Campaigns: Culture - Artists use talent to make a statement

Campaign: Freedom to Create Prize 2009
Client: Freedom to Create Prize
PR team: PagetBaker
Timescale: November 2009
Budget: £60,000

The Freedom to Create prize was established in 2008 to celebrate artists around the world who use their talent to promote social justice in broken societies and oppressive regimes. Each year, prize money is awarded across three categories; main, youth and imprisoned artist.


- To build awareness of the prize internationally

- To secure influential supporters from the arts and media communities

- To increase artist submissions and build ongoing awareness among target communities

- To secure high-profile guests from the arts, human rights, foreign affairs and media communities to attend the prize ceremony at the V&A museum in London.

Strategy and plan

The story was positioned as a foreign news article rather than a pure arts story, to provide a wider context and build more media opportunities. A series of features was developed, looking at the role of arts in promoting social justice, and mini-campaigns were built around the shortlisted artists set against news developments in their home territories.

The PR team secured high-profile judges, such as human rights lawyer Geoffrey Robertson QC, Time Out chairman Tony Elliott and BBC arts correspondent Razia Iqbal, along with Bianca Jagger and Nick Broomfield as citation readers. Landmarks throughout the campaigns, such as nominations opening and shortlisted announcements, were used to build and sustain momentum and the team worked with international media including Reuters and the BBC World Service to give the stories a global reach.

A media schedule for nominees was put in place for the week of the event and a campaign was built around the winning artist, Mohsen Makhmalbaf, who is overseas spokesman for an Iranian presidential candidate. This was set against news stories emanating from Iran about anti-government protests.

Makhmalbaf dedicated his award to Iran's green movement, which was used as a further news angle.

Measurement and evaluation

A feature appeared in The Sunday Times the week before the ceremony, profiling the prize and showcasing some of the shortlisted artists. Coverage also appeared on the Today programme, Sky News, Al-Jazeera, Channel Four News, Reuters, the BBC World Service, and in print publications including The Guardian, The New York Times, The National and Saudi Gazette. The agency also secured BBC Persian TV to broadcast the ceremony to its audience. In total, the campaign generated more than 150 national, international, print and broadcast pieces in more than 32 countries.


More than 1,000 artists submitted entries to the prize, a 25 per cent increase on 2008. Traffic to the campaign website more than doubled in 2009. The ceremony was attended by senior journalists and figures from the arts and culture industries, along with human rights activists and organisations, and foreign dignitaries.


Richard Chandler, the billionaire New Zealand-born philanthropist based in Singapore, set up this arts prize 'to shine a light into those parts of the world where creative freedom is not a given'. He must be delighted with the progress in just two years.

As Jasper Rees said in his article in The Times: 'In a way, it doesn't matter who wins. The point is publicity.'

And this campaign certainly delivered publicity.

A quick Google search brings back ten pages of links to data and articles about the 2009 campaign.

However, it is clear that PagetBaker's campaign delivered much more than just publicity. This was not simply about the volume of cuttings. Instead, it was about strategic storytelling, building the gravitas of the platform that is being created for remarkable artists - particularly those working in the Islamic trouble spots - to reach a wider audience.

Working within a global consultancy, I can imagine how challenging it must have been for the UK-based team to deliver meaningful coverage in a multi-country campaign without the benefit of on-the-ground presence. But the team did a brilliant job.

The agency obviously has excellent contacts in the arts world and secured highly influential supporters from the arts and media communities.

But I was more impressed with its flexibility in taking advantage of the news agenda. I could feel the energy and creativity that this sustained campaign needed.

It is a great cause, with great delivery and outstanding results.

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