We PR folk are at our finest when we spend our days engaged in an energetic exchange of ideas and opinions. We’re creative thinkers, and we welcome tests of our assumptions as opportunities to make us better at what we do.
That’s the idea anyway.
Of course, that doesn’t account for the world of meetings, emails, deadlines, phone calls and menus slipped under the door. The hustle and bustle of our jobs means we don’t spend as much time as we’d like contemplating the philosophical aspects of our work. We need to think about the big questions if we’re going to continue to come up with the big creative solutions.
To address that, we started a program called Arts@Ogilvy, an ongoing, evolving exhibition of contemporary artworks displayed on the walls and in the halls of Ogilvy & Mather’s New York office.
I’m drawn to art for the same reason I’m drawn to my job; they’re both about communication. And I think that Ogilvy gets that, too.
Our first step: inviting Cheryl Hazan – a world-renowned Tribeca gallerist—to check out our space. It immediately clicked for her. Wall space, lighting, scale—our environment was built to display art, and before long the walls were filling up with works by Ross Broder, Rafael Fuchs, and many others. Some of our artists are established names, some are just getting started, but all the works were donated—in an expression of the largesse New Yorkers tend to exhibit when it comes to sharing (and sharing in) works of art.
The paintings and photographs we’ve hung have brightened our elevator vestibule, brought our conference rooms to life, and jazzed up our back office spaces. But beyond the visual uplift the collection has provided, Arts@Ogilvy has succeeded in its true purpose. It has infused our surroundings with provocative energy.
The works we’ve displayed range from playful to cheeky to downright confrontational, and I think that’s appropriate. In our roles, we are tempted to play it safe, to take the route that is less controversial and more benign. The art we’ve mounted on the walls here reminds us that our jobs are really to push and prod, to stretch limits and—ultimately—to get clients to consider creative risks in order to achieve results.
When we set out to make Arts@Ogilvy a reality, I wasn’t entirely sure how it would be received. On the first day I saw three people discussing a mural while they waited for the elevator, and at that moment, I knew it would work. Today, I’m not sure which is more gratifying—seeing groups of people discussing the artwork, or watching one person contemplating a piece, lost in thought.
I guess I don’t have to choose. Though it’s still in its infancy, Arts@Ogilvy has already succeeded in its primary mission: fostering creative thinking by exposing our people, and our visitors, to strong opinions, original thinking and creative vigor from the moment they walk in the door.
Brian Maloney is Co-Managing Director of the US Brand Marketing Practice and the New York Consumer Group Head at Ogilvy Public Relations.