Black Music Month is a celebration of the substantial African American influences on music and songwriting in American culture. Each year, Pandora, the music streaming platform, honors Black Music Month with dedicated programming. In June 2022, its Black Music Month celebrations were topped off with a 3D out-of-home billboard in Times Square.
Pandora worked with BCN Visuals to create this unique 3D billboard that was the first of its kind to use choreographed motion capture technology. The accompanying digital strategy made this Black Music Month celebration a triumph in ‘phygital’:
- Over eleven million impressions were generated by the billboard, live event, and social sharing
- Over five times the impressions were recorded for Black Music Month 2022 compared with 2021
- 765% increase in listening to Pandora stations
To learn more about Pandora’s Black Music Month out-of-home experience we heard from Anna Villierme, VP of Brand and Consumer Marketing at Pandora, and Davide Bianca, Partner & Global Executive Creative Director at BCN Visuals.
Celebrating Black Music Month
Black Music Month recognizes the contributions of Black musicians, singers, and songwriters both past and present. For Pandora, it is a vital moment in its cultural calendar to honor these artists and give people a platform to celebrate. Celebrating music is at the heart of Pandora’s culture.
Pandora ‘Modes’ are a product feature that lets listeners customize how they listen to a music station on Pandora. On its ‘Black Music Forever’ station, it created different modes to celebrate different eras of dance and music, as Villierme describes:
“The mood for the campaign was joyful and celebratory, encouraging people to get up and dance. Each mode was dedicated to specific eras of music and dance trends from the 1980s to today. For example, for the eighties, we had the Cabbage Patch. For the nineties, it was ‘Can’t Touch This.’”
“Dancing is not only a form of expression but a language and a generational tie from the past, to the present. Dance is marking life experiences. It is maintaining and upholding traditions. It is vulnerability, strength, and freedom. We celebrated the evolution of Dance spanning many generations with a multifaceted campaign that lets us tell the audio story visually.”
Beyond the modes, Pandora ran an integrated marketing campaign. It consisted of a video that was shot and created by its in-house creative team that ran on organic and paid social. It also had animated and static assets that ran on CRM on the Pandora platform. Lastly was the most impressive element of the campaign: A giant out-of-home 3D billboard accompanied by a live event that tied into the music and dance trends being celebrated on Pandora’s platform.
Measuring the impact of out-of-home
Across a campaign that blends digital and physical channels, effective measurement is a necessity. Not only did Pandora track the reach of the campaign, but also the impact on engagement and listening. Comparisons to the last Black Music Month also provide useful context.
- Total Spend: 2.8 times greater in 2022 versus 2021
- Target impressions: 2.8 times greater impressions in 2022
- Result: Over five times greater impressions in 2022
- Attendees: 2500 people
- Event impressions (including in-person and social channels): Eleven million
- Increase in listening: 765%
The Times Square event
The magnum opus for Pandora’s Black Music Month 2022 campaign was a 3D anamorphic out-of-home billboard. With the help of BCN Visuals, Pandora went far beyond traditional advertising tools to create a truly impactful out-of-home experience and live event, all to celebrate Black Music Month.
The billboard itself ran for several weeks. Pandora has a year-long contract with Silvercast, the owner of the billboard. The main event was a live DJ performance under the lights of the billboard to mark Black Music Month. Villierme describes how the out-of-home experience commemorated Black Music Month.
“The 3D billboard featured four different eras of music with anamorphic characters dancing across the different decades. On the ground in front of the billboard, we had a DJ and a dance area for attendees to travel through the years of Black music. Through our relationship with Sirius XM, we hired DJ Miss Milan.”
“The brief we gave her tied into the modes and theme for this year: To play music across the decades. She knew exactly what the modes were and how to bring those modes to life. She even came out onto the dance floor herself, alongside some professionals we had also hired. All the while, the billboard was looping through the dances for each decade.”
The 3D billboard was a literal translation of the music on Pandora’s platform into a digital display, influencing the way people were dancing on the ground. It seamlessly blended a ‘phygital’ experience for the live attendees, and for those who would go on to see the event through social channels and the wider campaign.
Live event coordination
Times Square hosts an estimated 50 million visitors. Planning a live event and out-of-home billboard is no mean feat. And yet, thanks to careful planning and support from Pandora’s in-house experiential team, it came together in a matter of weeks. Villierme describes the steps involved:
“The in-house experiential team helped us get permits from both Time Square, through the Time Square Alliance, and the NYPD. Once the TSA and NYPD approved our permits, the space was available, and the creative was ready to go. They sourced the DJ, hired the dancers, and created the physical signage to support the event. Lastly, they were there to count how many people showed up and to make sure the event was running smoothly.”
