Close-Up: Leo Burnett lays its cards on the table for Shelter

As I stumbled up the stairs to our House Of Cards exhibition for Shelter last Thursday night, the camera flashes of the assembled paparazzi fell shamefully dark, pointedly kicking off when I'd passed by. Bastards. Not even a cheeky upskirt shot.

But a small disappointment. My primary response to the evening was one of sweaty-backed relief. We all bang on about being integrated agencies, but we were in uncharted territory with this one.

The brief from Shelter 12 months ago was the traditional pro bono "please help us draw attention to the issue", which usually results in the traditional "of course, we'd love to produce an awards-heavy TV ad" response. And although we did indeed get lots of lovely awards for the TV and print elements of the House Of Cards campaign, the creative team's intention was always to ripple the idea out into far more ambitious channels than just telly and posters.

Their concept to brief 53 artists, designers and photographers to produce works of art for a limited-edition pack of cards to be sold on behalf of Shelter was instantly bought by the client.

But it meant that for the past six months, I've had a creative and account team panicking their arses off trying to corral 53 artists and then organise production and distribution for the packs of cards.

If you think an old-school art director is a bugger to manage over the size of type on a layout, it's a walk in the park compared with getting the likes of Damien Hirst, Rachel Whiteread and other Turner Prize winners to apply their artistry to a commercial project. Stella Vine broke her finger and had to pull out. Rolf Harris said "no" without hesitation (he wasn't one of the Turner Prize winners, by the way). The Chapman Brothers kept missing deadlines and we had to wait for the exhibition itself to see what they would come up with (the creative team had nightmares about what genital-faced prepubescent monstrosity would grace the walls of the gallery).

But the generosity of the creative community in response to our brief was astounding. There was a remarkable sense of creative people gathering together for something genuinely unique. Thank Christ it worked, in other words.


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