Wrapped cityscapes provide a powerful marketing message

Building Wraps Offer Greater Impact

An increasing number of companies looking for the Wow effect are looking to city skylines to brand their products and launch mega marketing campaigns in a more dramatic fashion. And because billboards are so commonplace, many firms are turning to building wraps and wallscapes to get the word out on their products, services and events.

Mammoth sizes and powerful exposure are the main advantages of these types of branding vehicles. Some wraps can measure more than 10 stories high depending on the size of the building. Custom sizes and shapes are another innovative option that also can be used for added dramatic impact. The creative teams at many Fortune 500 companies and ad agencies are realizing the sky’s the limit when it comes to getting their message to potential consumers driving by or gazing up from the streets below.

Palmer says that the installation of the 3-D graphic took about 120 man hours. They used 80 separate windows to piece it all together. 3M media recently played a huge role in a 43 x 96-foot wide arena wrap that Palmer Products Imaging (PPI) produced for the Consol Energy Center, the home of the Pittsburg Penguins. (Images courtesy of Palmer Products Imaging)

Growing Trends

“A big trend that I’m seeing is many more corporate sponsors are using this medium to reach high visual impact to the end consumer during large events,” says Kevin Osborne, owner at Uptown Graphics, New Orleans, La. “The more traditional OOH media can get lost and the larger the wrap the more noticeable it becomes. I have also seen an increase in adhesives used for building wraps.” 

Many building managers have told Osborne they are opposed to drilling and creating cable systems, but they prefer the use of removable adhesives as much as possible. 

“More of our clients are starting to look at building wraps as a marketing vehicle,” says David Kurniawan, owner at Maryland Signs and Graphics in Towson, Md. “Even smaller companies and local organizations are taking advantage of this tremendous means of communication. The local car dealerships, for example, will wrap their windows rather than just traditionally letters as they had in the past. In addition, local clubs are using them to announce their signature event on buildings and walls.”

New developments in printer technology also have helped play a role in this market. 

“This application has seen a recent shift from solvent to UV technology, benefitting from the ability to produce jobs at a faster rate on lower-cost substrates, helping to maintain margins,” says Ken VanHorn, Scitex Category Manager, HP Large Format Production in Alpharetta, Ga.

Maryland Signs and Graphics completed a self-promotional wrap on their brick building that a featured a spoof on The Avengers movie. (Image courtesy of Maryland Signs and Graphics)

The Media Delivers the Message

Building wraps are produced via various types of materials depending upon durability, strength and resistance to the changing weather conditions. Vinyl banners form the best medium for a mix of marketing activities—whether they are vinyl mesh, self-adhesive vinyl or perforated self-adhesive vinyl—making up the most common materials used for building wraps graphics.

“More and more of our customers are demonstrating that they recognize the value of the excellent brand awareness they can generate by using large and small building wraps for brand identity and product promotions, as well as to publicize their participation in community events or public service campaigns,” says Tammi Johnson, Business Development Manager, 3M Commercial Graphics Division, St. Paul, Minn.

Johnson points out that their premium media materials have special features that meet the application requirements of unique substrates and longer-term promotions, while their intermediate films meet the expected performance characteristics and life of shorter-term promotions. She adds that a number of 3M films are commonly used in building wrap projects. “We have a number of products on the market that are in demand in this sector.”

Breaking Glass in the Steel City

3M media recently played a huge role in a 43 x 96-foot wide arena wrap that Palmer Products Imaging (PPI) produced for the Consol Energy Center, the home of the Pittsburg Penguins. The entire massive project encompassed two months of planning, design and installation. 

“The Pittsburg Penguins wanted to wrap their building in time for the 2012 Stanley Cup playoff run, says Wayne Palmer, president at Palmer Products Imaging in Monroeville, Pa. “We are the only 3M authorized manufacturer and installer in the area so we are able to work closely with 3M in specifying material on certain projects. We had produced a similar but smaller project for them last year on competitive material, but we had trouble removing the adhesive when we took it down. 3M asked if they could be involved in this year’s project and suggested we use Scotchcal Perforated Window Graphic Film IJ66 as well as their inks. The end results were amazing. The 3-D graphic appeared to ‘break through’ the glass of the Consol Energy Center,” he says.

This wrap is one of several that Off the Wall Signs did to help promote a series of Motley Crüe concerts at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino. For this job they used Arlon DPF8000 PSA media. (Image courtesy of Off the Wall Signs and Graphics)

Big Challenges

Palmer says that the size and scope of this project created some unique challenges. 

“The team wanted the wrap to have a cool 3-D effect,” he says. “It took a lot of time just creating the 3-D artwork and getting it to look just right. The file that we got from them was 100 GBs. They had to give us it in 20 separate layers that averaged about 5 GBs apiece. We had to assemble it here because it was such a complex file. It took about 4-5 days just to open it. That was one of the neat things about this project; being able to deal with and manipulate a 100 GB file.”

Palmer explains that they had to take each individual layer and lower the resolution and were finally able to get it down to about 50 GBs. Once they were able to get the file down to a size that was workable, it was then output on their HP Scitex XL1500 printer. 

“The reason we picked the XL1500 from all the printers we have in the shop was because it features a huge dryer on the top unit. Since we were running this job with solvent inks, we wanted to make sure that the ink on the perf film was really dry. The XL1500 really worked well with the IJ66 media.”

The massive 43 x 96-foot wide graphic was then installed 85 feet above the ground by Graphic Installations, a division of PPI.  

