Not everybody really knows Leonard Cohen

Who: The Art Gallery of Ontario, with Angry Butterfly for creative and strategy, Stryker Media Group for media.

What: “Leonard Cohen: Everybody Knows,” a campaign promoting the AGO exhibition dedicated to all elements of the iconic Canadian artist’s creative life.

When & Where: The campaign is rolling out now around the greater Toronto area, running until the end of April. Media includes TSAs, wild postings, digital and social media, projections, subway ads, email, and a Union Station takeover.

Why: Most Canadians—and certainly most art-loving Canadians—know of Leonard Cohen, but the exhibition is intended to take visitors deeper into his life through rare footage, archival materials like notebooks and letters, as well as some of his lyrics, photographs, drawings and digital art.

“The campaign honours the sentiment of the exhibition, which is that everybody thinks they know Cohen. But really—as with any human being—there is so much more beneath the surface,” said Kimber Slater, AGO’s director, brand marketing in a release. “The marketing campaign invites you to ‘Get the story behind the words,’ and that’s really what this exhibition does.”

How: Angry Butterfly wanted to harness the power and familiarity of Cohen’s own words in modern-day contexts. Famous lyrics and lines were projected onto locations that gave them new contemporary relevance.

“I showed my heart to the doctor. He said I just have to quit,” was projected onto the side of a pharmacy, while “I have no program. I have no five-year plan,” was shone on the Ted Rogers School of Management. The lines were created using Cohen’s handwriting and signed off with his personal signature.

“His words are a window into his mind and character, and by opening that window for people, we hope they’ll be intrigued enough to learn more,” said Slater.

And we quote: “Leonard Cohen was a true artist in his writing, and he expressed himself in a variety of media through the years. He was witty, he was playful, he was an acute observer of the human condition, and as the exhibition shows, he never stopped creating.” — Erin Kawalecki, partner and chief creative officer, Angry Butterfly

David Brown