Citizens Bank and Ogilvy Made a Data-Driven 'Living Portrait of NYC'

The sounds, sights and numbers of a metropolis

Cities are living, breathing entities, constantly surging with ideas and energy as they grow and change, serving up vibrant surprises to visitors and residents alike. That's especially true of New York, America's quintessential metropolis.

Citizens Bank celebrates its arrival in NYC—after acquiring Investors Bank and units of HSBC—with a free, large-scale multimedia activation that salutes the nonstop bustle of Gotham in all its chaotic, exhilarating glory.

Running through Tuesday (Sept. 27) at 29 W. 23rd Street in the Flatiron District, "The Living Portrait of NYC" features 10,000 square feet of art, song and storytelling. The experience, created by Ogilvy New York and Radical Media, offers dazzling images and data displayed across ceilings and walls, with in-person performances by local singers, authors and poets to enhance the ambiance:

Citizens Bank | The Living Portrait of NYC

Befitting a bank promotion, there's a heavy emphasis on numbers, with statistics and about people, places and things pulsing in nonstop streams. It's an immersive feast for the senses, at times a tad overwhelming, just like NYC itself.

"Living Portrait" resembles installations that Ogilvy and Radical developed for SC Johnson. That said, the Citizens project takes the concept to a whole new sensory level through archival footage, newsfeeds and fresh content culled from more than a thousand interviews with residents of the five boroughs.

"We wanted something that was high-tech and yet deeply personal," Ogilvy executive creative director Jon Wagner tells Muse. "Every room marries technology and emotion in ways that are unscripted, unedited and authentically New York. And with the use of directional audio and A.I., they're presented in ways few people have experienced before."

"'The Living Portrait' is designed like a funnel, with an introduction to the city as you open the door," he continues. "Your experience gets progressively more personal as you go from one room to another. It culminates in an invitation to contribute your own New York story, and your own picture, to the illuminated walls—and, if you choose, to share that story on social media."

The design boasts horizontal lines mimicking avenues, vertical strips symbolizing skyscrapers, and a grid pattern resembling city blocks.

Here's a breakdown:

  • The Entryway—Digital tickers flash headlines and temporal data designed to put visitors in a New York state of mind.
  • Room 1/Data—A visualization of everyday life presented in facts and figures, focused on languages spoken in NYC, careers, housing, shopping and leisure activities.
  • Room 2/Audio—Directional audio presents stories based on themes such as neighbors, community, home, love, work, commuting, food, culture and more. Attendees must step into beams of light to hear the narratives, an effect approximating overhearing snatches of conversation on subways or street corners. Live performers periodically appear, weaving tales in words and music.
  • Room 3/Multimedia—Video projections condense 24 NYC hours into 9 minutes. Guests will hear from native New Yorkers and recent arrivals, discussing their hopes, fears, aspirations and aspects of daily existence.
  • Room 4/Communal—Guests are invited to contribute their own New York stories by entering photo booths and taking a short quiz.
  • The Exit—Citizens messaging appears, including QR codes that take visitors to a website for more information about the bank.

"The brief was to introduce the brand to the city," Wagner says. "The challenge, however, is this: Does New York really need another bank? Everyone always jokes that there's a bank on every corner. So, how do we stand out and do something different? A TV campaign or a subway domination saying 'Hello, NYC!' isn't going to cut it in a competitive market."

He adds: "Let's be honest—people are clamoring for in-person experiences that are safe and emotionally fulfilling. Citizens is a big believer in getting to know you, your story, your journey and your ambitions. So, when it comes the time to choose a bank, maybe, just maybe this experience will prove that Citizens approaches things differently."

To hype the activation, Citizens partnered with influencers such as Kid the Wiz, Michael Rainey and What's Poppin.

Advertise With Us

Featured Clio Award Winner



The best in creativity delivered to your inbox every morning.