The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) leveraged one of the world’s highest-visibility events of the year to encourage public participation in the long-running “If You See Something, Say Something” security awareness campaign by inviting people celebrating New Year’s Eve in Times Square to submit selfies from the event for posting on the giant digital billboard screen located in the heart of the ball drop festivities.
The initiative, developed by New York-based agency Arcade Creative Group, asked attendees in Times Square to text selfies to a number with the hashtag #KeepNYSafe. Submitted photos were reviewed and approved according to the agency’s moderation guidelines, framed in the “If You See Something, Say Something” campaign’s iconic yellow border and displayed on the block-long HD LED digital screen at 1535 Broadway that night and again on New Year’s Day for about 15 seconds each.
By the end of the effort, the MTA received over 600 submissions and posted 524 selfie images on the giant HD screen, including one from pop group DNCE featuring Joe Jonas.
In addition to being seen by the estimated one million people in Times Square on New Year’s Eve, the selfie images on display were also visible multiple times in the background during the hours of national and international broadcast coverage by networks including ABC, CBS, Fox and CNN. The images were also shared on the MTA’s Facebook, Twitter and other social media accounts, and participants were encouraged to share their framed images on their own social media. A teaser campaign informing the public about the MTA’s New Year’s Eve selfie opportunity broke during the last week of December.
“New Yorkers Keep New York Safe”, the latest iteration of the widely recognized “If You See Something, Say Something” campaign, was developed for the MTA by Arcade Creative Group and Pulsar Advertising, who form Pulsar-Arcade for MTA work. Adam Owett, president and founder, Arcade (https://www.arcadecg.com), said the selfie program was “the ultimate expression” of the campaign’s inclusiveness.
“Everyone had the chance to — literally — get their 15 seconds of fame,” Owett said. “It was a way to draw a lot of attention at a very high profile moment to this very important campaign.”
First launched throughout the MTA’s regional transportation system in late 2002, “If You See Something, Say Something” is a collaborative effort the MTA has undertaken with City, State and Federal governments to give MTA customers the means to join the police and MTA employees as watchful partners, helping to ensure security within the transportation system.
The New Year’s Eve selfie component of the campaign draws upon the slogan “New Yorkers Keep New York Safe,” said Mark Heavey, the MTA’s Director of Marketing and Advertising.
“Since 2002 when we first launched the ‘If You See Something, Say Something’ campaign, we have always had the objective of enlisting the eyes and ears of all eight million New Yorkers to be watchful and vigilant, because many of them that use our system tend to be creatures of habit, as we all are,” said Heavey. “They’ll ride the same train or the same bus at the same time, often in the same seat that they prefer, and there’s nobody better to notice something out of the ordinary.”
“This New Year’s Eve selfie program was another way to invite the million people who congregate in Times Square for the ball drop to become part of the campaign, to see their pictures and show that they’re one of the New Yorkers keeping New York safe,” Heavey added.
Any selfies that included racist or hateful content, nudity, obscene gestures or political messages, or which showed the consumption of drugs or alcohol or did not immediately appear to have been taken in New York City were not considered for inclusion in the campaign.
Raymond Diaz, the MTA’s Director of Security, noted that New Yorkers helped make a big difference in keeping the city safe over the holiday weekend.
“There’s a limited number of law enforcement people out there but there are a lot of people living in this city, so there’s a lot of eyes and ears out there that see something,” Diaz said. “On the law enforcement and police and security part, we’re doing all we can to keep this city safe and keep the events of the holiday season safe, and people can definitely help us by letting us know when they see something they’re uncomfortable about.”
The MTA has produced nine “generations” of the very successful “If You See Something, Say Something” campaign, which is funded by grants from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS). In 2010, the DHS requested permission from the MTA to use the slogan nationwide.
Arcade Creative Group (https://www.arcadecg.com) is a New York-based advertising agency experienced at helping brands such as the MTA, KPMG, American Express, PUMA, The Coca-Cola Company, Unilever, Ford, Honda and others build and sustain cultural relevance by creating authentic and ownable identities, campaigns and cross-platform experiences. Arcade is comprised of three unique but integrated service offerings: Arcade Creative Group for advertising and design, Arcade Music & Entertainment for strategic, creative and experiential activations, and Arcade Productions for full-service content development.
About MTA-New Yorkers Keep New York Safe Campaign
The MTA’s newest security effort builds on the success of the iconic “See Something, Say Something” campaign by telling the story of what happens when real New Yorkers report suspicious activity in the metropolitan transit system.
Our new work, “New Yorkers Keep New York Safe” created by Arcade Creative Group and partner agency Pulsar Advertising, centers around community heroes: brave, every day New Yorkers who chose to step out of their hectic lives and take a moment to alert authorities of suspicious or potentially life threatening events.
Working with real MTA riders we uncovered the emotional impact of what it means to “say something” and why it is important to do so — in their own words.