Congested downtown commuters now have a new reason to look up from their texting as they idle to work on I-75/I-85 South — the downtown W hotel’s groundbreaking new film series, PIXEL, currently playing on a continuous loop on a 100-foot by 35-foot digital billboard in front of the hotel. The film by director Felipe Barral, now running its second 10-second episode, is already generating plenty of questions from commuters who don’t quite know what to make of the images. The first episode contained visuals of lush greenery and the second episode currently playing is merely a black and white silhouette, followed by an ominous man reaching out for something (or someone!) and a quick cut to a beautiful blond reacting in horror to something she’s just seen on her laptop. Spoiler Alert: it’s her dead father!
“The response has been great,” the downtown W’s marketing manager Pablo Henderson tells Atlanta magazine. “I was at a school function this week and one of the parents said, ‘Oh my gosh, I’ve seen that!’ but had no idea what it was. I ended up writing down the website landing page on a napkin for them because they were so curious about it. That’s ultimately the point. We want people to receive it instead of just seeing it.”
PIXEL is the story of a dying father who decides to prepare his infant daughter for adulthood by leaving her a series of 10-second videos before his death. “The first episode was really about us playing it very safe,” explains Henderson. “We didn’t want to kick this off with something that would have everyone up in arms. We wanted the project to have a chance to breathe. So the first episode was something somewhat abstract with lots of greenery and something easy to absorb.”
According to Henderson, as the film unfolds, commuters will see dancers from the Atlanta Ballet and arts patrons and/or hollow-horned ruminant mammal enthusiasts will recognize one of the film’s locales, The Goat Farm in West Midtown.
Aside from the billboard’s position, the film project isn’t readily identifiable as an arts contribution by the global hotel brand. Henderson says that’s intentional. “There was actually a lot of push back about that. Some people were asking, ‘Shouldn’t there be a hash tag, shouldn’t there be a logo?’ But at the core of this project, the idea was to have nothing on it. Hash tags have become a call to action and we wanted to get as far away from that as possible.”
And there’s a reason each of the 13 episodes over the next 26 weeks will run only 10 seconds each. The film is abiding by the Department of Transportation’s strict regulations for billboard advertising. “We are following the same specifications the DOT provides to all other digital advertisers,” explains Henderson. “So, whether it’s a Coca-Cola ad or the America Cancer Society, everyone is confined to the same 10 second loop. . . Now, the argument becomes, ‘Well, is there specific content that’s more distracting to drivers than others?’ We talked about that when we were developing the concept. At the end of the day, our billboard is no different than any other. It may just have a slightly higher cerebral value than the others. So, I suppose that could constitute as more of a distraction if something gets you to think out there on I-75/85 on your way to work.”
To get a behind-the-scenes peek at the making of PIXEL, go to the downtown W’s page dedicated to the film by clicking here. And if you can’t resist using a hashtag to communicate with others about the billboard film project, the hotel suggests using #WPixel.