Sotheby’s Hopes Flashy Videos Will Woo Young Collectors

A live Sotheby's auction. Photo: Sotheby's.
A live Sotheby's auction. Photo: Sotheby's.

Will videos help attract young buyers to art auctions? Sotheby’s thinks so, and has dramatically increased its video output in a bid to draw in digitally inclined young people, reports the Wall Street Journal.

In 2013, the auction house produced 50 percent more videos than in 2012, 300 short films in total, according to spokesperson Andrew Gully. He says the company has found that producing shorter videos in larger quantities has been more effective in attracting viewers. Since 2011, Sotheby’s has had a staffer devoted to overseeing worldwide video content, and has shifted its marketing priorities away from print in favor of online outreach, which also includes photos and slideshows.

“Video is incredibly powerful,” Sotheby’s chairman and CEO William Ruprecht tells the WSJ. “It’s an increasingly essential tool for telling short powerful stories to a customer base that maybe doesn’t like to spend much time in any place. Just as in the newspaper you create many news stories, you watch what resonates and what gets traffic in an online environment.”

As the venerable auction house teams up with online marketplace eBay to host live online auctions (see “Picassos and Pez Dispensers? Sotheby’s and eBay Team Up (Again)” and “Weighing the Pros and Cons of the Sotheby’s eBay Partnership“), the focus on video can only be expected to grow. “Video is very engaging for consumers,” eMarketer senior analyst Martin Utreras tells the WSJ, citing a proven return on investment. “It’s a very easy and effective way to sell.”

A survey of 20-to-30 year-olds by British insurer Hiscox found that 22 percent had never bought art from a physical gallery or auction house, as compared to only 10 percent of other age groups, preferring the online marketplace. The findings also indicated that online browsing translates into art sales for 55 percent of users.

“Young collectors are very critical to our business,” adds Ruprecht. Of course, the key question remains: “Are Young People Comfortable Spending Big Bucks Online?” If they’re not, videos seem unlikely to change their minds.


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