OWN THE CONTROVERSY

Short List
ClientCHRISTIE'S
TitleOWN THE CONTROVERSY
Product/ServiceCHRISTIE'S AUCTION HOUSE
Entrant LIDA London, UNITED KINGDOM
Idea Creation LIDA London, UNITED KINGDOM
Credits
Name Company Position
Ben Golik LIDA Chief Creative Officer
Tom Kennedy LIDA Art Director
Ieva Paulina LIDA Art Director
Camila Gurgel LIDA Copywriter
Clare Clarke LIDA Creative Services Director
Graham Phillips LIDA Chief Strategy Officer
Adam Reader LIDA Strategy Director
Georgia Graham-Leigh LIDA Managing Director
Ashley Gulickson LIDA Account Director

Why is this work relevant for Integrated?

This campaign to hype the sale of Jeff Koons’ “Rabbit” sculpture ran in the US, UK, the Netherlands, China and Hong Kong across digital display, social channels, out of home, press advertising and special build ambient. The core idea was adapted to best maximise its power in each channel.

Background

In a time of global political uncertainty, the appetite for significant art purchases lies in fewer and fewer hands both from an auction house, dealer and consumer perspective. To make matters worse, auction prices for Koons’ pieces have been on the decline in recent years.1 Our challenge was to get these powerful few to bid more than they ever had before, for an artist who was seemingly “off the boil.” In doing so, reigniting both Christie’s and Jeff Koons’ relevance in the industry. 1 New York Times, Jeff Koons ‘Rabbit’ Sets Auction Record for Most Expensive Work by Living Artist. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/15/arts/jeff-koons-rabbit-auction.html

Describe the creative idea

When Christie’s sells a big-name artwork, there’s often a backlash. Many think it’s more about the money, than the art. Enter Jeff Koons - loved and loathed, even within the art world itself. His factory-made, shiny artworks have become an emblem of this commercialisation. Up for auction was Rabbit, the very first of these mirror-finish balloon animals. Art or joke? Idea or inanity? Rabbit has always got very mixed reviews. We embraced all sides of the argument, and used every comment, good and bad, as evidence of Rabbit’s enduring cultural relevance – and therefore its enduring value.

Describe the strategy

Our strategic big idea came as we endeavored to find the “product attribute” that would make Rabbit a MUST HAVE item. The piece itself is fraught with contradictions – its heavy but light as air, phallic yet childlike, soft yet hard. After reading every article ever written about Rabbit and Koons, we found no red thread. Some called Rabbit “the death of David” or the end of sculpture as we know it. To others it was nothing more than a “cheap, vinyl, inflatable toy.” There was no silver bullet. This lack of consistency was the only consistency. And that what makes Rabbit so fascinating – and potentially desirable. Undeniably, Koons’ career and work are tightly bound by contradiction and so we decided to embrace that debate for what it was, selling Rabbit as the ultimate controversy.

Describe the execution

We took everything that had ever been said about Rabbit, the good and the terrible, and used it to our advantage. Why sell the object when you can sell the outrage? In recognition of Rabbit’s complicated story, we installed a site-specific light installation on Christie’s Rockefeller Plaza facade. Giant neon letters spell out the word ‘ICON’, with the ‘I’ left pulsing on and off. Con or Icon? This theme ran through the campaign. Social stories on Instagram and WeChat, full page ads in national newspapers, billboards in Times Square. Online films explored different aspects of the piece’s impact: ‘Shock’, ‘Spectacle’, ‘Sex’ and ‘Self’. All channels were selected with one brief in mind, go big, go broad, and get people talking. And we actively encouraged people to take a side. Good bunny or bad bunny?

List the results

We broke three world records; achieved 1.1B social impressions; sparked 15,642 heated comments; and realised a $91.1m price tag – $30m+ above Rabbit’s reserve and $20m+ above its expected top range of $70m. We thoroughly reversed the decline in Koons sale prices: a world record for the sale of a Koons’ piece, a world record for sculpture, and a world record for the sale of a work by any living artist. Video posts prompted heated debate. Sentiment analysis of comments showed 56% expressed ‘joy’ while 31% expressed ‘disgust’. We had done our job of reigniting a passionate conversation that began 33 years ago, and made Koons and Rabbit utterly relevant again today.