It’s freezing in Times Square, but curiosity builds as a block-long billboard proclaiming “change is constant” counts down to 7:30 p.m. When the times comes, the 25,000-square-foot screen comes to life, as abstract digital landscapes, streamers and bursts of color parade across the screen. Owned by Vornado Realty Trust and marketed by Clear Channel Spectacolor, this is now the highest contrast LED screen in the U.S.
All of the hub’s usual suspects pause to watch the spectacle -- costumed characters and tourists alike reaching for their phones. When the minutelong (or so) video, created by interactive design company Universal Everything and produced by Second Story, is over, the loop begins again.
London-based production managers Aaron Raybe and Andy Turley are among the spectators. Staying in a hotel nearby, they heard about the unveil on the news and decided to check it out. Raybe worked with an earlier type of LED screen for a U2 show and is awed by how far the technology has come.
“The sheer scale is incredible,” he says of the billboard, which, with a pixel density of 2,368 x 10,048, is the highest-resolution LED video display in the world of its size. The men muse as to which brand will be the first to take on the enviable advertising real estate, laughing when they find out it will be none other than Google.
Harry Coghlan, president and general manager of Clear Channel Outdoor New York, is confident that Google understands the spirit behind the “reimagining” of this Times Square space. The concept for the billboard has been two years in the making and the inaugural display was top secret. Coghlan, too, is seeing the video for the first time.
Coghlan explains that the project wouldn’t have been possible without Times Square clean-up efforts beginning with NYC Mayor David Dinkins in the early 1990s and Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s creation of a pedestrian plaza on Broadway.
A recent survey by the Times Square Alliance found that of 2,000 respondents, 83% agreed that "signs and advertisements add to the appeal of Times Square." That's nearly as many as the percentage that say Broadway shows add to the area's appeal.
Coghlan calls the new digital display “contemporary” and “edgy” -- one almost forgets the endeavor is commercial at its core: “I always see it as art, but what you hope is that the brand will see it as art.”
And the pedestrians? As the video loops on, its soundtrack reaching a crescendo that is audible from inside the nearest metro stop, there is noticeably less curiosity from the chilly streets. The behemoth settles into the background.
“Change is constant,” indeed.
North America's most expensive billboard launches in Times Square https://t.co/aDgw8aXxeT
— IBTimes (@IBTimes) November 19, 2014