University of Melbourne arts students tasked with following the briefs of Michelangelo and Frida Kahlo for campaign

A campaign for the University of Melbourne sees its arts students from its Fine Arts and Music Southbank campus briefed with creating work in response to the same historical commissions as famous artists, including Michelangelo’s task to capture a vision of human physical perfection with his David statue.

The campaign, from McCann Melbourne and Weber Shandwick, is intended to highlight the importance of education in fine arts and music education.

The briefs the students were asked to emulate also included Frida Kahlo’s Self-Portrait with Monkeys and Tschaikovsky’s The Sleeping Beauty. The resulting works encouraged viewers to reflect on how far society has come in its attitudes towards human perfection, social justice, mortality, sex and power.

Five artists considered the idea of perfection, creating works that studied how social media and digital algorithms have impacted people’s perceptions of beauty.

Simon McCrudden, McCann Melbourne’s managing partner of strategy, explained: “What better way to highlight the importance of artistic minds in today’s society than by inviting current students and alumni to reimagine the social themes that informed some of the world’s most astounding works? The McCann Melbourne team is proud of the First Commissions project idea and were delighted to develop the stories that underpinned it.”

Managing director, Georgina Pownall, added: “This campaign is a prime example of what’s possible when both client and agency work with enormous trust and in true partnership together. The team at the Faculty of Fine Arts and Music were fearless and at times brutally honest with us and so were we with them – but it ultimately led to a better result. We can’t thank Jane, Elena, Alix and the broader team enough for their unwavering bravery.”

The campaign launched back in July, at the feet of the David statue in Florence. Weber Shandwick was tasked with putting the University of Melbourne on the international stage with art dignitaries. Over 100 original content pieces were created and five short documentaries, executed across content, digital and OOH.

Helen Graney, Weber Shandwick Sydney group managing director, commented: “This project presented no shortage of opportunities to tell powerful stories about the artists and their work. And by celebrating the individuals at the heart of fine arts and music education, we could showcase the immeasurable value they bring to society. We are proud to have been part of delivering transformational work that has helped build the University’s reputation abroad.”

External relations manager at the University of Melbourne Faculty of Fine Arts and Music, Elena Del Mercato, added: “The University of Melbourne believes in the transformational power of a fine arts and music education and its importance in propelling society forward – never more so than now. We’re immensely proud of how this project showcased the bravery of young Australian artists on a global stage.”


McCann Melbourne
Managing Director: Georgina Pownall
Managing Partner Strategy: Simon McCrudden
Head of Strategy: Roshni Hegerman
Communications Strategist: Dan Brown
Group Account Director: Charlie McDevitt
Account Director: Meg Andrews
Account Executive: Leighton Howindt
Chief Creative Officer: Pat Baron
Creative Director: Andrew Woodhead
Associate Creative Director: Aaron Lipson
Art Director: Eddie Coughlan
Editor: Ollie Knocker
Copywriter: Moira Cotnoir, Tessa Midgley, Aaron Bethune
Senior Designer: Dave Budd
Head of Production: Cinnamon Darvall

McCann Media
Media Lead: Emma Black
Digital Account Director: George Groves

COCO Productions
Producer: Samantha Lee
Directors: John O’Rourke
Director of Photography: Reuben Gates

Weber Shandwick Australia
Helen Graney, Managing Director
Megan Rosier, Executive Vice President (Australia) – Media training
Rachel Vidaic, Senior Vice President (Australia) – Project support
Rachel de Graaf, Vice President (Australia) – Project lead, PR strategy and event support
Emma Wilson, Account Director (Australia) – Event production and management
Sarah McCarthy, Account Director (Australia) – Media training and relations
Luke Mitchell, Associate (Australia) – Media relations
Georgia Price, Associate (Australia) – Media relations

Weber Shandwick Italy
Elena Torzuoli, Director (Italy) – Event support, Media relations
Valentina Nozza, Account Manager (Italy) – Event support, Media relations

University of Melbourne, Faculty of Fine Arts and Music
Jane Richards: Executive Director
Elena Del Mercato: External Relations Manager
Alix Bromley: Strategic Marketing Manager
Paul Dalgarno: Media and Communications Manager
Ed Crouch: Digital and Content Officer
Kira Bayfield: Campaign Operations Officer
Mireille Stahle: Content and Communications Officer
Sean Morgan: Digital Marketing Officer


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