Lincoln Creates a Public Interactive Light and Sound Show in Downtown New York

Art installation with The Atlantic is meant to evoke the control of the automaker's tech

The display consists of nearly 100 poles that respond to the users' unique touches. Atlantic Re:think, Lincoln
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There’s a tricky dichotomy in auto advertising. A car can represent freedom and possibilities, permission to literally and figuratively navigate the world around us without restraint. Yet marketing an automobile is, in a way, inherently limiting.

After all, there are only so many ways to show a car cruising down the highway. The feeling of control that comes from operating a vehicle is a sensation that can only be authentically captured in person. How can a brand creatively reproduce that feeling for consumers outside the showroom while remaining fresh in the face of overused imagery?

Faced with the challenge, Lincoln teamed up with Atlantic Re:think, The Atlantic’s in-house creative marketing group, and design studio Softlab to eventually land on an unpredictable approach: an interactive art installation in the middle of Lower Manhattan’s Seaport District titled “The Nautilus,” which has a literal invitation to “touch the art.”

Named after the new Lincoln Nautilus, the display consists of nearly 100 poles that respond to the user’s unique touch and to environmental noise, with equally unique audio and light displays. The sound and lights converge in a layered symphony, contributing to a distinctive experience for each person. It’s art that utilizes technology in a way that gives the spectator a feeling of control, meant to evoke how technology and user experience are integral to the design of Lincoln’s Nautilus.

“Human-centered design and personal experiences are intrinsic to the Lincoln brand,” says Lincoln marketing communications manager Eric Peterson. “The installation showcases Lincoln Co-Pilot360, our suite of driver-assist technologies, in a unique and interactive way.”

The break from traditional marketing not only provides a different experience for consumers but is also indicative of a company that is willing to take risks in hopes users will make the leap from public art to an affinity for its technology, however dazzling. The installation will remain on display in Manhattan through September 10, after which it will brought back home to Detroit.

Shannon Miller is a writer, podcast creator and contributor to Adweek.