Times Square Offers Optimal Exposure for Brands, but Is Its Pricey Advertising Really Worth It?

Do millions of diverse passersby make promising potential customers?

On busy days, more than 480,000 pedestrians are exposed to the billboards of Times Square.
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It’s no coincidence that Advertising Week, which kicks off today, is situated in a neighborhood famed for being the most valuable advertising space on earth. We speak, of course, of Times Square. For the brands that can afford it, this handful of city blocks promises a massive, diverse and constantly changing stream of people pretty much around the clock. But just how promising are those pedestrians as possible customers?

The Times Square Advertising Coalition recently conducted a study of the wide-eyed masses, and the results (presented below) sparkle with the sort of demographic tidbits that make brand marketers salivate. Not only are the visitors young and highly active on social media, they’ll spend 8 minutes of the average 81-minute visit giving their undivided attention to advertising billboards.

“Times Square remains the most colorful and vibrant commercial corridor on earth,” TSAC’s website reads, “guaranteeing optimal brand exposure and excitement for its media partners.”

Promise of that exposure is why companies will drop as much as $4 million on a billboard. But that doesn’t mean everyone thinks the area is worth the price of admission.

Media buyer Snehann Kapnadak points out that, in this age of targeted marketing, advertisers in Times Square wind up with a nondifferentiated audience that may never fit their customer profile. “I understand that advertisers’ eyes light up when they hear about the thousands of people who walk through [Times Square] every day,” he said. “But the end result is brands are targeting tourists who may not have the resources and spending capability to invest in the brand. It’s more fruitful for a brand to invest their marketing dollars into a more targeted space.”

This story first appeared in the Sept. 25, 2017, issue of Adweek magazine. Click here to subscribe.