Walking uptown on Seventh Avenue toward Times Square in New York City, gorgeous images on large displays beckon us to look up and take notice. The location, size and brightness of the LED screens, as well as the dynamic content displayed on them, all help to grab and hold our attention.
Rapid return on investment and the ability to monetize new displays is a major consideration for new installations in the digital-out-of-home market. This is especially true in a “high-rent” district where there is foot traffic flow and an ability to reach a mass audience. When large, building-mounted signage is in a great location and is positioned for maximum viewership, it can prove very attractive to advertisers, and the net income from the sale of ad time can be substantial.
Conversely, if the display is installed too high or not angled for comfortable viewing from street level, it can have a negative impact on the customer experience and on ad sales. The installation also needs to avoid obstruction of views from inside the building. “We design signage for our customers, very specifically to meet the needs of both the retail-space tenants and potential advertisers,” said Christopher Graefe, an Associate Director at Sensory Interactive, the company that was responsible for designing and managing the signage initiatives on 9 Times Square. “For example, we try not to block a majority of the views from the windows inside the retail space because that would diminish the value of the square footage,” he explained.
Sensory Interactive works at all stages of signage: from analyzing architectural feasibility and assessing potential revenue to designing the complete installations, overseeing their construction, creating content and managing ongoing operations. Sensory Interactive was contracted by the previous owners of 9 Times Square to plan and design the building’s new digital signage program and supervise its implementation. “The owners saw how they could increase the value of the building by adding digital signage as an additional revenue stream prior to the sale of the property,” said Graefe. Late last year, New York REIT acquired 9 Times Square.
Factors such as how the signs will sit on the building, the impact on existing architectural design, and possible negative effects on tenants and neighbors during installation all have to be considered during the design phase. “After the design was approved, we competitively bid the project out to LED display manufacturers. Our process enables numerous manufacturers to look at the plans, see what the opportunity is, and then put forth their proposal and pricing,” Graefe explained, noting that Daktronics was awarded the product contract and North Shore Neon Sign was awarded the installation contract.
Signage opportunities on 9 Times Square include 3800 square feet of digital displays and 3600 square feet of static signage. The digital screens include two Daktronics 25-foot-tall 10mm LED wedges and a 100-foot LED tower positioned for maximum visibility. Illuminated static banners are also located strategically. Color-changing LED lighting on the top floors of the building add additional impact to the overall presentation.
Although “location, location, location” is the mantra of the real estate industry, location can also present numerous challenges, especially in competitive digital-out-of-home environments. The building discussed here is at the southernmost point of the Times Square District, and the LED displays can be seen as one walks up Seventh Avenue toward 42nd Street from Penn Station. “The tower display is angled specifically to be visible down Seventh Avenue, as well as from the very populated corner of the primary Times Square subway exit,” noted Graefe. “It’s one of the first signs people see as they walk up Seventh Avenue toward Times Square. We refer to it as a ‘branding beacon’ because the tower display is visible from a number of vantage points within the Times Square area,” he said. “Another unique aspect of that sign is that, presently, it is the only Times Square signage visible from Bryant Park.”
The system uses Daktronics LED displays, media servers and a content management system. “The large displays and the tower were designed to work together. They can be programmed individually, but we see the true value in using them together to create a singular dominating experience. You can see them working together in the content we designed,” observed Graefe.
For commercial realtor Newmark Grubb Knight Frank’s messages, Sensory Interactive used the tower and illuminated banners to display words such as “Be Visible, Be Seen, Be Powerful,” and the primary LED displays for dynamic imagery.
“Both the creative and how we schedule the content are designed to maximize advertiser impact,” noted Graefe. The company also creates the content for CBRE’s Retail Services Group. “Working with New York REIT and CBRE, we’ve created content to promote the benefits of available retail opportunities, including the potential of the LED displays,” noted Graefe.
As omni-channel messaging is becoming an increasingly important aspect of branding and marketing strategies, it is important to make sure that any large-scale signage system is capable of synchronizing with content across multiple media channels, including the web, mobile devices, in-store displays and social media. But that’s a topic for a future “Sign Age” column.
In advertiser-driven signage environments, revenue generation and return on investment are primary drivers. Selecting technologies and developing content strategies that maximize viewership are proven ways to increase the value of a digital signage network.