NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Securing prime outdoor advertising real estate just got easier. Clear Channel Spectacolor, the digital signage arm of the company's outdoor division, unveiled Times Square Domination, which will aggregate ad sales for five of the New York location's largest digital billboards. Clear Channel pulled together sign owners Spectacolor, Nasdaq, Reuters, News Corp. and ABC Sports and Entertainment to cooperate and sell the signs together.
"Buying all these signs at one time has been effectively impossible," said Tom Hennigan, president of P.R.omotion, the company that will lead the ad sales of the Times Square consortium, which also debuted a new website.
The growth and competition among digital billboards comes amid the decline of static signage in Times Square, which has seen ad rates plunge anywhere from 15% to 25% in recent months, with less turnover between campaigns.
Ryan Laul, managing director for Hyperspace, a media agency that buys digital out-of-home for Motorola, Schick, CVS and other brands, said more clients have moved toward digital billboards in Times Square because of the creative flexibility and shorter lead-time to secure inventory.
"Digital display technology allows you to sync up campaigns so that all the signs work really well together," he said. "In some cases you may want to buy every screen for one full, dedicated hour, or 200 minutes a day and spread it evenly, or two minutes an hour. It allows us to really dominate an area for a product launch or a timely event."
Not for everyone
Ray Rotolo, senior VP-managing director of Havas' Chrysalis, cautioned that Times Square as a market isn't always the best place for some clients. "The clutter factor is becoming a major issue for some," he said. "But we've tried roadblocking before, and for some clients it's worked. [The Times Square Domination] changes the game because there's audio involved, and it's become almost a live opportunity to interact with the people that are there. The question now is, how can we really creatively look at this and make it work the best for us?"
A buy across Times Square Domination's five screens, based on current rates, would likely run well into the $500,000 to $750,000 range, according to buyer estimates, although terms of deals under the new unit have yet to be discussed, Mr. Rotolo added. Pricing in the area has also gotten more competitive with the recent addition of major digital billboards at Walgreen's on 43rd Street and Broadway and the American Eagle sign on Broadway and 46th Street.
The Times Square audience (565,000 daily visitors, 47 million annually) also tends to spend more time in the area with the recent renovation of the last-minute Broadway ticket seller TKTS booth on 47th Street and Broadway, and the closing of the area to car traffic.
Another addition soon to come is the Times Square Network, a new cable-esque programming network Spectacolor will debut in 2010 on its digital video screen above the W Hotel.
Michael Steinberg, Spectacolor's VP-sales and marketing, said the network will feature news updates from current editorial partner CNN and fully sponsored original programming, including entertainment news, cooking segments and a tentative series profiling one of the the neighborhood's notorious personalities, the Naked Cowboy.
"We want to have out-of-home advertising become a destination in New York," Mr. Steinberg said.
Spectacolor President Harry Coghlan was also open to testing the digital billboard ad-network approach to other markets such as Las Vegas and Los Angeles, should the initial results in Times Square pay off. "It's a portable concept that could work with technology as a backdrop," he said.