Despite the nasty economic climate, digital signage always has a big place in the celebratory moments surrounding the new year – from Times Square to the Super Bowl, American pop culture still has a keen eye for the big visual – and interactive – displays that help us pronounce ourselves to the world at our most exuberant. Certainly New Year’s Eve in New York City is all about big digital signs lighting the way to 2009. According to Wired, Times Square -- with 42 digital billboards, many of them with new HD features -- is the place where the future of digital signage begins. “This year, the space has made big strides from its life as a three dimensional advertising surface to an outdoor, interactive entertainment center.”
The first piece of news to heighten the excitement is high definition: Closest to people on the street and impressive with its giant red lettering, the new JVC billboard, which measures 19 feet by 34 feet, is being promoted by the company as the first 720-line progressive big screen in Times Square, with a widescreen 16:9 aspect ratio. According to Broadcasting Cable news, Walgreens has also contributed to the high-definition video landscape at One Times Square, featuring advertising from Walgreen’s and its suppliers.
The second piece of big news is interactivity: On New Year’s Eve, JVC took its technology one step further by making it possible for anyone to take a photo with their cellphone, send it to firstname.lastname@example.org and, moments later (after it was approved), the picture would show up on the billboard. Later, people could retrieve a copy of their photo as it appeared on the billboard. JVC is hoping that these mementos of First Night 2009 (with the JVC logo prominently displayed) will turn into screensavers, desktop photos, wallpaper, and shared items that spread goodwill and brand information across the country.
That wasn’t the only digital distraction to be had if you braved the cold to watch the ball drop: MTV sponsored a similar (but less sophisticated) campaign to allow people to have their text messages appear on MTV’s own high definition screen. Rather than standing around waiting for the big moment, groups could play Scene It? and other games on Spec’s big street-level screens.
The third piece of fun -- and yes, it's being promoted as fun -- is green technology: Ricoh and Coca Cola both boasted of their new green presence in Time’s Square– not only are they part of a group of 30 wind-powered billboards in a three building span, but Coke’s ad campaign focuses on what they’re doing in general that’s environmentally friendly. Coke has taken its message out into the streets as well as on its signs, with booths and direct market promotions to help shape its new 2009 image as a ecologically progressive product. We'll have to check back later in the year and see how economically-battered consumers react to the re-branding of such pop culture "junk" consumables as Coke and McDonald's. At least the digital signage industry may benefit from the "greening" of its most visible locations.