Art auction content marketing

Tap to Bid: Luxury Auction Houses Embrace Content Marketing Trends

Appealing to tech-savvy bidders, auction houses develop content-based magazines, video, and online partnerships. Sotheby’s, meet Artsy. 

Photo by Artsy.

In an age where hedge funders and tech entrepreneurs are as likely to drive the bids of highbrow auctions as old moneyed art collectors and aging estate managers, auction houses have traded paddles for iPads to accommodate modern tastes and usher in a new generation of bidders. Brands like Ralph Lauren and Cartier long ago proved that luxury had an intriguing place in the new digital world; now brands like Sotheby’s and Christie’s are shedding some of their once hard-earned conservatism to embrace modern content marketing, focusing less on exclusivity and more on using content to reach the right bidders.

Here are three content marketing trends that are changing the world of luxury auction houses:

Savvy Partnerships


Sotheby’s made headlines this month as it announced its first collaboration — contemporary show Indoor/Outdoor — with Artsy, a digital service for art collectors that accepts bids on its website, iPhone and iPad apps. The partnership comes just months after Sotheby’s bolstered its relationship with eBay, streaming a live online auction alongside in-house bidding for a photography collection that earned 20 percent more than a similar collection last year, according to the New York Times. Although neither Sotheby’s nor eBay can release which bids came directly from eBay, the number of total online bids including Sotheby’s own website have proven a dramatic shift in the acceptance of buying luxury online from when Sotheby’s first attempted an eBay partnership in 2002.

Online-Only Auctions

Sotheby’s isn’t the only house to pioneer online-only auctions. Christie’s has also led efforts to modernize the industry’s methods, taking some bidding completely online. John Aurbach, Christie’s International Managing Director of E-Commerce attributes the widening acceptance of digital bidding to improved technology. “The world has changed,” he noted in a July interview for Christie’s online magazine. “There’s reduced resistance to buying online: technology now makes it possible to send clients high-resolution images and videos, and collectors have become more comfortable buying something [they’ve only seen] from a digital file.”

Digital Storytelling

Content marketing trends for auction houses: Christie's Magazine

Taking advantage of the results content marketing trends have produced, Christie’s has upped its overall video and digital magazine production, creating a steady stream of high-quality content for its in-house channels and social media. In an industry where the stories behind the items sold often account for their value, this is a natural extension of what these institutions have done for years through their catalogs and spirited auctioneers. Drawing from the pool of top-tier editorial talent (the above-referenced article in Christie’s magazine was penned by a contributor to the Telegraph), top auction houses have become full-fledged luxury publishing houses. Christie’s and Sotheby’s both produce print magazines, each showcasing trends in the worlds of art and real estate alongside in-depth profiles of their collections.

Efforts to open the exclusive world of highbrow auctions to the masses with online bidding have come with setbacks over the last decade for both of the world’s largest houses, but as recent successes have shown, trading a blue-blood reputation for access to a new class of affluent, digitally-minded bidders may put both institutions further into the black.


Want to plan and publish more content on your site to attract your target customers? Contact us here to get started. 

818 Agency provides creative B2B content marketing and social advertising campaigns to Fortune 500 companies and growth-oriented startups.   Purveyors of real-time event content marketing.

 By Tracie Heffernan, content strategist at 818 Agency



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