How Twitter Designed a Live Tweet Wall in France

Twitter designed a 3-D nighttime projection and doubled the use of its hashtag at Cannes Lions.

By Mitra Sorrells July 11, 2013, 7:15 AM EDT

During the day, the billboard above the venue entrance simply displayed the event's hashtag in black letters. As the sun went down each night, a projector mounted on a roof across the street added a 3-D display of tweets and photos that used the official hashtag.

Photo: Courtesy of Twitter

As the sun went down in Cannes, France, June 17, Twitter fired up a 40,000-lumens Barco projector mounted on a roof 150 feet across a street from the Palais des Festivals et des Congrès. The venue was the site of the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, a weeklong award program to recognize creative excellence in advertising and communications. For the next several hours, a 3-D projection of tweets using the official event hashtag, #CannesLions, appeared on a 35- by 65-foot billboard located 30 feet above the venue’s entrance. The digital activation, created by Incredible Machines, ran for five hours that night and for the next three nights, while during the day the billboard showed a static image of the hashtag printed on canvas.

“The number one thing we want to do is bring awareness of the hashtag so all the conversations happen on the same hashtag.“ said Tom Spano, head of B-to-B event marketing at Twitter. “That way people don’t go off the reservation and create their own, and then you have many parallel conversations happening.”

The top tweets with the hashtag were projected onto the billboard at night, and the display also included live tweets from specific users that were selected by Twitter. Spano said the projection was a success, garnering substantial interest from the festival’s 12,000 attendees and contributing to more than 91,000 tweets using #CannesLions. That’s a 51 percent increase compared to 2012 and translated to a total reach of 542 million people, according to Buzz Radar

To generate excitement the first night, Twitter hosted a gathering in a penthouse across the street from the billboard right before the projector turned on. “The surprise factor was great,” Spano said. “For the first half hour of the projection, the static letters on the billboard started to come to life as 3-D words. Then a half hour later the tweets started coming in as little cubes, and then they would hit the 3-D letters and break apart. Bringing the billboard to life was a special experience because nobody expected it.”

To keep the promotion a secret, Twitter and its vendors had to test the projection equipment in the middle of the night in the days leading up to the event.

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