How One Social Campaign Drives Engagement Beyond the Screen


Sometimes you have to borrow from the past to drive innovation. Such was the case with Forever 21’s innovative new Thread Screen campaign, which takes an unlikely object—spools of thread—and re-imagines them in a futuristic way.

Thread Screen 1

True to its name, the Thread Screen was developed by Breakfast NY for Forever 21 and uses 6,400 mechanical spools of thread to display images and basic animations. Each spool of thread can display one of 36 colors and is powered by a custom belt made of fabric, resulting in a larger image with an 80×80 resolution.

Installed at Breakfast offices in Brooklyn, the Thread Screen weighs in at 2,000 pounds and is comprised of over 200,000 parts—over 8 times what you’d find in your car. Every component was custom designed, engineered, and manufactured from scratch.

To celebrate the completion of this massive undertaking, from July 22–28 Forever 21 offered fans a chance to have their Instagram images transformed when tagged with #F21ThreadScreen. During the campaign, each participant received a personalized video of their Instagram image being transformed on the Thread Screen, which they could then share across other social media sites. The videos are all hosted on a dedicated Thread Screen YouTube channel and the dedicated campaign microsite, where they are also available to download and save. Live moderation was also put in place so people couldn’t “game” the program with inappropriate photos, as the experience was also being live-streamed.

The Thread Screen campaign is part of a larger digital innovation initiative by Forever 21 to experiment with connected experiences that anyone in the world can participate in.

In an interview with Creative Review, Breakfast creative director Andrew Zolty explained, “Forever 21 was looking to experiment with something quite different from what they’ve done in the past. They gave us a rather open brief, and from the start we knew we wanted to build a web-connected experience that anyone could try from anywhere in the world. We focused on thread, with it being the most basic element of fashion and quite versatile. We also focused on Instagram, as it’s the most artistic/creative of the social networks, and Forever 21 has a massive following on there (7.5 million).”

Thread Screen 2

While it’s unclear what the future holds for the Thread Screen, in an interview with Wired, Zolty notes that the technology does have the capability to be taken on the road or installed in other locations.

What is clear, however, is the value of delivering unique and personalized digital experiences that appeal to consumers while remaining true to your brand values. Although not every company can build the equivalent of a Thread Screen, they can leverage personalized content to put fans in the spotlight and deliver a unique experience. It just comes down to knowing your customers, understanding what will add value, and ultimately using the campaign to start or enhance an existing relationship.

The question then becomes, what’s your company’s Thread Screen?

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