KesselsKramer’s campaign for citizenM captures portraits of people sleeping – “dribble and all”

For the launch of six new hotels across the US and London, the creative agency collaborated with photographer Amber Pinkerton on a dreamy window exhibition.

15 July 2022

Everyone sleeps, but not everyone gets to see your resting snooze face pressed against the pillow. For the opening of new hotels across America and one in London, citizenM hotel has zoomed in on sleepers by releasing a series of multi-storey window exhibitions celebrating one of the most universal things in the world: a lovely nap.

Created by KesselsKramer and shot by It’s Nice That’s Ones to Watch alumni Amber Pinkerton, across the campaign the photographer gets up close to shoot from the perspective o below – making way for an unusual composition revealing the subjects’ contorted faces while they’re resting. The series consists of 98 windows and is a celebration of the idiosyncrasies of sleep. It’s also the first time citizenM has brought a “citizens” exhibition to London, with previous exhibits presented throughout the US and Europe. However, this isn't the first time KesselsKramer has worked with the hotel; not only did it help launch the name and brand identity back in 2006, the creative agency worked on other campaigns across Zurich to Copenhagen, including an 11-storey window highlighting grassroots creativity in Downtown LA.

“Every time citizenM opens a hotel,” says creative director Dave Bell, “we like to mark the occasion by creating a street-level, back-lit exhibition in all of the windows of the hotel.” He adds, “Naturally, sleep was a subject we arrived at; citizenM is known for many factors (living rooms not lobbies; great styling; good tech; affordable luxury) but ultimately you need a great sleep whenever you stay in a hotel.”

GalleryKesselsKramer: Citizens of Sleep, citizenM Hotels. Photography by Amber Pinkerton (Copyright © KesselsKramer, 2022)

While figuring out the best way to approach the theme, KesselsKramer landed on “the ants point of view”, adds Dave, deciding to capture sleepers from under the pillow. “We wanted to make it look as if the sleeping subjects were pressed against the glass of the hotel (or glass of your phone screen), with each arranged in all the weird and wonderful ways they would sleep.” But the reality is – and in the name of a creative campaign – none of the subjects are actually asleep in the pictures. “The shoot was very peaceful,” says copywriter Charlie Bowdon, “and the setup allowed for a high level of privacy for the subject and photographer.” To make it as comfy as possible, the team raised a platform with a large section of toughened glass in the centre. This meant subjects could lie down and “let gravity to do its thing”, adds Charlie. Meanwhile, Amber positioned herself under the glass. “It was a strangely intimate moment.”

Besides the rich colours and sense of luxury, the other key ingredient to the success of this campaign is how it all looks completely natural. “This art direction relied on the shots not feeling posed, but instead feeling truthful,” says the agency’s art director Adam Morton-Delaney. “We wanted to show how people actually snooze, to create honest (and therefore more engaging) portraits of sleep – dribble and all.”

GalleryKesselsKramer: Citizens of Sleep, citizenM Hotels. Photography by Amber Pinkerton (Copyright © KesselsKramer, 2022)

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KesselsKramer: Citizens of Sleep, citizenM Hotels. Photography by Amber Pinkerton (Copyright © KesselsKramer, 2022)

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About the Author

Ayla Angelos

Ayla is a London-based freelance writer, editor and consultant specialising in art, photography, design and culture. After joining It’s Nice That in 2017 as editorial assistant, she was interim online editor in 2022/2023 and continues to work with us on a freelance basis. She has written for i-D, Dazed, AnOther, WePresent, Port, Elephant and more, and she is also the managing editor of design magazine Anima. 

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