Projects, events and news from the University of Cambridge Museums
Silent Partners was the world’s first exhibition uncovering the history of the artist’s mannequin, their evolution and widespread use inside the artist’s studio. With over 180 paintings and drawings, books, films, photographs, patent documents and objects, Silent Partners was surprising and at times disturbing. It included haunting wooden effigies, painted dolls of full human height and top of the range ‘stuffed Parisian’ lay figures. The exhibition was one of the most ambitious shows ever hosted at the Fitzwilliam Museum, highlighting it as a place of cutting edge research and innovative exhibitions.
The PR campaign capitalised on the unusual and attention grabbing content of the exhibition to get greater coverage than had been achieved in past. New audiences were researched with a focus on national media, weekend press and magazines. The PR campaign can be considered a success with greater coverage in the UK than had ever been achieved for any major exhibition at the Fitzwilliam.
The marketing campaign The key publicity event for the exhibition was a Mannequin Parade, which featured exhibition branded mannequins in twelve different locations across the centre of Cambridge for a two week period – purposefully timed to coincide with the beginning of October half term. All the mannequins were dressed differently, with unique names and ages, and some innovative display techniques – for example, the local bakery created a mannequin made up of macaroons. Participating venues had posters in their windows, and maps were available to pick up from each location to help track them down; people who found all of the mannequins names could enter a competition to win a digital camera from John Lewis, Cambridge. Visibility and word of mouth around the activity was high. All the participating businesses were talking to their customers about the joined up activity with the Fitzwilliam Museum, one was putting Mannequin Parade leaflets in every customer’s bag, and another created an Instagram of their shop window display that was liked by Vivienne Westwood.
Advertising and publicity material was strategically placed across a variety of areas and publications. The museum’s London Underground campaign ran for the duration of the exhibition and areas were cherry picked for their associated demographics – with three different posters created to appeal to different audiences (contemporary art lovers / traditional). Commuters were targeted through posters on trains between London to Cambridge, and platform advertising at Cambridge station. Lamp post banners were placed throughout Cambridge. Pictures were hung in the café and ushering areas of the local Arts Picturehouse to the promote the show during it’s opening month, and after the pictures came down they were given away in weekly social media caption competitions which helped to build engagement with the show. Adverts were placed in the main local magazine and student newspaper for Cambridge, as well as screens on Park & Ride buses. Other marketing collateral included posters and leaflets, which were mailed out to the Fitzwilliam Museum’s core audience and distributed to businesses throughout Cambridge City Centre and local villages, as well as key cultural and heritage sites in London, Norfolk and Cambridgeshire through professional distribution companies. Distribution of the exhibition and events leaflet to arts and culture venues was very successful, with 75% picked up in London venues (successful campaigns classified as over 70% pick up rate), with overall pick up in East Anglia (Norfolk and Cambridgeshire) around 80%. In addition 9,500 leaflets were distributed to non arts and culture Cambridge City Centre venues, with only a few left in the racks by the close of the show.
Digital promotion of Silent Partners included a teaser trailer, behind the scenes and vox-pop videos, and a series of 10 exhibition podcasts – created for the Museum website and distribution through social media channels. Interaction through Twitter, Facebook and Instagram was very much encouraged throughout the duration of the exhibition. Posts included topical news links, reviews, photos, event information and giveaways. As of January 2015 the teaser trailer had received nearly 6,500 views. The podcasts had received over 1000 views and reached a wide audience with 88% of people based outside of the UK. The podcasts will remain online following the close of the exhibition, serving as an ongoing learning resource.
Read some of the press coverage of the exhibition…