From Metro x D&AD_Behind The Idea
Cape Town native Grant Parker has been Head of Art at DDB London since 2006. Anyone in Bristol when luxury retailer Harvey Nichols opened there will know his work. He created the D&AD Pencil-winning poster campaign that featured claymation celebs Wallace and Gromit modeling the best of British fashion.
A unique project to support Nike's LIVESTRONG campaign has caught Parker's eye. “A friend at work showed me the Chalkbot,' he says. “Instantly I thought, 'I wish I'd done that'.”
Spectators have always chalked messages of support along the Tour de France route – how about using the web to bring the roads of France to everyone and spread messages of hope in the fight against cancer? Working with ad agency Wieden+Kennedy Portland and development partners DeepLocal and Standard Robot, Nike created a giant robotic writing tool.
“Using text and twitter to chalk messages is something the riders and spectators would - and clearly did - love. The Chalkbot even sent pictures of the printed message back to their writers – clever Chalkbot,” Parker continues. “Nike really has used new technology in a good way here creating something unique and beautiful in the process. A great idea perfectly executed, and totally relevant.”
Over the course of the 25-day event, the Chalkbot picked up over 4,000 followers on Twitter and received over 36,000 messages. It printed thousands of them over several thousand miles and 13 stages of the Tour de France.
"I don't think any of us were prepared for the staggering impact of reading a kilometer's worth of people's heart-wrenching messages all at one time,” says Wieden+Kennedy's Adam Heathcott. “For me, that first day was a much larger emotional challenge than it was a technical one."
Amongst the thousands of heartfelt messages, the team also received one in Morse code, which was decoded to spell "Peace". Another message arrived as a mathematical riddle.
“There are a lot of 'new media' toys to play with these days – from our now old friend Facebook, to Augmented Reality and more,' added Parker. “To see a brand pop up uninvited in these environments where it doesn't belong is really annoying. But when a brand does it well, it works brilliantly. What's even better is that it's for the benefit of the Lance Armstrong Foundation.”
Nike is currently exploring other creative opportunities for the Chalkbot, including next year's Tour.