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Reinventing the Wheel

(October 2010) posted on Thu Oct 07, 2010

MetroMedia Technologies develops mechanized billboard for Ford Motor Company.

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By Paula Yoho

They don’t call Detroit “Motor City” for nothing. Cars have been an integral part of the city’s culture since the first Model-T rolled off the assembly line more than a century ago. So when it came time for the city’s annual Woodward Dream Cruise, the world’s largest, one-day celebration of classic car culture, in August of last year, Ford Motor Company wanted to make a splash with its hallmark sports car, the Mustang.

Ford, via its advertising agency, Team Detroit, contracted with MetroMedia Technologies (MMT, in Chicago to create a one-of-a-kind, mechanized billboard featuring a Mustang with a spinning and smoking tire.

“They said, ‘We want it to do a burn out, we want it to start spinning and to start smoking and then shut down—wait a few minutes and then do it again so that it really attracts peoples’ attention,’” explains Ray Redmond, director of advertising and commercial sales for MMT.

The result—a 672-square-foot “Ford Mustang: Unleashed” billboard—was impressive, seemingly coming to life every three minutes, as the rear wheel began spinning, and smoke poured out from beneath the back.

“It’s almost like watching Big Ben going off,” says Redmond. “People would start to talk, you’d have a buzz—it was kind of viral sort of buzz, with people asking their friends, ‘Hey! did you see that Mustang billboard spinning?”

With only three weeks from design to installation, turnaround time for the project was a challenge for MMT.

“For this project, planning was huge,” says Redmond. “We had to get CBS Outdoor involved, our prop guy had to go out and do site surveys and get up on the board and do all the measurements. We had to have meetings with the agency and their creatives. Schematics and drawings were done that showed the actual billboard with the framing behind it to show where the mount for this motor and this fogger was going to go.”

Like any standard billboard job, the Mustang project began with a simple, two-dimensional graphic, in this case, an image of the car. Team Detroit’s designer provided MMT with Adobe CS2 files, which were output on flex vinyl using the company’s proprietary, drum-technology printer and “an automotive grade acrylic paint so it has a very wide color gamut, it’s also very durable and very long-lasting.”