Yahoo! Billboard Goes Live in Times Square

NEW YORK To promote its automotive Web site, Yahoo! and interactive shop R/GA have created a billboard that allows pedestrians to play a video game broadcast on part of the 23-stories-tall Reuters sign in Times Square here via their cell phones.

The billboard, which went live on Monday and will operate through April 22, is timed to coincide with the New York International Automotive Show being held April 9-18.

It also coincides with the launch of the revamped Yahoo! auto site, which now offers a personalized research section, among other features.

Pedestrians can call a number listed on the sign and queue up to play the 45-second game, in which two cars race. Participants can compete against each other or a computer. The board also lists the car site’s URL,

As of Wednesday morning, 200 people had played the game. A Sunnyvale, Calif.-based Yahoo! representative said the company expects more than 1,000 to have participated by April 22.

The Reuters sign is the only one in Times Square that allows this degree of interaction, according to Bob Greenberg, chairman and CEO of R/GA in New York, because it is digital.

“It’s not just a Betacam player in the back of the Nasdaq sign bringing full-motion video on a large scale in Times Square,” Greenberg said. “It’s completely programmable.”

R/GA, which has helped create software for the Reuters sign for nearly three years, developed the technology and game design for the billboard, while Yahoo! created the visual look of the video car race.

The company’s sign technology, called RFIB and similar to toll roads’ Easy-Pass systems, could be expanded to customized billboards in the near future, according to John Mayo-Smith, vice president of technology at R/GA. For example, a digital billboard might be programmed to have a different image depending on whether a car or a motorcycle passed it.

“The whole point of this is to take the outdoor channel to the next level,” said Mayo-Smith. “If you can do that in Times Square, you can do that anywhere.”