Maybe Money Does Grow on Trees: Inside TD Bank’s New Branded Art Campaign
Banking, art, and environmentalism don’t have much in common. In fact, banking and art are about as antithetical as it gets. For proof, look no further than English artist Banksy, whose anti-capitalist and environmentalist stances are well-documented. But for now, TD Bank is bringing all three elements together for their experimental pop-up art gallery titled “Art for Trees,” currently on display in New York’s Grand Central Terminal.
The project is an intriguing combination of brand marketing, fundraising, and art exhibition. It’s meant to promote TD Forests, the bank’s partnership with MillionTreesNYC for an urban forest and green space initiative, while proceeds from the artwork’s sales go to New York environmental organizations such as Trees New York, New York Restoration Project, and Friends of the High Line.
The gallery is curated by Philadelphia gallery owner Bridgette Mayer, while the artists, such as Federico Herrero and Sharon Harper, all have ties to New York. And the artwork—which consists of paintings, photography, a suitcase containing a miniature forested scene, and even a recreation of Manhattan Island with live succulents—puts an extremely creative twist on environmentalism and man’s connection to nature.
To promote the initiative, the artists discussed the campaign and their affinity for the natural world in a video series recently released on YouTube.
As Brooklyn artist Dustin Yellin, whose piece Zulu Cave No. 2 was one of the hits of the show, exclaims in his video: “There’s never enough trees. I think trees are more interesting than any great work of art. I’d rather have a tree in my yard than a bronze; I’d rather have a tree in my bathtub.”
Photographer Eileen Neff used the platform to explain how the sponsorship affected her commitment to the project: “I read a lot about [TD Bank], and it was kind of stunning what they’re doing.”
Art for Trees is shaping up as a textbook example of targeted content. The initiative has clear appeal to millennials—who are generally more concerned with environmental sustainability than other generations—artists, and, most significantly, New Yorkers. This kind of purposeful, focused content is often effective at engaging a passionate audience, a base we covered last week on TCS in an article about indie rock band the Unicorns.
It is worth pointing out, however, the project isn’t strictly altruistic. Large boards outside the gallery entrance notify viewers they are consenting to being filmed. Given TD’s previous content marketing campaigns, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see a YouTube video or national commercial showing people reacting to and discussing the artwork on display.
TD is also promoting the campaign by giving away free reusable bags emblazoned with the company’s logo. The bags, in a way, are symbolic of the entire campaign: a combination of activism and brand marketing. Since the bank has an unsavory reputation among radical environmental activists after investing in Canadian tar sands oil, it’s one small way to try to change how consumers view the brand in relation to important environmental issues.
And even though banking and art still have a tenuous relationship, at the very least, TD Bank’s gallery has brought some much appreciated natural and artistic tonic to the hustle and bustle of New York City.