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By Christine Birkner | StaFF Writer

 cbirkner@ama.org Photo

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Positioning bricks-and-mortar art institutions to succeed in this digital age means more than staging the occasional video exhibit to get consumers to turn off their technology and step through the turnstiles. Two New York museums take innovative approaches to make art come to life online and off.

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n today’s world of apps, social media, smartphones and tablets, it can be difficult to generate enthusiasm for bricks-and-mortar institutions to attract consumers more attuned to all things digital. For many art museums, in particular, they already must battle the perception of being old and stodgy—or downright musty—which isn’t exactly an easy task when you’re marketing to a consumer base that typically clamors for the fresh and innovative. Why go see Van Gogh’s work when you can find it via Google? While museums across the United States struggle to find ways to remain relevant by making the customer experience more immersive, and financially solvent by appealing to broader—and younger—customer bases, two New York institutions are taking innovative approaches to connect their works with consumers both in person and online. Of course, the Museum of Modern Art and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum don’t have as much difficulty drawing in the crowds as many museums do—MoMA attracts 3 million visitors per year and the Guggenheim brings in 1.3 million—and their modern and contemporary art is popular among consumer bases ranging from international tourists, to Brooklyn hipsters, to Upper East Side socialites, but they’re paving the way for other museums to connect with potential patrons in the digital realm.

Modern Museum, Modern Marketing Strategy

Home to works by Pollock, Rothko, Kandinsky and Kahlo, and architectural exhibitions such as “Plywood: Material, Process, Form,” the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) showcases cutting-edge offerings and promotes them through innovative marketing initiatives. In 2010, MoMA joined forces with Google, becoming one of the flagship participants in a far-reaching digital initiative in the art world called the Google Art Project, a collaboration between Google and 151 art institutions across 40 countries. On the Google Art Project website, users can view works of art in brushstroke-level detail, take a Photo by brian Schulman

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MoMA inspired consumer-generated works of art with its campaign, “I Went to MoMA and …”

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virtual tour of the museums and build their own collections to share on social media. MoMA’s Web page on the Google Art Project includes more than 100 works such as Van Gogh’s The Starry Night and attracted 3 million unique visitors in its first year, according to Kim Mitchell, the museum’s chief communications officer. The Google Art Project fits in with MoMA’s overall mission to bring contemporary art to the masses, Mitchell says. “We were talking about museums and the Internet and how we could leverage the global audience for modern and contemporary art. [This is] for people who don’t have access to a museum. It’s designed to give people a taste.” The plan is working, according to Amit Sood, founder of the Google Art Project. “The access to new audiences, they would just not get if they would stick only to offline marketing,” he says. “You can never replicate the physical experience of visiting the museum, but there are billions of people around the world who are never going to be able to see your museum or artwork and this is a way to get into their thinking.” Trevor Wade, digital marketing director at Landor Associates, a New York-based global branding consultancy, says the Google Art Project likely “would help much in the way a movie trailer entices people to go into the theater and see a movie. People are sophisticated enough that they know that seeing an artwork online and seeing a digital representation of it is not the same as experiencing it in person. I’ve seen hundreds of pictures of the Mona Lisa and when I actually saw it in the Louvre, it was a completely different experience and I got what was so special about it.” MoMA has integrated mobile apps and now the iPad into its digital strategy—and has won awards in the process. “We assembled a cross-departmental team to do an [iPad] app in support of ‘Abstract Expressionist

New York.’ … It gave us the opportunity to put together some interesting content using a new device in support of a marketing goal,” Mitchell says. The “Abstract Expressionist New York” exhibition app, which MoMA’s marketers began developing in spring 2010, includes videos on key works of art, a glossary of art terms and information about the exhibition catalogue. It garnered 170,000 downloads, according to Mitchell. Another iPad app, called Art Lab, launched in fall 2010, allows budding artists to create their own art and share it on MoMA’s website while learning about works displayed at the museum. MoMA also is active on social media, with Twitter and Facebook pages and blogs. And the museum encourages visitors to upload photos of their visits to its Flickr stream, and sends between 60 and 70 e-newsletters a month on exhibition announcements and events that have nearly half a million subscribers, according to Mitchell. Such apps and social network pages don’t exist in isolation. The museum has developed a comprehensive digital strategy that is manifested in its recent branding campaign launched in spring 2011 called “I Went to MoMA and …” that prompts visitors to fill in the blank with words or drawings about their museum experience. Visitors can scan their resulting artwork in the museum’s lobby to get a unique URL that is shareable on Facebook or Twitter, and selected consumer-generated artwork is used in MoMA’s print and outdoor ads. “We started thinking about tourists and what they want, what they need, and we started looking into our research that told us people were inspired to create. It started out with a pencil and a piece of paper. We handed them out in the lobby and said, ‘We’re going to pin these up on the wall for the day.’ We covered the wall with all of these cards and we were astounded with how

