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Warhol’s Factory Offers a Model For Collaboration Between Brands & Artists

by Casha Doemland on 08/16/2018 | 3 Minute Read

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By: Jonathan KenyonThis summer, London’s Estorick Collection stages The Art of Campari, an exhibition that traces the history of Campari's use of artists to advertise its iconic red aperitivo.The exhibition features work from Campari's archives in Milan, from the original Belle Époque posters to the elegant designs of the 1960s. It’s a celebration of one brand’s rich heritage in creativity and design, showcasing work that brought Campari global recognition over many decades.Collaboration has been a cornerstone in Campari’s long-term advertising appeal. However, in an age where the benchmarks for success are likes, clicks and views, brand managers’ immediate need for results makes them risk-averse.

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An example of a brand successfully navigating this creative tension is Pepsi Football’s Love It Live It campaign, which partnered artists with football players around the world to bring to life their on and off-pitch personalities. Disruptive and dynamic, the campaign is a refreshing collaboration that proved immediately effective, even beating Coca-Cola, the official World Cup sponsor. Here was an inspiring moment of collaboration between artists and brands that was aesthetically appealing while also yielding tangible results.These collaborations are not easy. Artistic credibility is hard-won and tenaciously defended, and the mere suggestion of inauthenticity from a brand or artist can cause lasting damage. In today’s complex, technological world, there are numerous ways for brands to represent their products, and pure artistic collaborations are not as widespread as they once were.But we believe there’s room for a more meaningful partnership between artists and brands – working together from conception to execution and finding solutions that can fundamentally shape a brand.

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A good example is GE’s work to improve understanding of its ground-breaking developments in neuroscience. The brand teamed up with artists to produce a series of six artworks. Scientists and artists collaborated to creatively express how the brain responds when it’s in love, or how the neural responses of an optimist differ from those of an introvert.Similarly, the collaboration between artists and the entomologists of Raid insecticide brings to life (or death, from a bug perspective) the effectiveness of the Raid product in a playful and captivating way.

Both garnered public attention, and they show what’s possible when, rather than just using artists as promotional tools, brands seed artists in their workflow.These collaborations provide valuable opportunities for brand and artist alike, but it can be tough for artists to know which brand is right to partner with. And it can be just as tough for brand managers to accept the uncertainty that comes with artistic collaboration. One way to address this is to tap into an established creative community, where artists from different backgrounds and disciplines are already working together – and with brands.

Andy Warhol’s Factory was a community of artists, muses and anyone Warhol found interesting, but it was also a creative network linking commerce and art. By engaging with this kind of collective, brands give themselves access to a range of skills and artistic specialisms, using the breadth and depth of talent to match the right artists with each creative challenge. One of the most famous examples of Warhol’s Factory linking commerce and art is the album cover Warhol designed for The Velvet Underground & Nico, the Velvet Underground’s first album. Now considered a classic album cover it featured a yellow banana sticker adorned with the words “Peel slowly and see.” The collaboration came about because The Velvet Underground’s key members Lou Reed and John Cale were central to Warhol’s scene at The Factory.Even with this kind of support, brand and artist partnerships are not easy but get them right, and these courageous integrations can result in great art and powerful commercial opportunities. Who knows? This might even be how the next Campari-style legacy begins.

Jonathan Kenyon

Jonathan Kenyon is co-founder and executive creative director of Vault49, a brand design agency centered around creative expression, craft, and collaboration with a team forever in pursuit of great ideas and great executions for their clients.