“Making money is art and working is art and good business is the best art.”— Andy Warhol

Private funding of arts and culture is all too often met with cynicism, even distain from the arts community, media and wider public. In this new age of austerity, corporate support has never been more vital, yet many still believe that business partners signal a death-knell for independent creativity, not a lifeline.

At the same time, the widespread criticism and distrust of the banking sector continues.

Against this backdrop, Cohn & Wolfe (C&W) was tasked by Bank of America Merrill Lynch to help develop, launch and promote a new Art Conservation Programme (ACP) in EMEA in 2010. The programme, an extension of the company’s existing sponsorship programme, is a global first, offering conservation grants to 10 institutions across EMEA.

Rena De Sisto, global head of Arts and Culture, developed the new idea recognising that conservation is often overlooked, yet vital for art to survive. Galleries say that the costs and time involved with this delicate process are an obstacle to finding adequate funds. Secondly, as masterpieces age it is even more critical that they are properly restored for future generations to enjoy.

ACP was developed to convey the newly combined Bank of America Merrill Lynch’s commitment to various markets and respect for diverse cultures represented by those markets. Typically, newly merged companies are faced with questions about commitment and continuity, and ACP aimed to reach deeply into the hearts and minds of influencers where the new Bank of America Merrill Lynch does business.

“Art Conservation Programme is truly innovative. Bank of America Merrill Lynch should be congratulated.”— Jan Dalley, Art Editor, Financial Times.

Strategic Approach

The strategy involved a carefully planned four-stage approach:
Stage 1. Build ambassadors from arts, Government and media to drive quality entries
o Secured positive endorsement from 20 leading arts figures, arts media and Government across EMEA
o Doubled target entries in ‘pilot’ year from 20 to 40 institutions
o Received entries from iconic, internationally-renowned organisations: Musée du Louvre, Westminster Abbey, Muséo National Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, The State Hermitage and The Stadel

Stage 2. Celebrate the art of conservation; the techniques and its cultural significance
o Conceived idea and commissioned a documentary film on art conservation featuring Rena De Sisto and details of ACP
o Premiered at BAFTA and featured on Sky Arts in December 2010
o Film coveted as the Daily Mail’s ‘best documentary’ and Daily Telegraph’s ‘best digital pick’
o Film to feature on over 20 global arts channels in 2011, including SBS in Australia

Stage 3. Host a high-profile launch event
o Secured internationally-renowned Courtauld Institute of Art to host the launch event
o Attendance of event included over 90 arts leaders, business people and media
Stage 4. Co-ordinate a targeted EMEA media strategy
o 95 million people reached with positive messages about ACP and Bank of America Merrill Lynch’s wider arts and culture programme
o 50 quality features generated in 11 countries across EMEA, each featuring positive messages on ACP including a full page in the Financial Times

As a result of the incredible success of the EMEA ACP, it will now be extended to the U.S. and Asia in 2011
to further convey the company’s commitment to those markets and help cultural institutions; to preserve vital art works for society’s benefit.

Tactical Implementation

Stage 1. Building support and driving entries
C&W identified influential arts champions from the arts community, media and Government and began an engagement programme with Ms De Sisto. The meetings were based on a script developed by C&W to articulate ACP, and Bank of America Merrill Lynch’s wider arts and culture programme.

Stage 2. Celebrating the art of conservation
C&W conceived an idea to bring to life the art of conservation by creating a documentary film. After researching the projects being considered for funding, C&W and Ms De Sisto’s team focused on three-prized Bronzino masterpieces at the Palazzo Strozzi in Florence, desperately in need of repair. C&W recruited production company DCD to direct and produce the film; and successfully pitched to Sky Arts to premiere the film in December.

Stage 3. Hosting a memorable launch event
C&W developed the concept for the event to unveil the 10 recipients and at the same time, to celebrate conservation.

C&W brokered a partnership with The Courtauld Institute of Art, to host the event. The Courtauld presented Ruben’s iconic ‘Cain Slaying Abel’, and described the required conservation process much to the amazement and wonder of the guests.

Stage 4. Devising and co-ordinating a global media strategy
C&W developed a bespoke media toolkit for use in each market to ensure that all media materials communicated the company’s arts messaging and relevant and exciting region-specific media content. Stories behind each of the chosen art works celebrated their local significance and highlighted the importance of restoring culturally important works. A global launch exclusive with the Financial Times was negotiated and subsequent features were placed in EMEA titles.

“The Cohn & Wolfe team has been extremely effective and through a robust media programme, has strongly contributed to raising Bank of America Merrill Lynch’s brand awareness and favorability throughout EMEA.

They have demonstrated excellent leadership and creativity through our inaugural year of the Art Conservation Programme. They are professional, focused, and a pleasure to work with. Importantly they act as an ‘extension’ to our internal team. I have been especially impressed by their ability to land prestigious interviews and coverage for us, in such high-profile media outlets as the Financial Times and BBC Radio 4.” – Rena De Sisto, global head of Arts and Culture, Bank of America Merrill Lynch.


• Positive endorsement from 20 EMEA arts leaders including Neil McGregor (British Museum), James Bradburne (Palazzo Strozzi), Sir Nicolas Serota (Tate) and Jan Dalley (Art Editor, Financial Times)

• UK Government support. Ed Vaisey has invited Jonathan Moulds, president of Europe at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, to co-host a dinner with Jeremy Hunt in March 2011 for leading business figures entitled ‘corporate philanthropy’

• Received entries from over 40 high-profile arts organisations across 14 countries; including Westminster Abbey, Musee du Louvre, The State Hermitage in Russia, Wits Univeristy in South Africa and the Arab Image Foundation in Beirut

• Submissions included masterpieces by Picasso, Rubens, Kirchner, Bronzino and the iconic Winged Victory
Celebrate the art of conservation; the techniques and the value of it to the arts

• Bring to life the art of conservation, focusing on the techniques and importance of the process

• High-quality conservation film narrated by Hugh Bonneville and featuring Ms De Sisto

• Film featured at Florence film festival in November 2010

• UK premiere hosted in partnership with Sky Arts at BAFTA attended by over 60 people including Francesca Serafini Director of the Italian Trade Commission and James Hunt, Sky Arts Director

• Sky Arts featured the film on 30 December 2010. Film to appear a further five times in 2011, reaching an audience of over 1.2 million

• Film widely praised in UK media, Daily Mail’s ‘best documentary’ and Daily Telegraph’s ‘pick of the week’

• Over 20 global stations are featuring the film in 2011 including arts channel SBS in Australia and channels in Asia and America Host a high-profile launch event

• Hosted launch event at the international school for art conservation, Courtauld Gallery with over 90 attendees from ten different countries

• High-profile arts attendees including representatives from V&A, British Museum, The Tate, National Gallery, Musée du Louvre and The Arab Image Foundation

• Media from six markets attended including Financial Times, PA News, Art Newspaper, El Pais, Le Figaro and the Irish Times

• 50 pieces of feature coverage in 11 countries across EMEA reaching a total audience of 95 million people

• Full page feature in the Financial Times. The piece referred to the programme as ‘innovative’ and included quotes from Ms De Sisto

• The Today Programme ran a feature on art conservation the week of launch