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Photos courtesy of MoMA

MoMA’sT rAdiTionAl ApproAch MoMA’s mission is to make contemporary art accessible to the masses, and it relies on long-established audience research and a combination of digital and traditional marketing tactics to do so. MoMA’s audience is about 60% foreign visitors and 40% domestic visitors, and of that 40%, 15% are based in the new York metro area. Most visitors have college or post-graduate degrees and the majority of visitors are female, according to Kim Mitchell, MoMA’s chief communications officer. To promote particular exhibitions, MoMA’s marketers receive briefings from curators. “We sit down with the curator and talk about what the concept is. i always ask them: ‘What do you want people to take away from this? What do you want them to understand? And who is the audience for this show?’ ” Mitchell says. “We focus our advertising spending domestically and it’s fairly geographically limited to the metro new York area. The pr outreach is global in scale and many of the artists we show are international, so we might be working with art magazines or major newspapers all over the world. We’re a very visually driven brand, so we select very carefully the signature images for the show.” MoMA runs print and outdoor ads in tourist publications and The new York Times, and on the subway. “We work with a limited budget, we don’t take government funding and we have to earn every dollar that we spend, so we’re dependent on a diverse stream of revenue, of which admission is a significant stream,” Mitchell says. in september, MoMA launched a marketing and content partnership with German airline lufthansa, including a 30-minute video called MoMA Behind the scenes and a 60-second promotional spot, both of which will run on lufthansa’s intercontinental fleet. MoMA Behind the scenes, available in English and German, includes short interviews with curators, artists and filmmakers, and behind-the-scenes access to exhibitions and the conservation of artwork, as well as instructional art-making videos. in exchange, lufthansa will become a corporate member of the museum, which provides the airline with a variety of benefits, including free employee passes, entertaining privileges and discounts in the MoMA store.

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Photo by DaviD healD Š the Solomon r. GuGGenheim founDation, new york

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people wanted to hang around and look at their card on the wall. We did that for a couple of months, and then we’d bring the cards up and scan them. More than 20,000 people uploaded cards,” Mitchell says. One little girl garnered New York media buzz when she wrote on her card: “I went to MoMA and was disappointed. I did not see one dinosaur.” “The Smithsonian picked it up. We got a call from [the Museum of] Natural History saying, ‘How about we loan you a dinosaur for your garden?’ It’s now framed in the director’s office,” Mitchell says.

Googling ‘Guggenheim’

The Guggenheim’s digital strategy also is comprehensive and multifaceted. Like MoMA, the Guggenheim leveraged the power of an existing digital platform to engage potential visitors. In 2010, the Guggenheim teamed up with Google’s YouTube for YouTube Play, a contest designed to showcase artists working in the digital media realm. Of 23,000 submissions, 25 winning videos were chosen by Guggenheim curators and a jury of art experts. The winners were announced on a live stream sponsored by YouTube, then played on a YouTube channel and put on view at the Guggenheim museums in New York, Berlin, Venice and Bilbao, Spain. A blog called The Take ran in conjunction with YouTube Play, and featured discussions from film and video scholars on digital content and the history of video art and online video. Fully integrated and supported by YouTube, the contest was the Guggenheim’s first global project with no marketing budget, according to Laura Miller, director of marketing at the Guggenheim. The Guggenheim’s digital initiatives also include BMW Guggenheim Lab, a “mobile laboratory” traveling to nine cities around the world, including New York, Berlin and Mumbai, from 2011 to 2016. The lab features mobile structures designed by multiple architects with the goal of inspiring new ideas for urban life, focusing on environmental and social responsibility. The exhibit has a blog, content sharable on Facebook, a multilingual app and an interactive game, Urbanology, in which players can create a future city that reflects ideas about city planning. The exhibit was honored by the 2012 MUSE Awards, presented by the American Association of Museums to recognize digital media achievements and innovation by museums. “The BMW Guggenheim project is looking at art slightly differently and inviting a whole community to participate in it, making it accessible to the whole world,” Landor’s Wade says. “Art museums have always challenged the status quo or have always been on the cutting edge and they’re demonstrating that by trying these digital channels.” Digital now is an integral component of the Guggenheim’s exhibit promotions, as well, says Francesca Merlino, the Guggenheim’s senior marketing manager. For instance, for “John Chamberlain: Choices,” an exhibition of sculptures made from twisted scrap metal by abstract expressionist John Chamberlain, the Guggenheim’s marketing team worked with its Web team to build the exhibition’s online microsite that launched in February 2012, orchestrate a YouTube promotional strategy and create an online survey asking visitors to provide feedback. “Through e-mail and social media, we were able to use videos as a mechanism to drive Web traffic and, hopefully, ticket sales to the museum. At a very small cost, we created a better user experience and found new ways to inform the local and global audience about our content,” Merlino says.

