Monday, January 05, 2009

2008 Times Square wrap-up

Since much attention is focused on Times Square around the holidays, it's not unusual to see articles in the paper focusing on its history, heritage, or current status as a New York City icon. However, seeing more articles about the kinds of ads featured there is still a little unusual.  Sure it's one of the few places in the world where people actually go to see the ads (versus avoid them), and sure lots of big brands will try out their daring, new campaign ideas there. But thanks to increased interest in both the digital advertising sector and the out-of-home sector, 2008 turned out to be a banner year (no pun intended, I swear) for Times Square.

Wired Magazine's Meghan Keane did a nice wrap-up story about the new tech powering the square, including the ability for advertisers to change ads on a minute-by-minute basis, and interact with viewers via their mobile devices. There's a lot of detail about the Square's current capabilities as well as the upgrades it got in 2008, so is worth a quick read by anybody interested in digital out-of-home advertising.

MediaPost also did a neat article last week about Pepsi's latest Times Square extravaganza that's worth clicking on if only to look at the cool image.  For the big New Year's Eve bash the firm combined digital signage, event marketing, billboards, pop-up stores, mobile media and probably a bunch of other niche plays to "carbonate" Times Square (by dropping thousands of baloons onto revelers), and then let them use a Pepsi sound stage and their mobile cameras to talk about their experience being carbonated. It's clearly not the kind of thing that the brand could do every day, but it has generated a lot of buzz for them already, and probably some considerable goodwill (well, for anybody who was there and can actually still remember anything).

More big things are being planned for 2009. We'll see a few more screens get upgraded to 720p resolution (and maybe somebody will decide to go all the way to 1080p, though that's twice the number of pixels). Campaigns featuring mobile interactivity will increase dramatically. And there will probably be more good-hearted gimmicks, like Coke's transition to wind power for their billboards (a consortium of 30 digital billboard operators have switched, which will, "prevent the release of 1,866 metric tons of carbon dioxide each year. To put that in human terms, the wind-powering of Coca-Cola's billboard alone will have the equivalent effect of removing 75 passenger automobiles from the road for one year or converting 38 households to wind power for one year. The "greening" of the Coca-Cola billboard is also equivalent to reducing 376 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually or planting 471.5 acres of trees."

All in all, 2009 looks to be another good year for Times Square.

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