Getting anything noticed in New York City is a tricky business at the best of times, with the city’s residents mostly rushed off their feet and weary of the general advertising onslaught. But if there’s one thing that will grab their attention, it’s a digitally rendered man breakdancing in his underwear on the bright billboards above Times Square.
This was one part of the campaign created by Richard Turley, Global Creative Director at Wieden+Kennedy in New York, and his team to support 7×7 (Seven on Seven), which took place over the weekend. Launched 11 years ago by Rhizome, an organisation set up to champion digital art and culture, 7×7 is an event that pairs seven visionary technologists with seven leading artists to produce original creative work. The pairs are challenged to make something new, whether that be an artwork, a prototype or anything else they can imagine, and the outcomes are then presented at a conference at The New Museum.
Wieden+Kennedy has partnered with Rhizome on the event since its inception and this year, to get the word out, Richard and the team festooned Manhattan with artworks, posters, zines and other printed ephemera. “Like an exploded magazine,” explains Richard, “with different-shaped pieces all over the city. Full interviews with artists running as posters and leaflets that are handed out to passers-by; clipped videos of technologists explaining deep learning on digital OOH to people waiting for the bus.”
Last year, Richard created a magazine to market the event, but found that “limited” in its scope. “I wanted something more public this year, and I wanted to situate the conference outside the conference,” he explains. “So we had the idea for an exploded magazine. It’s put together in a similar way, but then the articles exist in a different way and live in different places.”
This “distributed publication” was composed of what Richard describes as purposefully “outmoded forms of communication” – pamphlets, brochures and posters – as well as digital hoardings (the latter courtesy of LinkNYC). Leaflets were handed out to shoppers queueing up outside streetwear stores and stickers plastered over walls and signage around the city. And then there was that billboard takeover at Times Square, which featured manny404, a free, open-source model (for use in video games, for example), breakdancing high above the crowds.
“We’re interested in playing around with what advertising is,” says Richard. “We wanted this to be playful, joyful and useful. It also felt more informal – giving the printed material away, but then starting a conversation.”