The cluster of four towers is one of Bloemfontein's most prominent landmarks. Two have been wrapped in FNB's 2010 FIFA World Cup™ livery (the first time cooling towers have been branded in this way), while the other two feature vibrant artwork depicting the city's rich heritage.
This is not the first time the agency has helped the bank invest in transforming architectural structures into cultural landmarks. In 2003, the two cooling towers of the landmark Orlando Electricity Plant in Soweto were transformed through similar artistic works and have now become instantly recognisable icons of the City of Johannesburg for locals and international visitors alike.
At the time, the decoration of the Soweto towers was the largest mural ever undertaken in South Africa. The first tower was branded with the FNB logo and the words ‘Proudly South African'. The second tower design comprised images of famous Soweto landmarks, heroes like Nelson Mandela and Yvonne Chaka Chaka, and scenes and images from everyday life in the townships.
The Bloemfontein task involves 12 800m² of canvas (that's just over three acres), which has been used to wrap the towers, over 12 000 litres of paint, a team of eight including seven artists, and 720 man-hours per artist. Each tower is 60 metres high and has a circumference of 120 metres at its base and 70 metres at the top. The Draftfcb Johannesburg team included executive creative director, Marthinus Duckitt, Janine Kleinschmidt, Dawn Franke, Jenine Skinner and Alistair Mathie.
According to Draftfcb Johannesburg FNB 2010 Project Director, Cedric Leitch, FNB is one of the pioneers of ‘building marketing' in South Africa. This is an international trend that involves using unusual and eye-catching architecture to promote an organisation's brand. The US, Japan and Korea are the forerunners of this trend and top architects are being commissioned to design buildings that can accommodate branding.
“FNB is no stranger to building marketing,” added Leitch. “However, it has always incorporated elements that visually celebrate the physical location thereby seeking to reinforce the bank's relationship with the community in a more emotional way. This was true of the 2003 Soweto Tower project, and is true of the current Bloemfontein Tower initiative.”
Bloemfontein, also known as the City of Roses, has a rich and diverse heritage. The Draftfcb Johannesburg creative team drew inspiration from the area's history and iconic landscape to develop designs for the two murals with the assistance of Joan Abrahams, a Bloemfontein local, whose encyclopaedic knowledge of the city proved invaluable.
Incorporated in the paintings are images of San rock paintings, sunflowers, sheep and mielie fields, as well as famous citizens such as Olympian Zola Budd, comedian Leon Schuster, the ANC's first president Rev John Dube and Bloemfontein Celtic Football Club founder Petrus Molomela. Some more eclectic elements depict ‘firsts' in Bloemfontein such as parking meters (South Africa's first were installed in 1955) and a stylised cornea (the country's first cornea transplant was done in the city).
“The towers are an amazing sight, and all credit for their impact and visual appeal must be shared between Draftfcb's creative team and the artists who worked tirelessly to reproduce the larger-than-life canvas,” Leitch said.
Duckitt was particularly honoured to be working with FNB and the artistic team in Bloemfontein. “What made this project particularly rewarding was rediscovering the rich heritage of our country,” he said.
“The client brief was very specific in that we had to depict Bloemfontein's heritage, and it took a flight to Bloemfontein to discover that the town has always played a big part in our country's history! From there, the creative execution became easy and the most difficult part was what to include and what to exclude - we would have needed another six towers to incorporate everything we unearthed.
“It was also gratifying to, once again, be given the opportunity by FNB to create what could become another landmark in South Africa,” Duckitt said.
Sieg Maier, FNB Free State Provincial Executive, concurred: “As official National Supporter of the 2010 FIFA World Cup™, FNB is proud to invest in beautifying the city of Bloemfontein by helping transform the towers into symbols of community pride,” he said.
FNB alerted the city's citizens to the transformation of the towers with teaser ads that appeared in Volksblad and Mangaung, print ads that explained the symbolism used on the towers and radio campaigns and competitions.