What was the original brief from Adobe? What were the goals for the campaign?
Adobe had a stock website integrated directly into Photoshop, but no one knew about it or used it. Our brief was to change that.
Creatives hate stock. And they didn’t want to hear about a new stock website. We needed to cut through all that negative bias and give them something the genuinely thought was interesting. It seemed an impossible task at first but then we stumbled across an idea. Let’s take stock and turn it into art.
What was it about the idea of recreating Lost Masterpieces that made it appropriate and also convinced you that it would excite people? What were you trying to demonstrate?
We started out with the idea to re-create famous artwork out of Adobe Stock photography. We were interested in the idea of elevating plain, boring stock photography to the level of high art. We spent time thinking about it and looking for a more interesting way in, and then the idea was thrown out, what if we re-created lost art? The challenge of bringing back to life artwork that couldn’t be seen anymore was very compelling. It was an idea both us and Adobe immediately got excited about.
We thought it would interest other people because it was interesting to us
We thought it would interest other people because it was interesting to us. We had to honestly ask ourselves “is it even possible? Can this really be done?” We found one piece of missing artwork and created a miniature test in-house that looked pretty good. It was amazing to see people’s faces when they started putting the pieces together that what they were looking at stock photography instead of a painting. When our digital artists started sending us their works in progress, that’s when we knew for sure we were onto something special.
We were trying to demonstrate that when all your tools are in one place and stock photography is a part of the creative process, instead of a hindrance to it, it’s possible to make a masterpiece – even ones that have been missing for decades.
How did you choose which masterpieces to feature? Were there certain criteria you were working to e.g. Level of fame of artist, geographical spread to hit important markets, variety of different types of work (e.g. Portrait, landscape etc.), interesting backstories about how the paintings came to be lost?
We spent a ton of time searching through history books, the FBI missing art files, and by going through basically any website that had the words missing art in it, which is a lot. One person watched a documentary. It was a real team effort.
We were looking for a couple of criteria. First, obviously was a painting that was still missing. There were a bunch of paintings we found that were marked missing in one place, just to find out on another blog that they had been found. Second, it had to make sense to re-create with stock imagery. There are a shocking, and frankly sad, number of abstract paintings with amazing stories that are lost, but re-creating them out of stock wouldn’t have been logical. So we focused on painters and paintings that had a more realistic style, which led us to people like Caravaggio, Rembrandt, Vermeer, and Kahlo. There were actually a couple of pieces we wanted to use, but ended up being found, so those had to be marked off the list. It was a weird/conflicting feeling being bummed out and glad these masterpieces had been found. We got into this place where we were hoping pieces wouldn’t be found until after the project came out.
The dramatic stories behind the disappeared art we re-created were for the most part an accident.
How did you go about clearing copyright to use the selected works? What were the challenges there?
For the Rembrandt, even though the painting was in the public domain, we knew we needed to get permission from the Isabella Gardner Museum in Boston in order to tell the story of the theft. We worked closely with their Director of Marketing and Communications, Kathy Sharpless, to make sure that we told the story accurately and in a way that didn’t sensationalise the theft. In the end our client and the museum were thrilled with how we told the story and with the final Adobe Stock recreation of “The Storm on the Sea of Galilee.” We licensed the actual image of the original painting through Bridgeman Images, a fantastic licensing resource for fine art, cultural and historical media.
For the Frida Kahlo’s “The Wounded Table.” we worked with the Artist Rights Society in New York, who represents Kahlo’s estate in the United States, for permission to include this painting and Frida in this project.
In terms of the artists chosen to do the recreations, what criteria did you use to choose them? Presumably it was important to integrate Behance and underline the fact that Adobe has this network of creatives, as well as the tools they use and now the stock images they can employ?
We looked for artists on Behance that had experience with compositing photos. It was important that they were experts at their craft, and could tackle such a difficult project. Adobe having a community of creatives already made this somewhat simple. We reached out to them and got an overwhelmingly positive response.
The four chosen artists are in France, the US, India and Ecuador: how did you support them in doing the work? How long did they have to make the reconstructed images? What was the brief to them?
We met with the artists via Skype to introduce them to the project. We gave them a brief, as well as background information on the piece they were re-creating and the artist they were emulating. We had weekly check-ins to make sure they were feeling comfortable and tried to assist them where we could with the photo searches in Adobe Stock if they were running into difficult areas. Sometimes our support took the form of translating words to help with the search terms. They sent works in progress at the middle and end of the week, and we got on calls to talk.
Each artist had about a month to re-create his or her painting, but it took them about three solid weeks of work to complete. I’m not sure any of them actually knew how long it would take when they went in or how big the ask truly was. The file transfer alone took a couple hours. I do know each one had a different celebration when they were done – from jumping into a pool to nice dinners with partners who I’d imagine were also glad they had finally finished. Every artist was fantastic. Super enthusiastic, always smiling.
The brief to them was fairly simple and straightforward.
We had a project overview:
When paintings are taken, lost or destroyed, we are robbed of the culture and joy they bring us. Original art cannot simply be replaced. When it’s no longer there, it leaves a hole that’s impossible to fill.
To pay homage to these lost masterpiece and to help bring them back into the public spotlight, Adobe is commissioning some of the most talented digital artists in the world to create faithful recreations of these masterpieces using only Adobe Stock Photography.
Adobe wants you to recreate a lost masterpiece out of Adobe Stock Photography, without ever leaving Creative Cloud.
And then a list of rules, such as only use Adobe Stock photography, and size/DPI requirements.
