Commentary

Digital Outsider: It's All About NYC

Surveying the proliferation of digital signage around New York last week, one could be forgiven for thinking the city had been colonized by visitors from the planet Doohv. Actually it was just Clear Channel Outdoor, for the most part, and they're not just visiting.

Where to start? At the beginning: first came the unveiling of Clear Channel's "Times Square Sign" in -- where else -- Times Square, which the company hopes will acquire an iconic status akin to the Hollywood sign. From its perch on 47th Street, the 1,800-square-foot LED sign (comparable in area to a starter home) will be visible 10 blocks north and south, for a total 20-block line of sight, and will reach an estimated 560,000 visitors per day, according to Clear Channel.

Only in New York would this be the prelude to something even bigger: a multi-sign consortium offering advertisers access to five of the largest digital video billboards in Times Square. The group buy, coordinated by Clear Channel, is meant to entice advertisers with the possibility of overwhelming visual dominance -- no mean feat in what may be the most visually cluttered place on earth. The multi-company media buy, with the blunt name "Times Square Domination 360," brings together properties owned by Clear Channel, ABC Regional Sports & Entertainment Sales, Nasdaq, News Corp., and Reuters.

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Separately, Clear Channel Outdoor's Spectacolor division also announced the launch of a "cable-style broadcast network" using its digital billboards in Times Square, centered on its enormous HD screen at 47th street. The network will combine television, out-of-home displays, and live events; the TV programming consists of short-form segments, live studio productions, TV crews roaming Times Square, all coordinated with a Web site and mobile interactivity.

Further afield, in White Plains, NY, Clear Channel unveiled an array of eight digital signs, each with a display surface measuring about 20 square feet in area, located on municipal property belonging to the White Plains Department of Parking, under the terms of an existing contract between the city and MD Sales & Marketing. In addition to displaying static advertising images on an eight-second loop, the signs feature scrolling digital text that will allow city officials to communicate important messages to the public. For example, signs directing parking and traffic during concerts and festivals or posting Amber Alerts and other emergency advisories. In addition to the city's 56,000 residents, the downtown sees heavy traffic by commuters coming and going from the White Plains transit hub, as well as en route to various government buildings, bringing the weekday total to over 200,000.

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