Raising finance the AEV way in the cultural sector

Steve Messam is a talented artist – and a shrewd creative entrepreneur.

Steve was approached by Cumbria Tourism in the UK to create an art installation to help publicise the launch of their campaign for cultural tourism. The budget offered was modest, so Steve put together a business case for a bigger budget. He knew that the client wanted publicity and so argued that a bigger investment in a more impressive work of art would pay dividends in terms of  ‘Advertising Equivalent Value’ (AEV) – in other words, the cost of the publicity in column inches if it were paid for as advertising.

Steve pitched his idea and business case to the PR Agency Colman Getty, who specialise in arts related work and had been commissioned by Cumbria Tourism to publicise the art installation and campaign for cultural tourism. Using data from previous projects, Steve calculated that the Advertising Equivalent Value should be at least £150,000 GBP and possibly as high as £250,000 GBP, provided the budget for his art installation was increased six-fold. Colman Getty understood the commercial value of the PR that could be generated and helped Steve to convince the client to invest accordingly.

The result was a spectacular installation called ‘Drop’, a huge inflatable sculpture modeled on a drop of water. The sculpture was installed at various scenic locations in the English Lake District. Part of the publicity campaign was to encourage tourists to take and publish photos of the huge silver sculpture and this viral marketing helped to promote the campaign further.
See photo below. More images of Drop can be seen in this pool of photos on Flickr.


With the help of Steve Messam’s art, the campaign was highly successful and exceeded its targets in terms of publicity. In one weekend alone, over 10,500 people went to see it. News and images even reached the world’s biggest circulation newspaper, China Daily.

Steve’s reputation – and his creative enterprise – goes from strength to strength. He also exhibited an art installation at the Venice Biennale, raising finance in a similar way using the business case of Advertising Equivalent Value, rather than an application for an arts grant.

This example was given in a case study by David Parrish in the Survive and Thrive seminar developed as part of the ‘Fit for the Future‘ project to help cultural enterprises become more successful commercially, in tune with their cultural values.

David spoke about this and other alternative ways to generate income for arts projects at a workshop in Azerbaijan, to help cultural entrepreneurs to become even more successful by combining their artistic talents with smart business thinking.

In a speech at TEDx Napoli, David mentioned this Alternative Equivalent Value (AEV) approach as an example of i-Creativity combined with a-Creativity.