OfficeMax Goes Over the Top in Chicago

NEW YORK For the second time in as many weeks, an over-the-top guerrilla marketing campaign is being unleashed in a major U.S. city.

The latest target is Chicago, and the campaign is designed to unveil the new logo of Naperville, Ill.-based OfficeMax.

But executives orchestrating the effort said it is unlikely to provoke the kind of terrorist scare that resulted from the Turner Cartoon Network escapades in Boston last week.

“Everybody sat up and took notice,” when the Boston campaign backfired, said Matt Johnson, an associate media director at Omnicom’s PHD in Chicago. “We don’t have any wires hanging out of boxes and it will be very clear what we’re doing.”

Still, it’s unclear if the campaign will violate any local ordinances. “We don’t think so, but I guess we’ll find out,” said Johnson. He said the agency did not seek the city’s approval. “It’s 100 percent guerrilla,” he said.

A couple of recent outdoor marketing campaigns have run afoul of the law. In addition to the Boston debacle, Chase Bank in New York recently implemented a brief campaign that projected static images of the bank’s logo onto city sidewalks. That was a no-no according to New York, which said the projections “defaced” city property and forced the bank to cease the campaign.

The OfficeMax campaign implements for the first time in the U.S. a combination of global positioning satellite technology and a mobile projection system to create a giant, animated, multicolored rubber-band ball, which is the new OfficeMax logo.

The logo was introduced Wednesday night as attendees arrived for the start of the Retail Advertising Conference at the Chicago Hilton.

The ball will be seen, at various points, spinning in place, bouncing off sidewalks and soaring several stories high as it careens down Michigan Avenue into such Windy City landmarks as the Sears Tower, the John Hancock Center and the Art Institute of Chicago.

The image will be projected from a system in a vehicle traveling down the avenue. The faster the vehicle moves, the higher the image bounces. The Escape Pod agency in Chicago handled creative duties and Massive Media in New York assisted with the mechanics of the campaign.

Bob Thacker, svp, advertising for OfficeMax, today will talk about the logo campaign at the conference. And he will bring along a prop to help illustrate his point: the world’s largest rubber-band ball (according to the Guinness Book of Records), which will be rolled down the middle of the Hilton’s ballroom.

“It weighs as much as a Honda Accord,” Thacker said.

Thacker himself inspired the idea of selecting a rubber-band ball as the company’s new logo: he’s had a bowl of them in his office for years to pass out to visitors.

The logo is designed to reflect the OfficeMax’s new mantra to have “fun, passion and innovation” as a company, said PHD’s Johnson.

Added Thacker: “The world would have you believe that the workplace isn’t any fun, and we’re trying to say work can be fun too and maybe we can even be fun.”