Stella Artois gives New York and Buenos Aires a starry sky for Christmas

There are many upsides to city life, but one of the downsides is the impossibility of seeing the stars – light pollution has put paid to our chances of that. So, for the holiday season in New York and Buenos Aires, Stella Artois has created an installation that brings the stars back to the city, for a brief period at least.

The beer brand has created a large-scale installation, currently on show in a pop-up event in New York and moving to Buenos Aires next week, which allows visitors to witness a starry sky at night. Okay, it’s not actually a real starry sky – this one is made up of 300 individual LED lights, carefully arranged in clusters that become less dense towards the edges to give the impression of an infinite night sky.

The project is the brainchild of Mother ad agency and is created in partnership with production company Unit9. As well as the beautiful vision of a starscape, the installation has an interactive element too, with certain stars equipped with movement sensors. When a visitor reaches up to these, they will drift down slowly towards them. These special stars are also linked to cameras that capture a photo of the guest reaching up which they can then access at the end of the experience – theme park style – and share on social media.

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The installation is the latest example from Stella of the brand taking an interesting and experimental approach to its advertising, having previously partnered with immersive theatre group Punchdrunk to create a number of theatrical experiences in London, and also used virtual reality to promote its sponsorship of Wimbledon.

“Stella is probably our most interesting client in terms of allowing us to do different kinds of things,” says Hermeti Balarin, ECD at Mother London. “Every time they are pushing us to do something else … they are always trying to do something deeper than above-the-line communications.”

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Computer programming of the lights
Computer programming of the lights

As well as being a magical idea for Christmastime, Stella’s starry sky has a branding story attached too, with the beer originally created by the Artois brewery in 1926 as a Belgian festive drink, and named after the Christmas star. In its early years it was sold just as a winter brew though later became available all year round. This story has appeared in Stella’s advertising before (for example, in this TV ad) though, in the UK at least, isn’t a connection that has necessarily stuck with consumers. Here, the brand is attempting to reinforce it again, in the US and Argentina markets, via the installation and also a TV ad, a website, and a musical tie-in with John Legend.

The installation is the most ambitious aspect of the campaign however, and is inspired by artist Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Mirrored Room and Random International’s Rain Room. “There’s a little bit of both of those,” says Balarin.

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Installing the stars
Installing the starscape

Unsurprisingly, it was not a straightforward project to put together. Initially constructed in London (though not shown to the public here), the entire rig was then sent to New York for its first outing, which is taking place until Saturday, before it will be packed up again and moved to Buenos Aires for display from December 17-19.

The attention to detail on the project extends beyond just the visuals into sound too. “We collaborated with some NASA scientists in order to get various recordings that they have captured from stars,” explains Mother producer Max Yates. “Stars genuinely make a sound … we then took those sounds and they form part of the installation, as a background noise that is interactive as you walk through.”

Tickets to visit the pop-ups were given out in advance, and to my knowledge, these are now sold out. So sadly, most of us will only experience this installation via photos – and I guess we’ll just have to travel to the countryside to see the stars.

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