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By Amy Houston | Reporter

June 1, 2022 | 4 min read

In May, a bright yellow Corona beer billboard flanked with foliage popped up in Brighton, UK. At first glance, it looked like a normal ad... until sundown, when its shadows cast a secret message. The Drum caught up with Wieden+Kennedy Portland’s creative directors Dan Viens and Josh Bogdan to find out more.

The brief

The stunt starred as part of a global campaign ‘Made from the Natural World,’ communicating that Corona is brewed with 100% natural ingredients, according to Viens. “We always wanted to find some way for nature to show up physically in the work.”

The creatives started seeking out ad opportunities that would work with nature itself.

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“Caio Mattoso and Rodrigo Mendes, a team at Wieden+Kennedy Portland, came up with the idea to hide a message within a tree that would be displayed as the light moved across it,” adds Bogdan.

“Their initial idea was for smaller installations that could be used in bars. But then they came back with a much bigger version of it that would use the most powerful light of all – sun. We all immediately loved it. Then it was just a matter of figuring out how the hell to do it.”

Sun-der pressure

The pair believe there was no doubt this had to be an out-of-home (OOH) activation.

“We asked ourselves, ‘Where is the sun?’ The answer was ‘outside.’ So, we went there,” notes Viens. “Really this is one of those campaign ideas that creates so many opportunities.”

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But in the UK the weather can be unpredictable, to put it mildly. And sunshine? That can be a rarity.

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“When you decide to work with the sun, the sun is really in charge and you have to make all your arrangements around it,” says Bogdan. “It’s a diva like that.” The light issue aside, creating the message and figuring out how to hide it in the greenery proved to be challenging too.

After speaking to several companies, most of whom couldn’t work it out, Alice Strutt, from the production company Sketch, did some “super complex celestial math to make it all work.” The company also ensured the board was constructed with materials that could be recycled or composted.

The build

“The sun is the most powerful force in our solar system (I didn’t consult any astronomers on this statement),” jokes Viens. “But a thin veil of very rude clouds can come in at any moment and mess up all our plans.”

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On the day the team installed the billboard, the weather was picture perfect. The sun was shining, the beach was beautiful and the boardwalk was filled with curious people. Day two apparently started the same. “Our production crew was in place to get a beautiful time-lapse and then nature took hold. The clouds moved in and the board never showed the secret message,” adds Viens.

“Day three began with a thick layer of clouds over Brighton and we knew exactly how Bill Murray felt in Groundhog Day. But the sun and the natural billboard had their way that day. The clouds broke. The message appeared. People gathered and we were able to capture the process exactly as we envisioned it.”

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