Can you tell us about any little details or aspects of the finished images that you were most pleased with e.g. One of the artists included an image of themselves as a nod to Rembrandt’s use of his self-portrait?
The artist, Ankur Patar, who saw the self-portrait of Rembrandt and decided to put a photo of himself in there was amazing. At first we were hesitant because it broke one of the main rules – only Adobe Stock imagery, but it was just too good to get hung up on.
This isn’t exactly a little detail, but seeing the original artwork become re-created and seeing exactly how close they were to each other was amazing. On the Schinkel, if you didn’t know what to look for, you’d get the two mixed up. This project only works if the works are nearly indistinguishable, and we were so pleased that they achieved that.
What particular aspects of Stock and its use with Creative Suite were you trying to draw out in the stories?
Adobe Stock is now inside Photoshop and integrated with Creative Cloud. We wanted to show creatives that there’s a new way to think about, and use stock. It’s now a part of the creative process instead of being an interruption from it. We wanted to show exactly what’s possible when all your tools are in one place. We wanted to prove that when they’re all together you can create, or re-create, a masterpiece. In a way, the familiar Photoshop UI became a natural storytelling device for showing the process of re-creation.
We wanted to show creatives that there’s a new way to think about, and use stock.
Can you explain how you went about telling the artists’ stories and documenting their creative process on the project? What roles do the video and interactive elements play?
We had each artist record their screens during the entire process of re-creating their masterpieces. We sat them down after they had completed their work and had Skype debriefs and asked them specific questions about the project. We asked what parts were most difficult, how they started, what new tricks they learned, how Adobe Stock being integrated made a difference, and how they felt when they were finished. We turned their screen captures into really interesting time-lapse videos that showed their work.
We flew to Ankur in India and actually filmed his process. We spent time getting to know him, interviewing him, and created an artist profile video that gave a deeper look into the re-creation.
The artist video and time-lapses help us show the work. It’s one thing to tell someone that you re-created art out of stock, but another thing to show it. It helped the Make a Masterpiece campaign go from an “oh cool they did that” project to something that felt more emotional and personal.
Can you talk us through the strategy in terms of distributing the content that you made for the project? How did you ensure it got seen in the right places, by the right people?
The stock category is driven by habit rather than preference. Our target audience of creative professionals considers the process of finding stock images to be frustrating and time-consuming. They’ll go with what they know, and won’t pay attention to much else.
Our target audience of creative professionals considers the process of finding stock images to be frustrating and time-consuming.
We had an innovative creative idea to overcome category inertia, but we needed an equally powerful media strategy to get it out into the world. We set out to do two things:
- Capture to their attention with high-profile placements.
We knew banners alone would not be enough to create impact. To maximise our visibility we turned to premium pre-roll video and full-page takeovers.
For the takeovers, we looked for a combination of creative resource sites like Creative Bloq and Design Boom, and broader sites used for creative inspiration like Fast Company and Complex. On broader sites we focused specifically on design and art sections.
For the pre-roll, we targeted creative professionals using a combination of relevant 1st and 3rd party data across networks and PMPs. We also ran pre-roll on select creative inspiration sites with premium video inventory.
- Amplify the creative and tell a deeper story about what sets Adobe apart.
Creative professionals are an elusive audience that span titles, industries, and standard demographics. Through our research we found one thing they all have in common is a tendency to want to “geek out” on their craft. Rather than a traditional native content play, we wanted to tell a deeper story in media by allowing our audience to explore and play with the “make a masterpiece” campaign.
We worked with Hypebeast to create a “flipbook” in print that brought a masterpiece to life in the corners of the magazine, ending with a before and after of a masterpiece in a double-page spread.
We worked with Complex and played off of the concept of “slow TV” by creating a mesmerizing 10 minute-long video that creative professionals could zone out to as they watched a fellow artist create a masterpiece using Adobe Stock.
We worked with WeTransfer to create engaging units that allowed people to swipe between the original masterpiece and the Stock masterpiece, eventually driving to the Make a Masterpiece site.
How are you measuring engagement with the project?
We are measuring engagement in two ways. First, we are tracking video completion metrics to evaluate how receptive our audience is with our creative. Secondly, we are tracking site engagements on the Make a Masterpiece site. This includes actions users can take when exploring each painting, watching videos, or finding out more information about the featured artists.
And how will you measure success for it? What KPIs are you using?
The campaign objective is to increase awareness of Adobe Stock among existing Adobe Creative Cloud subscribers. Our primary KPI will be significant increases in unaided awareness among the target audience. This will be done using a pre/post research study. Our secondary KPI is a performance index, which evaluates the performance of the creative and the media strategy. This includes video performance and site engagement metrics.
Looking back on the project, what were the biggest challenges for you?
We were dealing with art from some of the most well regarded master painters of all time. We had to make sure this was done to a level of class and beauty that in no way shape or form cheapened the originals, but paid homage to them and respected their stories
Finding the art was a huge undertaking. We tried to come up with a new piece of missing art every day. We ended up with hundreds of pages of art that were almost right, but wrong for these certain reasons, or we never got an email back from an interested party, or in some cases there were no documented photos of the work at all.
And what were you most pleased about?
Seeing all the re-created pieces next to their originals. There was a big part of us that was curious more than anything to see if it could actually be done.
Seeing the faces and responses of co-workers, friends, art lovers, and creative professionals when they came across the online gallery of the work or one of the videos. The response was massively positive. People were actually interested in STOCK PHOTOGRAPHY. We achieved our business goals and we were able to make re-created pieces of art that without a second glance could pass for the originals. And we did it all out of Adobe Stock.