I don’t know about art, but I might steal this
Have you seen this advertising campaign for the Art Series Hotels? As reported in The Australian, it encourages people to come and stay the night in one of the three Art hotels (The Cullen, Olsen and Blackman) all based in Melbourne.
If you see the piece of art by Banksy, (it’s valued at over $15,000) on the walls you can steal it. If you manage to get away with it you get to keep it. If you get caught then back on the wall it goes. The promotions aim is to encourage people to stay at the hotel over summer by offering them the chance to be in their very own art heist, and so far has been extremely popular.
There are good reasons why, but before I get into that I have to disclose it was our agency that helped develop this scheme.
Offering people the chance to steal, is like offering people the chance to cheat, lie, covet thy neighbours wife, eat a whole tub of ice cream, or a litany of other sins. These are all things we know we should not indulge in, but for what ever reasons at times, have a strong desire to do. In forensic psychology there is a well-established saying ‘bad men do what good men dream’. That is, we all have the impulses to act in anti-social ways, however, most of us have learned how to manage such urges, and not act on them. We have realized that acting on these urges will often lead to hurting someone, or ourselves – hence we suppress that which we know we should not do.
Within this structure we all get along. However, what then happens to such destructive urges where do they go? Do they stay suppressed never to come out? I don’t think so. They all there just bubbling away underneath the surface. According to Carl Jung we all have a ‘shadow’ self, a dark side, and part of life’s journey is finding a way to identify with, and express ones shadow. That is, understanding how to incorporate our shadow into our daily functioning without hurting ourselves, or others. Batman (a character actually developed on Jungian archetypes) said it more succinctly ‘The brighter the picture the darker the negative’. It’s why there is often insecurity behind a smile. It may explain why Canberra, our cleanest and most orderly city has such a thriving porn industry. Or why the city of churches is also the city of murders? Again, ‘the brighter the picture the darker the negative’.
Perhaps this thinking explains why story telling through the arts (movies, books, TV and so on) so often has a protagonist who is in some way flawed and finds redemption. We identify with the flawed character, and experience an understanding of ourselves through their actions. This experience allows us to get in touch with our shadow. Art is after all ‘a lie that reveals a truth’.
So back to ‘Steal Banksy’. The popularity of the campaign is because it is tapping into people’s dark side, and encouraging them to participate in an experience that is fun, but normally illegal. Participating in an art heist would feel liberating. When you get down to it, who wouldn’t enjoy stealing a painting worth thousands of dollars from someone wealthy. I’m not condoning the behavior, but I certainly understand the desire behind it.
Steal Banksy gives people an environment to express their shadow, without people getting hurt. So with this in mind can I suggest you don your black ski masks, do some stretches, get a good support team, and book yourself into the Art Series Hotels to commit the heist of your life.
So if facilitating and expressing ones dark side has always been a role of the arts. I wonder if the commercialised world of marketing and advertising will see more and more opportunities in the unexpressed and repressed side of human nature. As we start to demand more authenticity from the brands we purchase, less gloss and image please, we’ll see brands tap into the darker of human motivations.
Will more marketers and advertisers find ways to engage people with their brands through liberation of the dark side? I think so. I hope so. It’s fun.
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