Chicago's Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) is collaborating with Facebook to bring the art of Takashi Murakami to all of the users of the social network's Messenger feature. The team-up, which kicks off the Cannes Lions Festival, allows users to snap photos with special "frames" incorporating Murakami icons Mr. DOB and the smiling daisies, as well as the octopus created to coincide with his MCA summer retrospective, Takashi Murakami: The Octopus Eats Its Own Leg. The partnership is the first of its kind between a museum and Facebook, i.e., creating something interactive rather than just ad space.
"We are excited to work with the MCA and Takashi Murakami to bring to our community these special, exclusive, first-of-their kind tools to connect with the people they love," Facebook's Head of Messenger, David Marcus, said in a press release. "The work of the team at the Facebook Creative Shop has been both thoughtful and playful, and we can't wait to see how people interact with their own small piece of Murakami art!"
According to Lauren Smallwood, the MCA's director of communications, the museum reached out to the Facebook Creative Shop, which helps clients create Facebook-specific content as part of an effort to create a marketing campaign commensurate with Murakami's art.
"In a nutshell, Murakami—the man and the work, it's all a wonderful spectacle, right?" Smallwood tells Creators over the phone. "So we challenged ourselves, when we were thinking about the marketing campaign, to make our own spectacles, big and small, to honor him, to honor his work, and ultimately to drive attendance."
Smallwood notes that while media placements can be "spectacle-y," so, too, can partnerships, and partnering with Facebook constituted that. Why settle for a simple ad, after all, when instead every user on Messenger can now shoot and send images of themselves with a miniature Murakami? The Creative Shop took extra care to make sure that each character was represented respectfully, in some cases adding motion to create more dynamic effects.
In addition to the Messenger frames, the Facebook Creative Shop also developed a run of video ads which will run on Instagram in early July and also be featured in Facebook 360 video. Smallwood hopes the ads will be both more engaging than the typical spots which break up your cruising of Insta stories—"I mean, an octopus's tentacle coming at your face? It's cool!"—as well as be enjoyable to fans of the artist on their own accord.
The blend of aesthetic fun and direct advertising can also be seen as an extended—and interactive—rumination on the artist's practice. Murakami has never been one to shy away from the commercial in his art, an aspect acknowledged by the inclusion of a suite of Kanye Graduation-era bears in the exhibition.
"He fully embraces both sides of that," Smallwood says. "He talks about that. It's definitely something that he's wrestled with over the years, but if he's embracing both sides of it, the commercial side and the traditional painter side, because he's both, then we had to honor that, we had to show both sides. And from a marketing perspective, it gets me really excited, because it opens up the door to people who might not necessarily consider a contemporary art museum, and now all the sudden they're like 'huh, I might check that out. I feel like I've seen that kind of thing before; I know the 'Stronger' cover from the Kanye album.'"
Takashi Murakami: The Octopus Eats Its Own Leg runs through September 24.