We recently had a chat with Ben and Rory over at Grey London about their ambitious Profile Picture Exhibition side-project. Have you signed up for it yet?

CC: So where did the idea come from?

B&R: We were actually walking through the National Portrait Gallery and overheard a tour guide chatting about portrait art.

He was explaining about how portraiture was typically commissioned by Emperors or Noblemen in order to seal their place in history- a way to portray themselves to the world. Their wealth, status, heritage- every detail would be crafted in order to make some kind of statement.

And we realised that nothing had really changed- Except now, we all have one. The art had just been democratized.

CC: So what made you go out and actually do it?

B&R: We actually presented this idea to Samsung a while ago for one of their cameras with a screen on the front. The product was built for taking profile pictures, so it seemed like a perfect fit. However, process got in the way (as it usually does) and the campaign never took off.

We then did what most creatives would do in that situation- and ranted like little bitches for a good couple of days.

We explained to anyone with ears that it would be hosted on Facebook and would cost nothing to set up, that it was inherently viral and would take off on its own accord, that anyone who had half a brain would take this project and run with it.

And that was exactly when we realised how hypocritical we were being- if we genuinely believed in what we were saying, what was to stop us just making it ourselves?

CC: How close are you to getting into a national gallery (and what does it take to make it happen)?

B&R: To begin with we couldn’t get through to anyone with the power to officially consider our proposition. However, we were told by the museum’s representatives that if we had a famous piece of art with public and media support, getting into one of these galleries would be a fairly straightforward process. So we just got cracking on with it.

We made the video, started the group, then sent it out to every single person we could think of. We rang papers, mailed news channels, wrote to blogs, basically sent everything everywhere.

Eventually C-Net (the digital arm of American network CBS) picked it up and that’s when the group really started to take off.

Since we started, the Louvre has contacted us and have said they want to hold the exhibition- so now it’s official. We’re meeting with them soon to discuss specifics.

Facebook have also found us and are really keen to get on board too.

So, in reality, we could easily find ourselves in a national gallery way before we hit the 1million mark.

CC: How important is it for creatives to have side projects?

B&R: Essential.

We need to stop thinking of them as side projects- they are our future lifeblood. Companies like Anomaly NY and Droga 5 have already proven to us that business venture is the new agency model.

We’ve been working in advertising for 3 years now- so we’re by no means the good ol’ boys, but we’re not green either.

We spent most of those 3 years coming very close to making incredible, innovative and genuinely exciting ideas, only for them to fall foul at the final hurdle.

We couldn’t for the life of us understand how Droga 5 birthed brilliant projects every year without even a hint of creative abortion. Who buys these ideas? How do you sell them? Was it our fault? Our agencies fault? The client perhaps?

We’ve since learned that the world responds to doers and makers.

Ideas are cheap. To any creative agency, they come so often and in such plenty, how could they be anything but cheap? It’s the simple law of supply and demand.

The sooner Creatives realise this, the easier our lives will become. We vastly over value our importance in the grand scheme of things- and it’s our greatest undoing. We put all the power in our clients hands, and wonder why we have no clout when it comes to all the big decisions.

It’s business that makes the world go round, and the people who make it happen are the ones who are truly in short supply.

Quite simply, it’s why Edison is a household name and Tesla is isn’t. Nothing to do with creativity. Everything to do with business savvy.

All of our best portfolio pieces (the Profile Picture Exhibition included) are things we’ve made ourselves. And we believe, if we work, and learn, hard enough to master this skill, one day we won’t need an agency or client.

One day, they’ll need us.

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