This Friday, Apple will open its largest retail store yet, a 23,000-square-foot location inside New York's Grand Central Terminal. As befits the occasion, the company has been teasing the new store with a special out-of-home execution inside the train station's main concourse.
Some 58 Apple displays, arranged in two long rows of 29 each, mimic the familiar split-flap display of an old-school departure board—with gobbledygook letters cycling through and eventually resolving into sentences. In this case, it's teaser copy for the store. The lines include "Only one bar in Grand Central has Geniuses," "It's one big Apple information booth," "Drop off your Mac at 8:42. Pick it up at 6:29," "Grab an iPod touch. You'll wish your commute was longer," and "Soon, missing your train won't be so bad." It's classic Apple—taking an old technology and putting a pleasant new spin on it. (Apple did the board in-house. TBWA confirms it was not involved.) It's also a great and respectful site-specific execution in one of the city's great landmarks. (There's also a small version on the new store's website.)
Of course, there are potential pitfalls. One benefit of the old split-flap displays is that they continued to show information (albeit with a short shelf life) in the event of a power outage, when digital displays simply go dark. Digital displays are also subject to software glitches. But so far, at least, there have been no reports of problems with the Apple board. The station hasn't had any electricity issues, and Apple's famously reliable software so far is working as advertised.