The hi-tech ads featured there are designed to wow the crowds who capture their visits to this crossroads in selfies shared around the world. And the companies that cut the deal for the space – advertising firm New Tradition and the property’s owner Jamestown – are counting on digital vanity to attract big brands and equally big bucks to some of the hottest in-your-face-space in the city.
“Times Square is the only place where the ultimate attraction is the advertisements itself,” said Scott Alessandro, president of New Tradition, one of the country’s largest out-of-home ad firms.
“Unlike when you go to the Grand Canyon, you have the beautiful landscape in the background to take a picture. The signs are ultimately that in Times Square.”
Signage in Times Square has long been an attractant for visitors, locals and companies playing to their spending power.
“If you don’t see it in Times Square, then it’s not an advertisement worth advertising,” said Kansas City resident Debby Rogers, who was visiting New York for the first time with her husband Jack Rogers.
During World War II, a pilot dragged on a cigarette from a billboard on the Claridge Hotel, sending puffs of smoke across Broadway. Later, the Marlboro Man took his place. And steam rising from a huge cup of Maxwell House coffee had plenty of sidewalk appeal. Tourists snapped away with Kodaks and Polaroids.
Now, they gaze with phones in hand at Judy and Freddy, wacky inflatable air dancers with rainbow arms waving from atop the Hard Rock Café across from One Times Square. Custom ordered online for $1,000, the display is the brainchild of Hard Rock’s event manager Paul Justin Scott.
“In a world of selfies we’re all looking for what to take a picture with so we can look even better in our daily life," Scott told the Daily News.
New Tradition has been developing ads to interact with the nearly 380,000 daily visitors to Times Square. Alessandro, 39, intends for companies like T-Mobile to be able to live-stream over visitor’s smart phones.
Some 70 digital and 45 traditional billboards offer a neon panorama that turns up all over social media.
“We took photos from both sides of Times Square, it’s so eye catching!” German student Alpay Koca told The News.
“If you’re in New York, you have to take a picture of Times Square, for sure, in front of the advertisements,” said fellow student Julius Zimbo, “If you see the pictures with the skyscrapers and all the skyscrapers around it, you know automatically it’s New York and, I guess that’s the point?”
Sometimes, however, the saturation can lead to sensory overload so displays must be unique to keep grabbing attention.
Scott says that even with a 350-foot Cardi B or a pair of 200-foot humpback whales designed by French artists, it’s easy for people to zone out.
“There’s a tendency of going through Times Square where you look at the graphics, and they’re there, but you don’t even look at them anymore,” Scott explained.
Explaining air dancers Judy and Freddy, Scott said, “I installed it on June 1st and while I was on vacation, I was checking different tags on social media and realizing people are really digging these. It was really, really nice to know you’re able to get people’s attention when they’re in Times Square.”
Times Square Advertising Coalition spokesman George Lence said the aim is to get as many eyeballs on Times Square advertising as possible. He said visitors spend about 81 minutes there and 8 minutes looking at billboards. Advertisers spend about $200 million a year on Times Square space.
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“The goal is to transport people from the physical world to the digital world,” said Alessandro. “It’s a natural playground.”
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