“Having our own installation company in house is a big plus for us,” Palmer says. “It gives us total control over a job. The installation took about 120 man hours. Each one of the window panels was 4 x 12 feet. We used 80 separate windows to piece it all together.”

Making the Vegas Strip Sizzle

The size and scope of Las Vegas attractions and conventions demand spectacular images on a grand scale and lend themselves perfectly to building warps. Off the Wall Signs and Graphics, a grand-format and specialty production and installation shop in Las Vegas is one of the top providers of these gigantic images in the Las Vegas market. The company’s building wrap skills can also be seen on the streets of San Diego. 

“We try and go back and forth with print and install projects between both of those cities,” says CEO and co-owner Rocky Faith.

Faith reports that their client base consists mainly of the entertainment field, but they are seeing more Fortune 500 companies looking at making a splash with building wraps. 

“More clients outside the entertainment vertical are using these large spaces for conventions and events that they haven’t done in the past,” he says.

Off The Wall produced this project for the Luxor it was printed on Arlon DPF45 using their line-up of Roland printers. (Image courtesy of Off the Wall Signs and Graphics)

Co-owner Paige Ziegler says another trend they are seeing has to do with a change in the number and size of graphics that casinos are ordering these days. 

“Some of the casinos aren’t putting their money into one spectacular sign and leaving it up for a number of months,” Ziegler says. “Instead of doing a huge 150' by 300'-foot wrap, they’re ordering a couple of 50' by 75' and having us install them more periodically throughout the year. The frequency of work also depends on how long the different shows and events are running.”

Faith says they use Arlon films as their wide-format media products of choice. 

“We are doing a lot of jobs using Arlon’s window perf; it’s on about 70 percent of the jobs that we produce. I also like their DPF303 banner product. It’s a double-sided, high-quality material. We are using it because of its durability and thickness, and the print quality is phenomenal. It can stand up to the 50 to 65 mile-an-hour winds that we sometimes get.”

Off the Wall’s printer arsenal features a number of Roland units that include a 64-inch Versa UV LEJ-640 UV, a 54-inch SolJet Pro III XC-540 and a 104-inch AdvancedJet AJ-1000i. 

Marketing on YouTube

Faith and his crew have shot videos of a number of their wrap projects and posted them on YouTube, using them as a unique marketing tool for the company. 

“They are time-lapse videos from print to install,” Faith says. “They show perspective clients what exactly goes into a build wrap project.”

One of those videos was a wrap for HBO’s Luck series, which was featured on the sloped edifice of the Luxor Hotel. 

“It was a 2,400-square-foot project that was affixed to the pyramid at the hotel,” Faith says. “Wrapping the Luxor was quite a challenge. It takes a lot physical strength and endurance.” See the video at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ij96APxqWbM.

Another project in 2012 was an entire signage campaign for the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino promoting the ’80s rockers Motley Crüe, who had a 12 show residency earlier this year. 

“We did a number of wraps, including two large wallscapes to promote their concerts,” Faith says. “We also wrapped elevators as well as the center bar area. Turns out it was one of the most successful shows in the hotel’s history.”

Uptown Graphics printed the project for the New Orleans Museum of Art on their EFI VUTEk QS 2000 printer on clear Oracal 3620g. (Image courtesy of Uptown Graphics)

Going Green in Maryland

Maryland Signs and Graphics is part of the Sign Biz Network, a chain of nearly 200 worldwide independently-owned sign businesses. The shop is a Maryland Green Registry member and prides itself on being green with the equipment and materials they use. 

“The environmentally related benefits of our HP Designjet L25500 printer with water-based Latex inks allow us to offer our clients a host of sustainable solutions,” says Kurniawan.

He adds that they are a big user of Oracal products and is seeing more vinyl being used in their recent building wrap projects. “Right now, I’d say vinyl on anything is the most popular; especially on surfaces where banner material was used in the past. With all the media options, brick, concrete slabs, cinder block, even wood panels offer the possibility to be wrapped.”

The shop recently completed a self-promotional wrap on their brick building that features a tongue-in-cheek spin on the recently released movie The Avengers. It was printed on their HP L25500 using Oracal media. “We installed one at the side and one at the back of the building. It’s already generated some new business for us,” Kurniawan adds.

Wrapping it up in the Big Easy

Uptown Graphics first opened for business as a service bureau 14 years ago and then evolved into wide format as the industry went digital. Over the years, the small graphics house has prospered by adding new services and innovative technology. They even had to deal with the wrath of Hurricane Katrina, but they came back stronger than ever. Last year the output provider produced a special wrap for the New Orleans Museum of Art (NOMA) helping them celebrate a century of art.

Uptown imaged and installed a 15' x 60' mesh banner along the back side of NOMA facing City Park. In addition, they imaged a 61' x 26.5' window decal on clear, with spot white ink to enhance the images of the artwork from the background.

“The job was printed on our EFI VUTEk QS 2000 printer UV curable using single strike color with double strike spot white ink bump on clear Oracal 3620g,” says Osborne. “By using double strike white, it allowed the images to pop off the background and create a light box effect on the interior of the lobby. The reason why we chose Oracal 3620g for this particular application was due to fact that the panel sizes were 61-inches wide, thus, ruling out most available removable adhesives that would allow the sunlight to come thru. Keeping these panels without seaming and overlap allowed for a quick and very clean installation. The people at the NOMA were extremely pleased with the end result.”