CAMPAIGNS: Consumer PR - Tate Modern woos visitors to Warhol art

Before Tate Modern existed, London often missed out on large travelling exhibitions of modern art. So when, in April last year, the museum's management learned that they had the opportunity to host Berlin's Neue National Gallerie's Warhol exhibition they jumped at the chance.


To attract the largest possible audience, with as many as possible booking in advance.

Strategy and Plan

It was felt that the most effective PR strategy to attract bookings would be to use media relations to prompt a re-opening of the debate over the always-controversial American artist.

A handful of key messages about the exhibition were developed. It is a particularly large show - filling an entire floor of Tate Modern - and contains unusual groupings of Andy Warhol's work, as well as some pieces that have never been shown before.

The key message to journalists and critics was the fact that it is believed to be the largest gathering of Warhol's work ever shown in the UK.

It was also a brief show, running for eight weeks (from 7 February), whereas most temporary charging exhibitions in museums or galleries last for around three months. This meant that the PR team had to ensure maximum buzz before the opening to drive visitor numbers.

This led to a press launch on 25 September - early enough to target monthly magazines' February issues.

The museum was conscious that it could bolster visitor numbers by encouraging art lovers from northern Europe to plan a trip to London around the exhibition.

So it engaged the services of Parisian PR agency Agenda, which brought 25 foreign journalists to the press day on 5 February.

The final plank of the strategy was to engage the help of promotional partners. Channel 4 had already been preparing a three-part documentary series on Warhol; it was agreed that it would be mutually beneficial if this was screened just before the exhibition started.

The knock-on effect of this was that Channel 4's extensive poster campaign to promote the series also served to attract people's attention to the exhibition.

The Guardian was brought in as 'media partner', which resulted in a wealth of coverage in the paper, including a guide to the Warhol films that the Tate is screening as part of the exhibition.

The press team liaised with Coca-Cola and Campbell's Soup - the two brands used prominently in some of Warhol's most popular works.

Coca-Cola gave away its iconic contour bottles at the launch party and launched a postcard marketing campaign featuring a Warhol Coke image.

Campbell's has planned an ad campaign to coincide with the exhibition - as PRWeek went to press, the company was waiting for approval from the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts.

The museum also commissioned ad agency NB Studios to create its own poster ads for the exhibition, featuring Warhol images of the Coke bottle, Chairman Mao and a bunch of flowers.

The Tate had brought in online booking for the Warhol exhibition, and the press team wanted a device to encourage interest in its site.

Marketing agency Naked came up with the idea of the 'Warholiser' - people are invited to scan in pictures, which the software then reproduces onscreen in Warhol style. One picture is shown on the site every 15 minutes, linking to the artist's quote about fame.

After arranging the press launch in September, the Tate's press team's next crucial date was the press day on 5 February when the exhibition was opened to 650 journalists.

On that day, the team also organised a party at Old Billingsgate Fish Market to 'bring the personal element of Warhol to life,' according to Tate head of press Nadine Thompson.

Warhol's contemporaries Marianne Faithful and John Cale were brought along to sing, and pictures from the event appeared in a variety of social columns in papers and magazines.

The following night, the team organised an opening night party at the museum, flying over Warhol's friend, chef Stephen Bruce, from New York, to prepare the artist's favourite dessert, Frrrozen Hot Chocolate.

Measurement and Evaluation

Evaluating the campaign's success is a fairly straightforward task for Tate Modern's press team - counting visitor numbers. Within this, it can also look to the numbers of advance bookings to test whether enough early publicity was generated.

Thompson believes that the campaign had a definite impact on the hefty volume of coverage.

The quality of the exhibition helped to impact on the tone of the reviews the exhibition received. Most reviews were overwhelmingly positive, many of them making reference to the importance of the event ('Surely the best display of Warhol's work we'll ever see' - The Independent on Sunday).

Broadcast coverage included spots on programmes such as the BBC 10 0'Clock News, moving it beyond regular arts publicity and into a bona fide news event.


Two weeks after opening, the exhibition was attracting around 3,500 people each day. The Tate's previous average number of daily visitors for a charging exhibition was 1,500, making it the most popular travelling exhibit so far.

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