Having a dedicated in-house experiential team means there is a focus on logistical planning. For brands that run out-of-home live events to commemorate cultural moments or product launches, building a team with a specialized focus is a fantastic way to deliver brilliant campaigns at speed.
“It was a great reminder of how important it is to build solid relationships very quickly. From BCN Visuals to the Times Square Alliance to Sirius XM and having our in-house experience team pulling it all together, we put together this campaign in a brief period without the red tape. Having a tight team that was decisive and ready to move very quickly made an enormous impact.”
“We have a year-long contract with Silvercast which owns the billboard on times in Times Square. We didn’t want to run a 3D billboard just for the sake of it. But the minute we knew we were celebrating dance and culture for Black Music Month; it was the perfect moment. We asked Silvercast and they introduced us to BCN Visuals.”
BCN Visuals’ billboard best-practices
3D creative is an increasingly popular medium for out-of-home activations. It had been on Pandora’s radar, but Black History Month was the perfect opportunity to turn imagination into three-dimensional reality.
The most vital point to remember when designing an out-of-home 3D billboard is that the animation is designed only for one specific billboard. We design them to trick the eye. This requires careful specialization. Bianca described the steps BCN Visuals took to create the billboard for Pandora.
“It was very much a collaborative process from the get-go. We knew this was an incredibly special type of project and wanted to have the authenticity of the movement shine through. So, we opted for motion capture to create the anamorphic dancing. Even down to finger-tip movement, we delivered an authentic recreation of the choreography of the social video Pandora had put together. We used the same type of motion suits they use for films like Avatar.”
“For the aesthetic, we took a stylized, visual approach. And that was by design because we wanted to create a juxtaposition between something that is visually stylized but in terms of movement is hyper-realistic. It looks unique and is the first 3D out-of-home billboard that uses a fully choreographed motion capture approach.”
Pandora and BCN Visuals saw this as a true relationship: As an ecosystem rather than a set of siloed verticals. Acting quickly with firm decision-making kept the collaboration on the right path, delivering a first-of-its-kind billboard that stayed authentic to its primary goal of celebrating Black Music Month 2022.
From out-of-home advertising to immersive entertainment
The combination of disruptive, innovative technology and a billboard that was so authentic in its recreation of dances created a powerful celebration of Black Music Month. The out-of-home billboard, the live event, and the social content blended physical and digital seamlessly. Indeed, these videos become a trail for the event and extend the lifespan of the campaign. Bianca explains how the digital campaign took the physical billboard and party from a local activation into a global event.
“It can be hard to quantify the true reach of an out-of-home activation like this. But we do know anamorphic 3d billboards that are blurring the line between physical and digital media and content is shifting the needle from advertising to immersive entertainment.”
“Naturally, a lot of people experience the content in the form of a social video, so we make it a priority to not only produce the content for the board but also capture it from the correct vantage point. The promo video can live on social media and gives people that are not lucky enough to be in Times Square on that specific day the feeling and emotions of the event. We’ve had campaigns that keep on gaining millions of social views even years after they go live.”
@pandora Black Music is Forever, Black Music is Undeniable. 🖤 We celebrated this #BlackMusicMonth in Times Square with an incredible 3D billboard and dance party hosted by @djmissmilan! #BlackMusicForever ♬ original sound – Pandora
The social videos also offered a look behind the curtain. Undoubtedly behind-the-scenes content is increasingly popular and gives the audience a full understanding of what you created, but why it was made and how the creation process had to take shape to deliver the desired outcome.
Future out-of-home ambitions
This campaign has allowed Pandora to commemorate Black Music Month 2022 in a remarkably memorable way and has shown the power out-of-home 3D billboards can deliver when blended with digital strategy. Villierme reflects on Pandora’s future ambitions.
“If you look at the people who work at Pandora, they’re engineers and programmers who are in bands or are songwriters. And if you look at American culture, the influence of Black musicians and artists is written large. Black Music Month is like our Super Bowl, it’s a true chance to celebrate this impact. This has shown us the importance of finding innovation that scales our message across the physical and digital channels.”
“Looking ahead, now we can ask, is there a way to physically scale it beyond just Times Square? People spend so much time staring at tiny little screens, how can we get them to look up at what’s going on around them?”
Naturally, there is now an expectation for innovation for Pandora’s broader communications plan. Rapid relationship-building and ‘phygital’ experiences will be at the heart of this during Black Music Month 2023 and beyond.
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