For huge advertising impact
Over the summer, London became a giant billboard and ultra-wide wowed the crowds. Words Will Dean
Every summer, millions of people walk along London’s South Bank past Thames-side landmarks such as the Royal Festival Hall, the British Film Institute, the Oxo Tower, Tate Modern and Shakespeare’s Globe. One of the less remarkable buildings on that stretch is Sea Containers House. Designed as a luxury hotel in the 1970s, it eventually opened as offices in the mid-1980s.
This huge building is in the middle of a comprehensive refit and will eventually be reborn as the luxury hotel is was always intended to be.
However, with the world’s cameras turned on London this summer, and millions of spectators expected to watch the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee flotilla, Archlane, the building’s owner, was keen that the view on such a high-profile stretch of real estate should not be spoiled by an enormous facade covered in scaffolding. So they did what many other companies are doing recently and used print’s ability to provide eye-catching graphics on a massive scale. For wide-format printers, the super-wide is an increasingly profitable market.
The commission for Sea Containers House went to wide-format specialist Service Graphics. It was for the creation of a 100m by 70m, two-ton, super-wide print of the Royal Family waving from the balcony of Buckingham Palace during the Queen’s 1977 Silver Jubilee. The image provided one of the most striking elements of the riverside events and featured prominently in the national press afterwards, as well as in the TV coverage of the two Olympic marathons.
The wrap, which took an eight-strong team 45 hours to install, was one of many super-scale print projects across the UK this summer, which all highlighted the huge potential for large – and in this case, ultra-large – work to capture the attention of the public. It helped prove that, in an increasingly digital age, sometimes print is unrivalled.
Scott King, sales director at Service Graphics, admits that, even for a firm whose clients have included Apple and Sainsbury’s, the Jubilee graphic is an “exceptionally high-profile piece”. That’s partly thanks to its non-commercial status, making it much easier to get past Westminster Council’s planning officers.
It can be more difficult for more commercial work. But, even so, this summer, thanks to the Olympics, London became a hub of expansive wide-format projects. Whether that’s the giant pink and blue Union flag building wrap by Posterscope on John Lewis on Oxford Street, or the many wraps and prints at the Olympic Park for the likes of Lloyds TSB and Dow Chemical. The market, then, is a fertile one.
King says that being able to work at such scale and with different materials gives businesses such as his a real advantage. “Certainly, as far as this scale of work goes, size is the real beauty of it. It’s not necessarily canvas all the time; different materials do different things and create different effects. And that gives people a lot of flexibility in creating branding in areas where it couldn’t previously be done,” he says.