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Arts Students Reimagine Historical Commissions in Campaign for The University of Melbourne

Advertising Agency
Melbourne, Australia
The campaign was developed by McCann Melbourne and Weber Shandwick

The University of Melbourne has launched a global campaign to mark the transformation of its Fine Arts and Music Southbank campus.

Created by McCann Melbourne in partnership with Weber Shandwick, the ambitious integrated campaign, launched in July, set out to highlight the enduring importance of a fine arts and music education.

Entitled First Commissions, 30 University students and alumni were commissioned to reinterpret world-changing historical commissions for the present moment through dance, music and visual arts. Unbeknown to the artists, the commissions came from original responses spanning Frida Kahlo’s Self-Portrait with Monkeys and Tschaikovsky’s The Sleeping Beauty to Michelangelo’s David. Placing a contemporary lens on age-old social themes, the new works invited audiences to consider how far society has come in its understanding of human perfection, social justice, mortality, sex and power.

The PR launch took place in Florence across two significant arts institutions, beginning at the feet of Michelangelo’s David, and placed the University on the radar of international dignitaries, media and key audiences. The launch was then further amplified in a significant content, digital and OOH campaign. With five short documentaries and over 100 original content pieces, the campaign exceeded all benchmarks, including 146 million in total reach, and covered in media across Italy, China, the US, and the UK, including The Guardian UK and Wall Street Journal.

Says Simon McCrudden, managing partner of strategy, McCann Melbourne: “What better way to highlight the importance of artistic minds in today’s society than by inviting current students and alumni to reimagine the social themes that informed some of the world’s most astounding works? The McCann Melbourne team is proud of the First Commissions project idea and were delighted to develop the stories that underpinned it.”

Five Australian artists placed David’s perfection in a whole new context, creating works that examined how digital algorithms and social media filters inform our relationship with human perfection. Their hyper-contemporary works were exhibited against the classical Renaissance backdrop of the Florence Fine Arts Academy – a local institution with roots dating back to the 1500s.

The Florence launch involved a series of local media, industry and public events, and was supported by strategic PR outreach in five global markets spanning Shanghai to New York, directing readers to an online gallery where global audiences could experience the exhibition in full.

Weber Shandwick led global PR strategy, event curation and production, amplifying the campaign’s newsworthiness through a series of channels.

Says Helen Graney, group managing director, Weber Shandwick Sydney: “This project presented no shortage of opportunities to tell powerful stories about the artists and their work. And by celebrating the individuals at the heart of fine arts and music education, we could showcase the immeasurable value they bring to society. We are proud to have been part of delivering transformational work that has helped build the University’s reputation abroad.”

Says Elena Del Mercato, external relations manager at the Faculty of Fine Arts and Music, University of Melbourne: “The University of Melbourne believes in the transformational power of a fine arts and music education and its importance in propelling society forward – never more so than now. We’re immensely proud of how this project showcased the bravery of young Australian artists on a global stage.”

Says Georgina Pownall, managing director, McCann Melbourne: “This campaign is a prime example of what’s possible when both client and agency work with enormous trust and in true partnership together. The team at the Faculty of Fine Arts and Music were fearless and at times brutally honest with us and so were we with them – but it ultimately led to a better result. We can’t thank Jane, Elena, Alix and the broader team enough for their unwavering bravery.”

The project culminated in an expansive exhibition of work by all 30 artists at the University of Melbourne’s newly transformed Southbank campus.

To explore the University of Melbourne’s First Commissions exhibition in full, visit the online gallery here or via:

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