Public Art for the Public with Greyworld

Greyworld “make public art in urban spaces” and today we were shown a taste of the kind of work that they do, both in the context of art and brand partnerships – and sometimes even both. Working in marketing, you know how frustrating it is to have a big creative idea, only to be told that it needs to be slapped with branding, an offer banner, or something garish that takes away from the beauty of the original idea. It’s the endless struggle.

According to Andrew Shoben, artist and founder of Greyworld, brands are becoming gradually more sympathetic to the idea that softer messages often result in happier customers. By showing us works of art from the earlier days of Greyworld along with some branded pieces that we’re all familiar with (i.e. the Chloé Love Story with Debenhams), Andrew enabled us to see how big and bold ideas can be used effectively, to bring both joy to the public and help brands to spread their message.

Some of their most engaging work involved taking a bog-standard set of railings and replacing them with tuned ones, so that when you ran a stick along them (like you did as a child) they played ‘The Girl From Ipanema’. This kind of creative thinking is an example of how public art should be; accessible, engaging and, most importantly, for the public.

This brings us onto an interesting point raised by Andrew: The bronze statues engraved in Latin, the minimalist stone or steel shapes in city and town squares, and so on – who are these “public” works of art intended to serve? Greyworld offer immersive, visually engaging experiences that people can enjoy, capture and share with friends and loved ones.

One of my personal favourite pieces that he worked on was for Tropicana. On the most depressing day of the year (23rd January) Greyworld helped Tropicana to bring some sunshine into people’s lives, by installing a huge synthetic sun in Trafalgar Square (which you can rent for a cool £1000 an hour).

While you can’t always monitor engagement rates and metrics as accurately with a public work of art as you can with a paid Facebook ad, it’s clear to see the importance of letting good work speak for itself, and letting relationships with customers develop naturally through meaningful experiences.


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