At the hugely popular book fair in the Belgian city of Antwerp, numerous signings are the focal point every year. Fans meet their favourite authors there, children their comic-strip heroes and sports fans their idols. For bol.com too, the literary event is a repeated highlight that is worked towards for months. As an online bookshop, the book fair is the only time when they actually meet their customers. So they want to make that contact unforgettable. This year they did so with the ‘impossible signing sessions’, a stunt in which 8 world-renowned authors signed non-stop for 12 days. Bol managed to involve names such as Nicci French, Paula Hawkins (The Girl on the Train), Andy Griffiths (The Treehouse Books), David Baldacci (The Last Mile), David Lagercrantz (Millennium 4), Robert Harris (Imperium) and – perhaps most impressively of all – Paul van Ostaijen. The Flemish poet and modernist prose writer died in 1928 but is still in our collective memory as the iconic author of the typographic poem ‘Boem Paukeslag’.
Smart signing robot
In collaboration with the Antwerp Research & Design Lab Beyond, DDB Brussels created a technological signing robot which analysed, parsed and then reconstructed all the signatures and manuscripts of the famous authors. A unique workflow was devised whereby the signing arm not only mimics signatures automatically and accurately, but is also able to leave personal messages. In total, an intensive test phase took four weeks. Kevin Verelst, co-founder and Art Director of Beyond explains, “The greatest challenge was above all to imitate the writing as faithfully as possible. In the process, it was essential to completely fine-tune four important elements. Namely, the choice of pen, the angle of the writing, the pressure of the pen on the paper and the writing speed.”
Worthy of note: all the authors were highly enthusiastic participants in this project. What is more, Nicci Gerrard – Sean French’s partner – also recorded the announcement video. The ‘impossible signing sessions’ coincide with the 100-year commemoration of Paul van Ostaijen. The book ‘Music Hall’ was also reissued especially for this unique anniversary. Bol.com also received cooperation from the Genootschap Paul van Ostaijen (Paul van Ostaijen Association) for the signing session. “We were keen straight away”, says Matthijs de Ridder. “Such a robot arm seemed the best way of representing Paul to us.”
1.5 minutes maximum
Anyone who wants to have their book signed can do so from 31 October until 11 November at the bol.com stand in hall 4. A signing session takes 1.5 minutes maximum and is completely free.
Meanwhile the signing robot placed over a thousand signatures. The most popular writer turns out to be Paul Van Ostaijen. It appears that van Ostaijen is still the most popular author at the Belgian Book fair by 31.2%.
Client : bol.com
Contact : Niels Moes
Agency : DDB Brussels
CD : Peter Ampe & Odin Saillé
Creation : Danny Vissers
Ad & Copy: Tom Meijer & Silke Beurms
Accounts : Francis Lippens & Romy Vierhouten
Strategy: Dominique Poncin, Jorian Vanvossel
Digital Design: Wieste De Ridder
Motion Design: Sven Verfaille
Producer: Stefanie Warreyn
PR: Kenn Van Lijsebeth
TV producer: Brigitte Verduyckt
DOP: Adrien Moormann
Design lab: Beyond.io
Thanks to: Matthijs de Ridder, Genootschap Paul van Ostaijen