It is a fact of life that people who go to museums tend to be the
educated middle classes or, to use the technical jargon, the ABC1s.
It is to its credit therefore, that with the launch of the new London
Now gallery, the museum of London has set out to broaden its appeal to
people from all walks of life.
As reported in the Independent on Sunday ’London Now has rejected the
bobbies-and-beefeater image beloved of tourist boards and foreign
visitors and portrays the city instead through the eyes of squatters,
demonstrators and tower-block dwellers’.
For example, key exhibits include a dramatic 12ft by 9ft canvas
depicting the 1990 Trafalgar Square anti-poll tax riot and a huge
illuminated model of two Hackney streets under threat from developers
and populated by squatters.
The marketing department has embraced the challenge to reach a wider
audience wholeheartedly with, among other projects, a tube campaign
focusing on some of the more anarchic and saucy aspects of the gallery.
Under the headline ’London’s lost marbles’ another campaign advertises
the famous sandwich board worn by that chap who traversed Oxford Street
in the 1980s and early 1990s, alerting us all to the dangers of
excessive lust and peanut consumption. Another focuses on a 1950s bra
with the headline ’Get uplifted’.
Undoubtedly, with campaigns such as these the museum should succeed in
attracting a much wider audience.
But what of the PR campaign? In most respects this has been extremely
successful and the press office has every reason to be delighted with
the results to date.
Tailor made press releases highlighting different aspects of the gallery
- such as London’s obsession with the car and even one on Chinese Women
in London - were sent to the relevant media.
And a photocall to open the new gallery last week generated excellent
coverage on local TV and in the Times, Telegraph, Guardian and
Independent, including some fairly heated views from John Marshall,
Conservative MP for South Hendon, who felt the poll tax painting
glorified civil disorder.
All great stuff, but where was the coverage in the Mail, Express, Sun or
the Mirror? Given the objective in terms of attracting a mass market
audience, I can’t help feeling that perhaps they missed a trick by not
including just a few more anarchic or titillating elements to the media
relations campaign to whet the palates of our less erudite friends on