Photo by brian Schulman

The museum team also developed an app dedicated to an exhibition called “Maurizio Cattelan: All,” which ran from November 2011 to January 2012 and included views of the exhibition’s installation at the museum, documentation of the Italian artist Cattelan’s works, video interviews with his friends and collaborators, and a behind-the-scenes look at the show hosted by curators and engineers. The app allowed the Guggenheim to promote and explain the exhibition’s content in a way that conventional print ads could not. The 21-year retrospective displaying 128 works hung on cables from the ceiling of the Guggenheim rotunda, and included taxidermic animals and life-size wax effigies of Pope John Paul II felled by a meteor and Hitler as a kneeling schoolboy. “A lot of his work is completely unacceptable. Everything we mocked up [for print ads] got rejected by [New York transit authority] MTA. You’re not allowed nudity. The mini-Hitler looked absolutely smashing, but it’s too inflammatory. But that’s part of his M.O. as an artist,” Miller says. Digital efforts like the Cattelan app speak to younger audiences, in particular, and make modern art more accessible in general, says Ken Carbone, co-founder and chief creative director of New York-based design and branding firm Carbone Smolan Agency, whose clients include the Musée du Louvre and the High Museum of Art in Atlanta. “With contemporary art or art that’s a little more provocative, at face value, it may look, in the worst case, repellant, but until you find out a little bit about why the artist created that, you’re not fully engaged. Technology really does help to bring down the barriers of entry to art. It makes people comfortable because it can be very intimidating. You’re

“Through e-mail and social media, we were able to use videos as a mechanism to drive Web traffic and, hopefully, ticket sales to the museum. At a very small cost, we created a better user experience and found new ways to inform the local and global audience about our content.” FrANcEScA MErLINo, GuGGENhEIM

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looking at a white canvas and you’re like: ‘Why am I looking at a white canvas? Tell me why I should be caring about this.’ Through technology, you can learn a little bit more.”

culture and commercialism

Both museums’ digital marketing efforts have succeeded in broadening the customer experience, says Andrea Sullivan, executive director of Interbrand New York, a global branding and design consultancy. “Whether it’s on the go or in mobile, there’s a lot of technological enhancements that allow you to have a much more enriched experience and dialogue with yourself, and with the art and with the philosophy of the institution. It’s what encourages people to pass along their recommendations and contribute more to the institutions. You’ve got a much greater share of mind as a result and without those things, frequency and visitorship would go down.”

“Both the Guggenheim and MoMA should get a great deal of credit for experimentation, and for listening to what their audiences are interested in and pushing the limits. MoMA and the Guggenheim are on the forefront of continuing to expand the way they’re understood,” she says. Digital tactics are an attempt to reach new audiences while balancing their institutions’ cultural and commercial missions, Carbone says. “That’s the lifeblood of any cultural institution: How do you keep people interested? There are two missions going on here. One is the higher mission of making sure that art reaches people in the right ways, in ways that are appropriate to audiences. And secondly, there’s the practical side of it in, how do you engage people to be loyal followers and members and patrons of these great institutions? Those are the motivations. They have the high cultural mission and they have the reality of the commercial mission of keeping themselves alive. They’re doing it very well.” m

“There’s a lot of technological enhancements that allow you to have a much more enriched experience and dialogue with ... the art and with the philosophy of the institution. It’s what encourages people to pass along their recommendations and contribute more to the institutions.” ANdrEA SuLLIVAN, INTErBrANd NEW YorK

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ThE GuGGENhEIM’S oFFLINE STrATEGY For the Guggenheim, marketing the user experience starts with meetings between the marketing team and museum curators in which the marketers determine which images will “pop” in promotional material or which concepts will be most intriguing for a particular exhibition. “I ask curators: ‘Is your mom coming? how would you explain to your parents why this is a must-see?’ I try to serve as a translator for sometimes very difficult artists to create a sense of what is important,” says Laura Miller, director of marketing at the Guggenheim. The Guggenheim conducts quantitative exit survey research in the form of 500 to 600 paper surveys a year, as it has been doing for the past 17 years. From those surveys, the marketing team creates profiles of audience demographics and measures which marketing channels had an impact on customers’ decisions to visit. “We look at the overall quality of the visitor experience, every aspect of it, how they rate it,” Miller says. Eighty percent of the Guggenheim’s visitors are tourists and a large percentage of those are international tourists, according to Miller. The museum has created campaigns targeting four segments: international tourists, domestic tourists, greater New York metro area residents and New York city residents. The Guggenheim works with the city’s convention and visitors bureau, NYc & co. Inc., to advertise in its publications and visitors guides, including Where, In New York and AmTrak’s magazine, Arrive. To attract New York residents, specifically, the Guggenheim advertises on The New York Times’ website, in New York Magazine and Time out New York, and on New York’s subway system. corporate partnerships or barter agreements help the museum supplement its yearly marketing budget of $700,000, Miller says. “We spend a lot of time forming creative collaborations with outside partners. … We trade corporate membership at the Guggenheim for lower-cost advertising or services. We have come up with every kind of wheeling and dealing thing ever invented.”

the guggenheim’s print ads feature its famous façade. (image courtesy of the guggenheim.)

Photo by brian Schulman

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Pointillism in Pixels