Two-Way Play: Spectacolor Goes HD and Interactive

The Washington, D.C. Mall wasn’t the only place where crowds gathered to watch President Barack Obama’s inauguration. An estimated 4,000 people also flocked to New York’s Times Square to view the historic event broadcast by CNN on the 40-foot by 40-foot SpectacolorHD screen in Duffy Square at 47th and Broadway.

Spectacolor has come a long way since it was founded in 1976. While the Clear Channel Outdoor division has always been about creating eye-popping, unique spectacular displays for advertisers such as JVC and Planter’s Mr. Peanut in iconic Times Square, technology advances have helped shape new directions for Spectacolor. Through a new division called Spectacolor Experience, Spectacolor is now transforming the formerly one-way medium into an interactive one that engages the consumer by leveraging interactive features and one-of-a-kind events.

“We realized that the pedestrian marketplace is a great place for experiential marketing,” says Harry Coghlan, president and general manager of Clear Channel Spectacolor. “Our goal is to be a full-service media provider to help brands integrate within the environment.”

At the epicenter of Spectacolor’s new experiential strategy is the HD screen launched in 2007. Along with displaying full-motion video in high definition, the sign is equipped with advanced interactive features that invite passersby to download content, listen to audio (including on mobile devices), text messages or play games.

CNN soon signed on as the sign’s content partner, broadcasting headlines, news and weather. As part of that deal, CNN can also preempt other advertising that runs on the signage to break news. Last summer, Spectacolor and CNN partnered with Civic Entertainment to produce Times Square’s first-ever viewing party for the Democratic and Republican parties’ acceptance speeches.

Some of the technology built into the sign has led to new discussions with advertisers. Jumbli, an interactive texting word game, attracted the attention of AT&T. Not only did AT&T sponsor the game on the HD sign, it created an entire campaign around the concept throughout November and December by extending the game to a page on Facebook (where it drew 300,000 unique users) and to digital screens in bars and restaurants. Winning AT&T Jumbli participants received Pantech Slate phones.

Spectacolor has another new idea it’s floating to advertisers: sponsoring the area’s first-ever Times Square sign on the tall, thin space (150-foot tall by 12-foot wide) currently occupied by Argent insurance.

“You have the Hollywood sign [and] the Las Vegas sign, yet here is a destination that is built around signs and it doesn’t have its own,” muses Coghlan. “We believe it would be the most photographed sign in the world. And the brand that sponsors it could be known as the brand that brought the Times Square sign to Times Square.”