SIGNING 360° IN TIMES SQUARE

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Or, the making of the on-demand spectacular

by Louis M. Brill

NEW YORK – If a company’s going to take its message to the pinnacle of advertising in America – Times Square – why buy just one sign?

A collaboration of placement sharing and digital technology now gives brand advertisers and media planners the ability to dominate – for short periods of time – the world-famous area by using up to 19 LED sign spectaculars for coordinated advertisements and promotions. The collaboration between two companies – Times Square Domination of Hoboken, N.J.,and The WOW Factor,Inc.™ of New York and Los Angeles – opens a new dimension of third-party advertising at the famous site.

Times Square Domination (TSD360) as described by company founder Tommy Hennigan, brings together major digital spectaculars in media buys. The impressive list of signage includes 7 Times Square, the NASDAQ Marquee and Tower, the Fox Screen by SONY, Reuters, JVC Screen, ABC Super Sign and several Clear Channel Spectacular displays.

The placements of the displays, if all used in a media buy, allows a brand, message or presentation to travel completely around the interior of Times Square creating a 360° immersion effect.

The WOW Factor manages and creates content for multiple Times Square sign spectaculars. Some of their clients include Coca-Cola, Toshiba, Samsung and Hyundai. To do this, WOW Factor President/CEO Don Blanton and his team created WIND™, a proprietary digital-advertising network service.

Blanton explains that the service includes WINDplay™, a set-top box connecting a sign spectacular to the WIND™ network, which distributes advertising content to each sign. Wind™ comes with a variety of features and options including frame accurate video and audio sync capabilities, smartphone interactivity, live broadcast capabilities and social media integration.

“The beauty of WIND™,” he says, “is that we can connect any digital sign to one another, no matter the location, type of hardware or the aspect ratio.”TSD360’s Hennigan contracted the WIND™ network  to link many of the major Times Square displays into a synchronized, multiple-sign advertising solution controlled from one source. For a TSD360 campaign, the participating Times Square spectaculars switch over to WIND™ at designated times for the domination package and then return to their normal operations.

Once TSD360 content is programmed into the WIND™ operations center, it’s synchronized into a singular, media-content package that fits on all the Times Square spectaculars connected to WIND™. This becomes a “true” sync with frame accurate-precision, presenting the largest single LED continuous video canvas in the world

“It’s a solution of simplicity and one-stop shopping for the advertiser or agency,” Hennigan says. “In the previous era of third-party advertising in Times Square, it could involve costly permits, satellite trucks, microwave connections. The content had to be created specifically according to each spectacular sign’s specs and then sent individually to each sign operator for programming. This could take weeks of planning, and the process could be delayed if the content wasn’t 100-percent accurate.

“Depending on the client budget, TSD360 secures the appropriate amount of third-party Times Square advertising real estate. These spectacular signs are already connected or willing to connect to the WIND™ network; depending on the complexity, we can have a client’s advertising package set up in a day or so, rather than a few weeks.”

The caveat to each of the TSD360 activations powered by the WIND™ network Is that the spectaculars connected to the network may not always be available at one time. This could be due to prior media commitments or a brand that is a competitor for an advertiser with category exclusivity.

The historic introduction of the TSD360 powered by the WIND™ network began with Microsoft Corp.’s launch of its Windows 8 operating system in late October 2012, which used the TSD360 Super Screen network of signs.

The presentation initially took all the spectaculars black; then, in perfect synchronization, every one of the TSD360 screens lit up with the Windows 8 content. With all the digital signage in sync (as well as interactivity with street kiosks). the event turned Times Square into a Microsoft showroom with an enormous street presence of product demonstrations, giveaways and lots of photo op for spreading the brand presence.

Since that successful launch, other TSD360 projects have been offered by Viacom, Mondeléz Global/Oreo cookies, Kraft, CNN and SoBe beverages. American Express sponsored a live broadcast of the Cold play concert direct from Madrid; and most recently Univision broadcast the Enrique Iglesias concert, including the first-ever synchronized sound on the screens without the use of special equipment.

Hennigan also employed The WOW Factor'” to create special content activations with entertainment value for TSD360 special presentations that can generate even more sponsored ad revenue.

“For the corporate owners of these Times Square spectaculars, it’s a marketing vs. special revenue trade-off; says Hennigan. “The corporation owner of the spectacular is asked to provide a few minutes of sign space each activation for a TSD360 special presentation. When they do, it’s an enormous win-win for everyone, as the sign

owner gets additional ad revenue and the sponsor has made an historic marketing breakthrough by sponsoring one of the largest consumer entertainment experiences on the Times Square world stage.

“It makes quite an impact when the sponsor brand ID or message displays before and after the presentation on just about every spectacular in Times Square. The audience is left with a ‘feel -good’ experience courtesy of that brand sponsor.”

With the growing availability of digital billboards and the TSD360 powered by the WIND™ network,

advertising in Times Square is now more accessible for those brands that can’t build their own spectacular. They now have multiple digital advertising opportunities including synchronized

360° ads, and special presentations in Times Square.

“When we build SpecHD, we knew this attraction could also support a new model,” said Coghlan. “We knew that we could enable true interaction with the audience, going beyond traditional one-way broadcasts to create true two-way conversations.”

Louis M. Brill is a journalist and consultant for high-tech entertainment and media communications.

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