Memphis Art Project (MAP) is a website designed to document and showcase public art in Memphis. I wanted to do a series of blog posts that showcased Memphis public art and I ran across this website while I was researching for the blog. So I figured I would share it because they already did the work and its a nice site! Memphis has some hidden gems that are worth a visit if you live in, visiting or new in town and want to see some cool art. Check them out!
I was out walking around the Memphis downtown riverfront area the other day with my family and I ran across this bit of "street art" advertising and It caught me by surprise really because it's a printed decal with a painting on it and a QR code for an artist's work and web address. It really got me thinking about an artists’ audience, quality of work and how to market your self as a working artist.
I grew up in and around the graffiti culture so I am used to seeing gratuitous tagging, bombing, guerilla art, band flyers and all the citizenry screaming for attention that a street corner brings, but a website and QR code for a more traditional painting website… is this really the right place for this kind of art advertising? Well, part of me says no, part of me says yes, and it bothers me.
First off let’s start with audience. Is this particular street corner even the right place to engage an art buying audience? Well it can be, location, location… right? What is even this artist’s audience… a tourist, Memphians, the random passerby, anybody who will buy art? That’s a lot riding on one painting with a website and QR code on a decal on a light pole. Now the work pictured in the “ad” seems like it emulates the Memphis folk art style of the musician performing or even a reflection of Memphis’s musical roots, so from that standpoint I can make a connection with a potential audience on this street corner, but a small one. It is placed close to Beale Street, a big musical tourist destination and walking distance from a decent size arts district where you can view and buy art, so there is potential to reach this audience again and “make a sale” from this ad so that’s two positives working for it.
Ad execution: I am interested in more info so as I stand on the street corner waiting to cross the street I use my phone to “learn more” about this artist and the work pictured. Instead of a landing page it takes me to the artist main website which I now have to dig through a clunky mobile version and learn he does a myriad of art endeavors not just the type of work pictured. The work in the sticker is bigger than what I can see on my device so I am left wondering and as I keep walking and I put the phone back in my pocket because I lost interest and didn’t want to spend the time searching the site for answers on a busy street corner. Why did I lose interest? Well, in that slim opportunity I allowed the artist my time and attention when I scanned the QR code I wasn’t directed to a map, address, or landing page that guided me somewhere close to visit a shop or gallery to actually see the work, albeit prints or postcards, something tangible I might buy. Instead I was left to fumble around in the site that had more than I cared about which forced me to wait till I got home to look at it on a larger screen to dig for what I was looking for and to contact directly if I was even still interested. Who wants to go through all that?
The ad failed to do what I hoped it would do as an interested art enthusiast. Think about your site the same way. Do people come to it and “bounce” right out. Are their questions being answered by the design, layout and information presented? Are they interacting with you positively and commenting, or even buying? If not, ask why not?
Now as an artist and a potential buyer I want to see the work up close, my interest in scanning the ad brought about multiple questions that the result didn’t answer so I went on with my life negatively impacted. I would also venture to assume some other potential art buyers who scan would have similar questions and want to see the work too and this is where I feel like this ad missed entirely. Interest brings in a lot of factors that this ad or even website didn't offer an answer to, on a street corner, in a few minutes of a potential customers time. Yes, I now know that this artist exists. But if that is all this person wanted was to be apart of that clutter like a tag or a sticker bomb then he overly succeeded. Why go to the trouble of adding a QR code and web address is what bothers me. The message of your advertising and quality of your website, is just as important as the time and effort you put in to the quality of your art work. Remember that; don’t leave your customers out in the cold because you are speaking to the wrong types of people with the wrong message. As you produce work, as you think about self-promotion, advertising your art, because yes, you want people to know you are out there… remember ultimately you want to sell your work. You have to attract and hook those types of buyers.
Think about this sticker and its attempt to draw in customers. Are you throwing away time and money with your efforts just as this person did? Thinking about and being smart with your advertising really does matter and it can really effect how people remember and respond to you or your art the next time they see it.
Art Blog of Mississippi Artist Jason Falconer