Grey London substitutes visual art with powerful words in first campaign for Tate Britain.

Art is moving, but not just because of its aesthetic. It’s the narrative behind the art that moves us the most.”

Nils Leonard

Convention dictates that art should be promoted visually, showing images of the work itself.

In order to connect Tate Britain and its artworks with a new audience, Grey London has subverted this tradition.

In its first campaign for the gallery, everything has been stripped away and rather than show images to promote the work, it uses powerful words to tell the story behind it. Drawing people in and forcing reappraisal of artworks they think they know well, the ads compel people to visit Tate Britain and see the artworks for themselves in a completely different context.

Breaking on 16 November, the campaign launches with three very different paintings. All part of BP Displays, Tate Britain’s permanent collection, they play to the strengths of print media with crafted long copy enhanced by unique typography.

Written by Pete Gatley, Jonas Roth and Rasmus Smith-Bech, the words give us an insight into the manipulation of public image, the torture of obsessive love and the beauty of grief.

Each story unlocks the power behind the work in ways we can all relate to. Art Directed by Chairman and CCO Nils Leonard, the typography allows these stories to sing, conveying the emotion imbued in the work: proudly front and centre for ‘Portrait of Elizabeth I’, fractured and declining for Francis Bacon’s 1972 ‘Triptych’, rippling and drifting off for Millais’ ‘Ophelia’, Tate Britain’s most popular painting.

Dom Goldman, ECD Grey London said: “Working with Tate Britain’s curators, we unlocked the stories in art to drive footfall to the gallery and encourage people to discover more stories for themselves. We hope this will mean much of the British art is reappraised and talked about once again in culture as it was when it originated.”
Rob Baker, Tate Chief Marketing Officer said: “Our ambition in working with Grey London is to offer a broader audience new ‘ways in’ to the art we present at Tate Britain by creating cultural relevance. This first campaign is a taste of the new approach we’ll be taking to unlock the power of art through our communications.”

The ads will run as posters and tube cards on the London Underground as well as in press and on the Tate Britain website. Postcards of the ads will be also be available to the public for free in Tate Britain.


Project name: Tate Britain, BP Collection, 500 Years of Stories

Client: Rob Baker, Chief Marketing Officer, Tate & Abi Laughton, Marketing Manager, Tate Britain

Art director: Nils Leonard

Creative directors: Nils Leonard & Dom Goldman

Copywriters: Pete Gatley, Jonas Roth & Rasmus Smith Bech

Creative: Yassa Khan

Creative producers: Gemma Hose & Martin McGinn

Planner: Ruth Chadwick

Account Team: Henry Debenham, Sophie Posgate, Emma Stockton

Media agency: AKA

Media planner: Zoe Brown & Sam Thomas

Post-production: Hogarth

Exposure: Press, tube card panels and 16 sheets on London Underground