As long as a football field and eight stories tall, the largest and most expensive billboard to light up Times Square was unveiled last week, on the night of November 18.
The magnificent monstrosity takes up almost a whole New York City block in front of the Marriott Marquis Hotel. You know, the one with the revolving restaurant at the top. The digital spectacle is part of a $140 million project to expand and redevelop the Marriott Marquis retail space. With a 24 million LED pixel screen, it’s being touted as the world’s largest high-definition display.
“Size definitely matters in this case,” says CBS business analyst Jill Schlesinger on wbur’s Here and Now radio show with Jeremy Hobson.
The billboard was built and installed by Clear Channel Spectacolor, a digital signage provider offering ‘one-stop-shop’ services from site development and sign massing to creative, engineering, construction, and maintenance of each display. Clear Channel president Harry Coghlan says the display will be a game-changer for the industry.
“It means we are on par with all other media in terms of our immediacy, our impact and being in the real-time. The capabilities here have put us on par with the the broadcast outlets today,” he says.
There is something about advertising in Times Square that is unlike any other location. Schlesinger says one third of people walking through Times Square are New Yorkers, who may not necessarily look up at the advertisements. But that leaves two-thirds of the estimated 300,000 people a day who walk through Times Square as likely tourists of the city, bound to share the sights of the Square on social media and with friends.
“It’s a destination by itself,” says Coghlan. “Over time, as content is developed and brands start to engage and deliver their brand experiences, you will see people come here and say ‘when you are in the middle of Times Square you’ve got to see this display.’”
The first company to receive this bounty of unique advertising real estate is Google, who bought the first ad on the eight-story display. The amount Google paid for the ad is undisclosed, but according to Clear Channel, one month of advertising is set to cost $2.5 million.
Of course, Google was getting mileage out of the ad before it even went up. Leading up to the unveiling, a plain black screen teased a countdown along with the words “Change is Constant.”
Watch a video of the opening night content below.