Opening up the Royal Opera House: inside the venue’s stroboscopic brand identity

The Royal Opera House has unveiled a new architectural design, one it hopes will open up worlds of ballet and opera to a wider audience both physically and perceptually via a dramatic, photographic campaign.

‘Feel Something New’ by Atomic London has been designed to promote the establishment’s wider ‘Open Up’ project, which includes new open plan spaces, venues and theatres.

With the aim of battering down misplaced notions that ballet and opera are stuffy, expensive and elitist, the company hopes the physical opening will lead to a perceptual opening too.

“We don’t have a brand awareness problem here – most people have heard of the Royal Opera House,” said Lucy Sinclair, director of media and audiences at the theatre. “What we do have is a perception problem. The brand work is very much about going, ‘It is for you – it’s excellent and world-class and beautiful, but it’s not posh and it’s not exclusive and you can just come in and have a coffee’.”

Sinclair’s marketing team was separated into two components in the run up to the ‘Open Up’ launch last week (19 September). It is split between performance marketing – primarily, selling tickets for specific shows – and brand.

The latter had been somewhat neglected in the past.

“We’d never really ... talked at a brand level about why anybody might want to come – we [only] talked about what they might come to [see]. So it’s a massive departure.”

London indie Atomic was briefed to devise a comprehensive brand and visual identity, as well as an advertising campaign. Creatives took their inspiration from the physicality of opera and ballet, as well as the emotion both evoke, rather than concentrating on a specific performance.

Dave Henderson, creative partner at the agency, briefed in photographer Giles Revell for the project. The team grounded the visuals in the work of scientist Harold Edgerton, known for his stroboscopic photography in the 1960s.

“The videos are designed so that the movement is in a state of flux with 100 frames of footage on screen at all times, advancing and decaying with the passage of time,” said Revell. “The stills, in a single image, capture the abstract beauty of the performers movement, each frame expressive with a precision akin to a high-end Swiss time piece.”

The result is a range of colourful, theatrical images and moving pictures of performers that appear both human and surreal at the same time.