK. A vision, we argue, possibly even more important today than it was back then. He signed three partnership deals for BP, all with the objective of bringing the arts to the nation. One of these partnerships was the creation of the BP Portrait Award with the National Portrait Gallery. In 25 years, the BP Portrait Award has become the world’s most prestigious portrait competition, literally transforming the lives of thousands of artists from across the world and inspiring millions of gallery visitors.
After 25 years what struck us was the incredible stories that sit behind each individual portrait every year. A single portrait, but with four very different perspectives; whether you are the artist, the sitter, the judge or the viewing public. These are stories which largely remain untold each year. In looking for a suitable way to mark 25 years of the BP Portrait Award, we decided to tell some of these stories for the first time. The stories formed a piece of branded content entitled What the artist saw.


Our target audiences are Opinion Leading and Opinion Forming individuals in the UK; those members of society who are well educated, well informed and with the ability to positively impact BP’s reputation.
The campaign objective was to enhance BP’s brand and reputation; specifically, to increase recognition of BP’s vision to help make world class art as accessible as possible. Our target was to get more people than not to recognise this vision, i.e. above 50%.
Recognition of our vision (to help make world class art as accessible as possible) had remained flat for the last few years, at the 37% mark, as measured by our research partner Millward Brown. Past activities were focused on digital and print display advertising and, despite high campaign reach, they had failed to increase the number beyond 37%. We needed to find a new approach to connect with our audiences through our arts communications.

Execution & exploitation

What the artist saw was a branded content mini-series formed on the power of simple and real human stories. We sought to tell the stories that sat behind some of the portraits in the 2014 BP Portrait Award, in its 25th year anniversary.
Putting together the right team from the start was the key to achieving our objective. We brought together the rights holder (National Portrait Gallery), our creative partner (Ogilvy), our media agency (Mindshare) and our production partner (Lonely Leap). As a team, we then brought a broadcast partner, Bloomberg, on board to help us tell the stories to our audiences.
We began filming early on in the competition when the artists were finishing off their work for submission. It was important to capture the journey from the beginning. This included the moment when the artists found out if they had made the cut to be displayed in the gallery for this year’s exhibition. All the way to the moment Thomas Ganter was crowned the winner.
To get beneath the surface of stories and make a compelling film, we tasked our production partner, Lonely Leap, with following the journeys of five portraits in the competition. The director invested significant amounts of time with the artists and sitters behind each portrait, two of whom were non UK based, one in Florida and one in Spain. It was the development of the relationship between the director and the subjects that we think allowed us to capture such intimate and compelling footage.
The centre piece content was a 30 minute programme for Bloomberg TV that documented the stories behind five of this year’s portraits. We had never contemplated creating content of such length and had initial anxiety over whether we would capture sufficient material. In reality we could have produced a 2 hour movie with the rich stories that came through in filming, but decided to keep it to 30 minutes for broadcast, per the agreed plan.
We aired the programme four times on Bloomberg TV, across September and October 2014. We picked a 20:00 slot on Sunday night as feedback from Opinion Formers showed this to generally be a convenient moment in the week to watch it and would not clash with Downtown Abbey!
To promote the first transmission, we created a print advert and placed it in the arts & culture sections of the weekend papers.
For digital and social channels, we created four shorter web films, each 3-4 minutes, to tell the stories in more bite-sized formats. We developed a paid, owned and earned plan to maximise distribution and reach of these films.
Paid tactics included Google search and video display ads across LinkedIn, Youtube and Facebook. We placed the web films on BP owned channels, such as bp.com, and National Portrait Gallery Owned channels such as the installation of a video screen in the gallery itself. This greatly enhanced the public’s experience as it allowed them to watch a number of the stories behind the very portraits they were about to view. Cumulative views of the films exceeded 750,000 across all platforms.
We stimulated positive earned media coverage to further extend the reach of the stories and films. The coverage we were most proud to receive was a listing in the BA in-flight video library.

Outcome and evaluation
By the end of the campaign in October 2014, we reached our goal of having more people than not recognise our vision for the arts. Millward Brown recorded a 53% score for those Opinion Formers who recognised BP’s vision to help make world class art as accessible as possible. From the reaction of our arts friends and family, we concluded that by unlocking the power of simple and real human stories we were able to connect with our audiences in a way that was not possible through our past display advertising tactics.
Numbers aside, one of the most satisfying outcomes of the project was a comment given by the third placed artist David Kassan. David told us that he was of course delighted to be awarded third place and it would no doubt raise his profile and help his artistic career. But what was a bigger prize to him was to have the story of his portrait captured on film, especially the reaction from his mother, his subject in the portrait. It was the first time his mother had shared her feelings on his work and it reduced him to tears. We think the true measure of success for this project may lie far beyond what it has done for BP, but in the many people it has touched and inspired along the way. If you have time, we hope you enjoy watching some of the stories for yourself.


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