Westin Remakes N.Y. Underground

NEW YORK A picture of a blooming pink flower on an underground wall of a New York City train tunnel is not an homage from a Georgia O’Keefe appreciation society but part of a new $30 million campaign from Deutsch for Westin Hotels & Resorts.

In “Morning Stretch,” an underground flipbook-style set of images meant to be seen by commuters on PATH trains that run between New York and New Jersey and on BART trains in San Francisco, a pink flower unfurls against a black background. As the flower opens, the words “Morning stretch” appear in front of it. A companion set of visuals, intended to be seen on the way home, is called “Rush Hour.” In it, a large wave gracefully rolls by.

As part of the campaign, every possible ad space in Grand Central Terminal has been purchased. These include column wraps, signs that allow people to download music from a Westin spot as a ringtone, billboards that change images as people approach and the centerpiece, three subway cars that resemble 3-D photographs of a coral reef, a sauna and an icy landscape.

“The campaign was designed so that you got to experience it no matter which way you came into the station,” said Peter Nicholson, CCO at Deutsch, New York, on a guided tour of the work installed in Grand Central Terminal, one of New York’s major train and subway hubs, last week.

Instead of the traditional pictures of hotel rooms, the campaign focuses on relaxing imagery such as blooming flowers, rain forest waterfalls and saunas. “We’re taking the feeling of riding the subway and juxtaposing it against a more enjoyable experience,” he said.

In addition to New York and San Francisco, the out-of-home campaign is appearing in Atlanta, Boston and Chicago, though only New York features a train station conversion. In the other cites the agency did “train domination”, or bought all the available ad space on the cars. There are a total of 275 different images used in 2,754 places. The campaign also has print, radio and interactive elements.

“The use of nontraditional media marks an exciting new direction for Westin,” said Sue Brush, svp, Westin Hotels & Resort, in a statement. “What better way to convey the Westin renewal experience than to literally surround consumers with positive experiential messages in subways and airports and on highways, where they are most stressed and yearning for an escape? This message is particularly resonant with business travelers, who can appreciate the juxtaposition between the most stressful moments of the day and the most renewing.”

To make the three subway cars, which are located near the Grand Central-Times Square shuttle, look like photographs, giant decals of the images were made and applied to the units. The snowy landscape and sauna scenes were taken with a 360-degree camera; the coral reef was stitched together using stock photographs.

An idea that was considered but not executed involved a person sitting in the car that resembles a sauna in nothing more than a towel. Another car wrap, this one of skydivers, was discussed but did not make it out of the planning stages, according to Nicholson.

“If people allow us to manipulate the medium and it’s done in an entertaining way, people will enjoy it,” said Nicholson.