How Smart made a car commercial through Twitter art


Argentinian adman Maximiliano Ballarini explains how Twitter’s amateur artists inspired his Smart car commercial.

Argentinian artist Maximiliano Ballarini appreciates the little things in life. Especially when it comes to his taste in cars and art.

Ballarini, a BBDO Advertising art director, is the man behind Smart automotives Twitter art inspired commercial.

Ballarini, 30, and a team of six people spent months developing the concept for the commercial, which is a compilation of ASCII art tweets featuring the Smart car driving through a city. By holding down the letter “J” when viewing Smart’s Twitter timeline (@smartARG), the tiny car will come to life as you scroll through the 450 tweets.

“Personally I admire very much the artists of Twitter, more than ever after working on this project,” Ballarini told the Daily Dot. “It is very difficult to draw with so few characters something that makes sense, but the truth is that they are doing it very well. Particularly in this project we found in Twitter Art the perfect means to communicate Smart since the basic characteristics of both are small spaces.”

BBDO Advertising is one of the largest agencies of its kind in the world. Headquartered in New York City, the firm was named Agency of the Year by Adweek in 2011. The agency has also been referenced multiple times on the hit TV show Mad Men as one of the competing advertising agencies in New York.

Ballarini took some time to further discuss the Twitter art-inspired commercial and the idea behind it.

Daily Dot: Tell me about the inspiration behind the Smart Argentina Twitter art. Did you come up with the whole story idea?

Maximiliano Ballarini: Smart entrusted us with official launching of its Twitter account.

Our objective is to generate in the public, through Twitter, the same reaction that the car generates in people when seeing it: a smile. It was then when we began to think about Twitter Art. We all knew the work @tw1tt3rart, so we agreed on looking into the subject deeper. We wanted the profile of @smartarg to make people smile.

We continued investigating Twitter Art and finally while brainstorming we came up with the idea to repeat images to generate an animation, like a flipbook. We began to draw the car and played with some backgrounds and the animation began to make sense.

But there was a problem.

The traditional means of scroll did not have the best results to show the animation. We tried everything, the cursor of the keyboard, the space bar, the wheel of mouse, but still we did not obtain the results we imagined.

Until one day, taking examples of the operation of google products, we found that using the letters J and K of the keyboard provided us with what we wanted. Magic! The animation began to reproduce tweet to tweet, and you can’t imagine our astonishment. Our major problem was solved. We put ourselves into it completely to improve our designs, to simplify the components and create many new ones. In just a short time we turned into character experts while learning what could be combined and so that everything was in its place. It was not easy work, with countless hours of trial and error.

In the end the result was worth it. Not only did we obtain what we set out to do, people smiling when seeing the Twitter account, but also we know that we gave to the world a new tool that surely will show incredible things in a short time.

DD: How did you actually create the art?

MB: We used the most basic tools than we could find. All the designs are done in Mac TextEdit using the map of characters that comes with the computer. Furthermore we tested each design in Twitter to make sure each twit stays equal exactly which we saw in the editor. Unfortunately the amount of special characters is more abundant in Mac so for that reason we recommended all the users who see them there or in the videos of YouTube so that they can have the best experience.

DD: How long did it take to make the entire commercial? I noticed that you tweeted each piece slowly, over the course of a month.

MB: In fact the production did not take as much time to us as it appears. It was a simple idea and we tried to maintain the simplicity the best we could. The months of investigation were longer that the development itself. Once we had the final designs of the car and the backgrounds, plus a change in the script, the commercial was ready. Our only limitation was the amount of twits which we could post per day, for that reason it took several days.

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