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Case Study: Transformation of a Landmark

The brief

Since 2015 Jung von Matt have represented BMW as a lead creative agency. BMW has a strong reputation, but they were lagging behind in awareness of their electric products, particularly with regard to PR-hungry rival Tesla.

To celebrate the delivery of the 100,000th BMW i3 – an electric hatchback – Jung von Matt were tasked with developing something truly spectacular. So the Jung von Matt team mobilised both of their Hamburg and Berlin locations to join forces; they would need the expertise of their range of internal agencies to deliver something truly special.

The idea

The agency’s Berlin office, Jung von Matt Spree, were to come up with the idea. Fortunately for the team, there was an iconic asset at the heart of BMW that could be perfectly re-skinned: BMW's 101-meter-tall headquarters, a monument for the internal combustion engine. Consisting of four towers, representing a traditional engine, Jung von Matt realised the form of the building would also work as a giant representation of four batteries.

Designed by architect Karl Schwanzer and built over four years, the tower was inaugurated in 1973. Having never been used commercially in such a way, it was hoped that altering the building’s appearance would ignite a change in people’s thinking about BMW, and consider them as innovators in electric vehicles.

The execution

This was to be a long, and complicated project, but the agency’s specialist project management outlet, Jung von Matt Alster, took on the task, with execution coming from Jung von Matt Sports. Planning for the execution began six months ahead of the big reveal.

The final execution would see the building illuminated with 500 controllable headlights, combined with video and laser projectors. In total, a monumental 128 tons of equipment, and 820 m3 of material was drafted in to pull off this feat.

But there were to be plenty of challenges in this transformation of a 100m high, historic building. Perhaps the biggest achievement was convincing the city of Munich that they could pull this project off without permanent alterations to this listed building.

The publicity around the launch featured a huge volume of assets, and precise timing to co-ordinate.  Furthermore, the winter weather brought snow and negative temperatures, putting the technical operation in jeopardy.


The launch

On the evening of Dec 18, 2017, a crowd gathered in front of the building, braving snow and minus-temperatures. As the lights were switched, and the building suddenly became a monument to electric vehicles, a cheer erupted.

A digital workforce sprung into action, documenting every aspect of the construction and execution, spreading assets far and wide on social media, and in the press. Reaching far beyond Munich, where the building is already iconic, it was to become one of BMW’s most successful pieces of social media content ever.

The response

Whilst the event itself only lasted a night, this was no transient project, but was treated as an iconic moment, as a proof point of BMW’s interest in an electronic future. The film produced of the transformation is still used in BMW showrooms around the world.

The creative team of Christian Wölky (Creative Director) and Simon Knittel (Creative Copy) were told they were to win a D&AD Pencil at the very last minute, “The message arrived only four hours before the award show. We immediately got on an airplane and arrived two minutes before the pencil was handed over – followed by tons of beer.”

Looking back at the project, and it’s extraordinary level of production and delivery, Wölky and Knittel point to the bravery of their client as the decisive point “Believe it or not, we always believed in the feasibility of the idea. Of course, there were many hurdles to be taken along the way – but with the biggest one overcome at the very beginning, whether BMW would change its own landmark or not, the way was clear to go for it.”

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