The naughty, bawdy, gaudy, sporty cacophony that is Times Square advertising is getting more organized and networked, the better to accommodate marketers seeking to reach the masses that pass through the “crossroads of the world” — and capitalize on the considerable media exposure the neighborhood attracts.
Five companies that operate some of the giant Times Square signs known as spectaculars are joining forces to make them available to advertisers in a coordinated fashion — so that with one call to the consortium, advertisers can get their ads up on several Times Square signs at the same time. Until now, outside advertisers could buy commercial time or space on their signs on a one-off, ad hoc basis; the consortium is meant to help increase the volume of such sales.
The joint effort brings together signs operated by ABC, Clear Channel Spectacolor, Reuters, Nasdaq and the News Corporation. Clear Channel Spectacolor, which has many signs in Times Square, is offering its massive digital screen at Broadway and 47th Street as part of the consortium. “The advent of digital signs” is changing the industry, said Harry Coghlan, president and general manager at Clear Channel Spectacolor. That is because their flexibility and interactivity enable them to do more than traditional signs.
The consortium is being called Times Square Domination because it provides an “ability to truly dominate Times Square,” said Tom Hennigan, president at a company called P.R.omotion, who is leading the sales operation. (However, some Times Square ad powers are not taking part in the coalition, among them Sherwood Outdoor, part of Sherwood Equities.)
The consortium is also making available complementary marketing initiatives like customized events that can be held at or near the signs and sending out so-called street teams to give away materials like product samples. Those activities, for example, could take place on the new Broadway Boulevard pedestrian plazas in the square.
The consortium was described at a news conference on Wednesday morning at the Clear Channel Spectacolor office in — where else? — Times Square. More information can be found on its Web site .
The Clear Channel Spectacolor sign that is part of the domination ad-sales package is also offering marketers some new elements of its own, under the banner of the Times Square Network. Beginning in 2010, the sign will provide programming in short segments, with audio as well as video, in regularly-scheduled slots like a TV network; plans call for a studio to be opened in Times Square to help produce the programming.
The content is to be integrated with mobile devices and the Internet, said Michael Steinberg, vice president for sales and marketing at Clear Channel Spectacolor, a part of the Clear Channel Outdoor unit of Clear Channel Communications. Some programming could be interactive, he added, to involve the pedestrians who walk through Times Square.
The consortium and network reflect more interest in coordination among the companies with stakes in the Times Square advertising scene. They follow by a couple of months the formation of the Times Square Advertising Coalition, which has about 30 members that operate or own signs, along with media companies.
When people think about Times Square, “they think about Broadway and they think about the signs,” said Tim Tompkins, a member of the board of the coalition who is also the president at the Times Square Alliance, which works to improve the neighborhood.
The coalition intends to create by fall 2010 an annual awards event called the Crossroads Awards, Mr. Tompkins said, along with a scholarship program to encourage “the best and the brightest, literally.”
The coalition will also work on ways to create “affordable marketing opportunities” for local businesses to advertise on Times Square spectaculars, he added, as well as for Broadway shows, which currently advertise almost always on static, billboard-style signs because ad rates for spectaculars are more expensive.