‘Chorus of Light’ Sounds Off

What does Elton John collect besides gold records? The answer is photographs, 400 of which are on display at Atlanta’s High Museum of Art.

In a television spot breaking this week, “Funeral for a Friend” swells as images in “Chorus of Light: Photographs From the Sir Elton John Collection” segue from one to another. “Come see for yourself” is the tagline.

Created by J. Walter Thompson here, the pro bono campaign for the museum will run through Jan. 28. The series also includes print, radio and outdoor elements.

“Our idea was to match Elton John’s hits with photographs from the exhibit,” said Monty Wyne, creative director at JWT.

In photos appearing in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, “Sad Songs Say So Much” was paired with “Glass Tears” by Man Ray; “Guess That’s Why They Call It the Blues” with a 1960 portrait of Billie Holiday by Bob Willoughby; and “Rocket Man” with Hiro’s “Apollo Space Flight Training Suits, Houston, Texas, 1978.” Another portrait, “Elton John,” by Greg Gorman, 1994, was used in banners.

Using the entertainer’s music forced JWT into copyright clearance issues but kept production costs down. To stretch the budget, the agency and client also called in chits from media outlets and vendors.

“It’s important for a museum and its ad agency to think about which entity can leverage different sources,” said Sally Corbett, manager of communications at the museum. “I can call a rights holder of an image, and, as a museum, be given a favorable quote.”

The museum planned and bought the media; JWT called in favors from production house VTA, White Dog Studios, Atlanta Screenprint and Beck Atlanta, for banners and print materials.

When JWT agreed to represent the museum, ad staffers had to contend with the fact that the High had never been branded, never had a lead agency, and depended on as many as six shops to market its programs. Initial rebranding efforts included designing a graphics identity that can be utilized in promotions between major exhibits.

“We’ve set a benchmark, which means deciding what their personality is and creating a campaign that supports both the exhibits and the organization,” said Wyne. “If you’re matching personalities, it’s a good fit.”