To show its commitment to the Chicago community, Bank of America took a giant wallscape it inherited when it took over the local LaSalle Bank and launched a competition for local teenagers to display their artistic talents. The contest, themed "Arts in Chicagoland," partnered with the nonprofit organization After School Matters, which provides after-school activities for Chicago students.
The project challenged teenagers to design artwork to cover a three-wall, 8,600-square-foot area along the city's Kennedy Expressway that's seen by an estimated 400,000 people a day.
"[The wallscape] had been a creative asset that LaSalle had been using for a number of years," says Michele Barlow, exec VP-enterprise and channel marketing. "In the past we've used it to support the Chicago Marathon. Recently we donated it back to the city for its Olympic bid."
The company decided to investigate whether it could use the space for a more integrated marketing program. "We looked at some of the things that are important to Bank of America, but we also worked closely with our folks in the market in Chicago," Ms. Barlow says. "That's when we identified the After School Matters program. We've been working with them for almost 20 years. It felt like it was really an alignment with our support of the arts."
To give the program an educational aspect, Steve Rutter, exec VP-senior creative director from Bank of America agency BBDO, New York, gave the students a creative brief and also discussed career opportunities in the creative field.
The winner, a mural by 16-year-old Layla Ehsan, a student at the University of Chicago Lab School, was chosen from entries by 60 students. The selection committee was so impressed with the work it viewed that one committee member, Jim Cuno, president and director of the Art Institute of Chicago, has offered to do an exhibit of the students' work at the gallery, says Diane Wagner, senior VP-media relations for Bank of America.
"Layla's use of iconic Chicago elements really demonstrates the theme of the mural," said Tim Maloney, Illinois and Chicago market president, Bank of America, in announcing the winner. "Bank of America is honored to be part of this program, which educated and excited the youth of Chicago. Our organization is committed to supporting the communities throughout our great city, especially those [programs] that benefit our children."
Ms. Ehsan and three finalists have also been invited to attend a career day at Energy BBDO, Chicago.
The wall will be produced by a team of artists working from Ms. Ehsan's blueprint. Work started earlier this month and will take two to three months to complete. The artwork will be up through June. Project updates are available through the After School Matters website and on Twitter.
The feedback from the community has been very positive, Ms. Barlow says. "The big win here is aligning something that's important to us and something that's important to the community," she adds. "To me, this is just such a great demonstration of starting with something amazing and creating a program that gives back to the community in an unbelievable way. It really takes our cause marketing activity to another level."