Spray cans and skateboards: Microsoft Surface, FCB and the street artists

UK street artist Banksy brought good street art under the mainstream radar some years ago, Melbourne and Berlin are covered with the stuff, and in New Zealand too street art is increasingly seen as something of value versus the standard graffiti. Auckland’s K-Road Business Association launched the All Fresco Festival last year to create K Road murals, Canterbury Museum launched street art exhibition ‘Rise’, New Plymouth held its Get Up urban street art festival, and autonomous street art can be seen anywhere – just check Streetarse.co.nz.

In quite un-Bill Gates-like fashion, Microsoft is getting into this scene too. Microsoft Surface New Zealand has collaborated with FCB and renowned Kiwi street artists BMD to produce a bromance-y video showing the creative possibilities of the Surface Pro 3, the tablet/laptop being marketed hard to artists around the globe. The video is the first phase in a “purely social” campaign to be rolled out on Facebook over the coming three months.

Kimberly Kastelan, account director at FCB says “The client brief was to develop an idea that would launch the new Surface Pro 3 to creative people by engaging with them on social media. We identified BMD early on as a perfect partner for this campaign and since then we have worked closely with them to understand their creative process and how the Surface Pro 3 could enhance this.” She says BMD had recently finished a wall in Mt Eden, which presented an ideal backdrop for the video to introduce the campaign to Facebook fans.

BMD is made up of two street artists originally from Taranaki, one now based in Auckland and the other now living in Melbourne.

They were given the Surface Pro 3s to see what sort of remote collaboration they could achieve, which will be demonstrated over the campaign. “As you can imagine, two artists in separate countries working on the same piece of art was at times challenging,” says Jordanna Murray, Windows and Surface product marketing manager. The pair have managed live collaborative painting in OneNote while staying in touch via Skype.

“Prior to them having Surface Pro 3s, BMD were sketching art ideas using a pencil and a notepad and then taking a photo of the sketch, emailing it to themselves, and then retracing that sketch in Photoshop. Now they draw directly onto their Surface Pro 3s using the Surface Pen and can share their artwork in real time via the cloud,” says Murray.

The campaign is being rolled out on Surface New Zealand’s 20,000-fan Facebook page (the almost 779,000 likes displayed on the pages includes global), with one teaser last week showing the backs of the BMD duo and one of their large scale artworks. “We prompted Surface fans to guess who we were partnering with – a surprising number of people guessed correctly. BMD’s striking and unique street art was a dead giveaway for many fans,” says Murray.

Now, the Surface team is asking Facebook fans for illustration suggestions. “Art duo BMD would like to hear your ideas for their next artwork. If they like your idea, they’ll create it using their Surface Pro 3s! We’ll kick it off – BMD we’d love to see your rendition of a goldfish…” they wrote yesterday, and posted the pic today:

Kastelan says “To date we’ve had an overwhelmingly positive response on social media, and it’s been a pleasure to work with BMD. Not only are the incredibly talented, they’re also really good guys.”

Murray says “BMD are a widely known creative duo that we think are really talented, and a great fit for the Surface Pro 3 brand because of their fresh approach. Plus we were able to make their creative process a lot less painful… It has been really fun working with BMD. We have been feeding off each other, and have arrived at a concept that we think is really cool.“

Around the same time the Surface Pro 3 was announced, Microsoft’s partner Adobe announced improvements to Photoshop. The partnership and improvements enable better drawing, sketching and illustrating on Surface, hence all the marketing at amateur or professional artists.

“The Surface Pro 3 is a device that fits really well in the creative space. As a result of this, Microsoft Surface has been working with a lot of different artists around the world, but we think we have found something special with local talent, BMD,” says Murray.

Below are some US examples Microsoft created as part of the “Transformation Challenge – Drawn Together with Surface,” earlier this year, which gave aspiring artists in the US two weeks to submit a three-panel drawing of a radical transformation of themselves or a fictional character. They then won a Surface Pro 3 and time with some famous artists:


In 2012, Massive Magazine interviewed BMD and asked them about selling out working with brands.

Massive:  “I can think of more than one brand that has used street art to advertise themselves. What’s your view on this?”

BMD: “While we don’t agree with it, it depends on how you go about it. The cold hard reality of the world is that you need to produce something for someone to get a buck. Be as real as you want, but you can’t eat paint or pay your landlord with a painting. I’d much rather see someone making rent from their creative talents, than from making burgers for $11.38 an hour. I personally think fuck a day job. You only get one shot, so believe that the most fulfilling way to make a living is through your own ideas. But you got to draw the line somewhere. The last thing we want is big Glassons x CFG billboards.”

When asked whether Microsoft has had BMD create any create real street art, Murray says not yet, but stay tuned.

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