Times Square Display is Largest 4K Screen in the World

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Nine stories tall with 23 million pixels, Vornado Realty Trust’s 4K screen is the largest in the world. To unveil the Times Square display and demonstrate to potential advertisers its scale, resolution and capacity for interactivity, Second Story created a spectacular transmedia exhibition that positioned the audience as co-creators of content.

Nominating Company: Second Story, part of SapientNitro; Portland, Oregon
Venue: Times Square 4K Screen Launch for Vornado Realty Trust; New York, NY
Project: Vornado Realty Trust’s 4K screen
Category: Public Spaces

BACKGROUND
In 2014, Vornado Realty Trust, one of the most successful owners and managers of commercial real estate in the United States, purchased the world’s largest 4K screen. Nine stories tall, a city-block long and intended for installation on the façade of Times Square’s Marriott Marquis hotel, the display reaches more than 400,000 pedestrians, drivers and passengers each day.

Vornado brought on the Second Story team to activate the digital billboard for the very first time, showcasing to prospective advertisers and the public its monumental scale, breathtaking clarity and capacity for interactivity. It was a dream job for a design studio: Demonstrate to everyone, from industry VIPS to tourists, what 23 million pixels can do.

We envisioned a departure from traditional marketing strategies, viewing the launch as an opportunity for an artistic intervention in the most unlikely of places.
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CHALLENGES
The launch date was firm and well-advertised, giving us just eight weeks between the project’s kick-off and the screen’s debut. The timeline was tight for an effort of this scale, and with collaborators in New York, Portland, Oregon, and the U.K., along with multiple vested stakeholders, even the basic logistics were complex. We were dealing with parallel production tracks to create the display media, an interactive suite and print materials, in addition to planning a VIP party and handling event space design and fabrication.

Finally, and most significantly, we were working with new technologies on the world’s brightest stage. The technical challenge with the display was not only natively driving the 2,368 pixels by 10,053 resolution at a high frame-rate and synchronizing all the many display heads to form a single canvas, but also allowing the audience at the launch to co-create the content to be displayed.

SOLUTIONS
The current advertising landscape in Times Square focuses on one-way display systems that don’t prioritize audience engagement. While there is potential to push the technical capabilities of digital canvases and really change the way brands connect with consumers, incorporating interactivity is still a nascent approach. We viewed the launch of Vornado’s display as a chance to change the conversation about art, technology and commerce.

On November 18, 2014, we showcased the screen’s capabilities through a spectacular transmedia exhibition full of color, sound and movement. From a custom-built, 2,500-square-foot “cold shell” retail space just below the screen, we engaged media buyers and industry VIPs as more than just spectators. They participated in interactive co-creation of content on an unprecedented scale, using tablets to combine a series of visual and audio elements into their own personal film. These stunning custom creations were then linked to bring the screen to life.
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RESULTS
The screen’s launch captured the attention of the public and the press, resulting in an estimated 530 million media impressions between November 17th and November 19th. The display was featured everywhere from The New York Times to Fast Company, the BBC and The Wall Street Journal.

Most importantly, the event attracted its primary targets: media buyers. Immediately after the launch, the screen was leased out for two years.

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