Campaign for new ROM exhibition was written with the stars

Who: ROM, with Broken Heart Love Affair for strategy and creative, TSU North and Circle Productions for production (directed by Shaunoh), with post-production by Saints and Alter Ego, audio by Berkeley, and media by OMD.

What: “We Are Made of Stardust,” a campaign—created in part with actual stardust—to support the ROM’s new exhibition, Kent Monkman: Being Legendary.

When & Where: The campaign is live now using out-of-home posters and digital video.

Why: The exhibit by the renowned Cree artist uses 35 of his paintings and sculptures, as well as museum artifacts curated by Monkman himself, to tell the story of Turtle Island from the beginning of time to today, showing how Indigenous knowledge has been shared in stories, songs, and art work since time immemorial.

For “Being Legendary,” that story is told through the eyes of Miss Chief Eagle Testickle, Monkman’s “gender-fluid alter ego.” According to the ROM, it is designed to “ask important questions about how collections in museums are curated and presented in the 21st Century.”

“Given full access to the Museum and full license to realize his artistic vision, Kent Monkman‘s Being Legendary offers visitors the chance to see an exhibition of visually stunning artworks that were created in response to the collections housed in ROM,” said Lori Davison, the ROM’s chief marketing and communications officer, in a release.

For such an inspired artistic endeavour, ROM asked its agency Broken Heart Love Affair to come up with similarly ambitious ad campaign.

“Being Legendary is emotionally complex and at times disturbing, but the show intentionally builds toward a sparkling optimism,” added Davison. “We wanted the campaign creative to convey a similar emotional crescendo.”

How: The agency found its inspiration in a line from the exhibition (“We Are Made of Stardust”) and the knowledge that humans are themselves comprised of 97% of the elements found in the galaxy, meaning we are, in fact, made of stardust.

Working with extensive input from Indigenous talent, the campaign includes a mural (top right) and posters created with paint—made by Manitoulin Island paint-maker Anong Migwans Beam—that includes actual stardust from a meteorite.

Shot by Haudenosaunee director Shaunoh, the film illustrates how the out-of-home elements were created, with a young Indigenous girl finding a meteorite and using it to make her own paint for posters that deliver the message “We are made of stardust.”

“The child-like awe is what we want people to take away from both the campaign and the exhibition,” said BHLA’s chief creative officer, Craig McIntosh.

Ummm.. is that a good use of a meteorite? Turns out meteorites are rare, but not that rare. “Every year the Earth is hit with more than 15,000 tons of space debris,” explained  Veronica De Cecco, a mineralogy research technician at ROM. “The meteorite used for this project is an ‘ordinary’ chondrite, the most common type of meteorite, accounting for 85% of all finds. Some of these more common meteorites are used to make all kinds of products, like watch faces, guitar picks and decorative art.” 

And we quote: “We’re announcing the arrival of one of the most anticipated exhibitions of the year. Kent Monkman’s paintings are massive in scale, hyper-realized and detailed. Like a comet, his artwork makes a huge impact, so we leaned into that concept for the campaign.” — Jaimes Zentil, chief creative officer, BHLA


David Brown