Campaign Trail is our analysis of some of the best and worst new creative efforts from the marketing world. View past columns in the archives here.
Creativity is typically associated with painters, designers, inventors and tinkerers, but Bombay Sapphire wants to remind people that artistic capacity lives within everyone.
Earlier this month, the blue-bottled gin brand by Bacardi hosted a tech-powered art installation that let the public collectively paint a canvas through robot arms. Nearly 7,000 people selected a paint color and position on the canvas through a branded website before watching the robot arms add their contribution to the piece in real time. The completed masterpiece, dotted with hues of blue, green and yellow, was on display Sept. 5-8 at The Other Art Fair Los Angeles.
While the "Painted by Everyone" installation reinforces Bombay Sapphire's ongoing art-focused messaging, the experiential effort appears to be the brand's first that crowdsources people's creativity. According to Brand Director Tom Spaven, this creative strategy intends to remind consumers of gin's versatility as a platform ripe for experimentation.
"We can't be the brand that talks about stirring creativity without actually doing it, so we wanted to invite people into an experiment that speaks to awakening the creative potential we believe exists in everybody," he told Marketing Dive.
Broader 'Find Your Canvas' campaign
The artwork exhibit kicked off a larger "Find Your Canvas" initiative developed with agency BBDO New York. At The Other Art Fair Los Angeles, visitors could take workshops led by photographers, graphic designers, hairstylists and filmmakers. Bombay Sapphire is also offering free three-month trials to Skillshare's online learning platform to extend buzz around the campaign and offer tangible services that support its goal of awakening people's inner creativity.
The majority of the campaign's development time went to programming the custom software, done by VTProDesign, that linked users and the robots. Once the location within Los Angeles' arts district was finalized, other challenges included logistical elements like electricity to power the robotic arms, Wi-Fi to let passersby connect and contribute to the artwork and security to ensure a controlled environment for the activation.
The final piece will travel to a Dallas art fair this month and potentially to Brooklyn in November. Spaven said his team is still finalizing plans beyond then, and is considering an auction to benefit an artist-supportive charity.
A branded cocktail of creativity
The "Painted by Everyone" display, an extension of Bombay Sapphire's year-old "Stir Creativity" campaign, fits into the brand's overarching marketing strategy that underscores how testing creative approaches — and blending digital media with experiential activations — can instill deeper connections with younger consumers.
"Bombay Sapphire has long been recognized by bartenders as the ultimate canvas for cocktail creativity, which has become the basis for our mission to inspire creative self-expression, whether that be through cocktail-making or beyond," Spaven said.
Artist communities, in particular, have embraced the Bacardi-owned gin since its debut in 1987, he added, underpinning why the brand chose to center its messaging around art. Spaven's team and the Rush Philanthropic Arts Foundation kicked off the Artisan Series in 2010 to showcase emerging artists, while in 2016, BBDO built the brand a Google Chrome extension that replaced competitors' banner ads with works of art.
"We can't be the brand that talks about stirring creativity without actually doing it, so we wanted to invite people into an experiment that speaks to awakening the creative potential we believe exists in everybody."
Brand director, Bombay Sapphire
The gin maker has previously emphasized its messaging around experimentation and self-expression through interactive pop-ups and an annual "Most Imaginative Bartender" competition that challenges mixologists to craft inventive cocktails.
Now, Bombay Sapphire is looking to reinforce its art-focused messaging by making its interactive events more accessible to consumers not able to physically attend, likely extending the reach of marketing efforts. Handing over the reins to let consumers collectively produce a branded work of art certainly comes with risks, but Spaven says his team took measures to ensure the final product was brand safe.
"Each contributor [had] to verify their participation through Facebook or Google in order to limit every user to one mark, which ultimately helped ensure we'd be able to include as many people as possible and reduce the risk of someone defacing the painting," he said.
Will technology replace the creative director?
Ever-advancing technology like Bombay Sapphire's robot and automation tools will continue to push the boundaries of what brands and agencies can do when developing ads, potentially opening up fresh ways of thinking about creativity. A Forrester report from June indicates that many marketers are overspending on tech while underspending on creative efforts that help consumers distinguish one brand from the next. However, Spaven says even the most sophisticated technology won't make creative directors obsolete nor replace the impact of human connection.
"This effort reinforces our belief that creativity transcends so far beyond traditional art — individuals can express themselves everywhere from creating cocktails or a painting to creating a brand-new computer code," he said.