Times Square Signage


Along with Piccadilly Circus, Times Square is one of the most famous sites in the world for the largest corporates to advertise their brands, but it hasn’t always been this way. Its name was established in 1904 after the New York Times moved operations to a newly built skyscraper called Times Tower on 42nd street, and the Mayor was persuaded to build a new train station near the site called ‘ Times Square’. Since the 8th of April 1904 to this day the site is has retained this same name. The area wasted no time in starting its development into what it now represents, as just three weeks after the name change the first electrified advertisement appeared.

In 1913, the intersection on 42nd street and Broadway was chosen to be the Eastern Terminus of the first road to go from coast to coast of the United States. The road would pass through 13 states and be 3,389 miles long. The First World War (1914-1918) provided a massive economic boom for America, which would push Times Square into further success and notoriety in the 1920’s.  Advertising was a massive growth area in this period, as corporate America expanded drastically and consumerism began to take hold. The Wrigley Spearmint Gum sign, which at the time was apparently the largest sign in the world, cost $9000 a month to rent. In todays money that is equivalent to over $110,000 dollars.

However, with the Great Depression of the 1930’s, the growth and prosperity of the now famous site dramatically declined. Residents moved elsewhere for cheaper rents and several theatres closed down, often being replaced by saloons and brothels. It’s with this change that Times Square became less known for its dazzling lights and entertainment, and more associated with crime. Despite its reputation shift, it continued to host New Year events and was the site for VE day celebrations after Nazi Germany was defeated World War 2, and was subsequently the site for celebrations when Japan eventually surrendered later in 1945.

Into the post World War Two period and decades beyond, Times Square retained its reputation as sex shops and adult theatres remained commonplace. The area was still a busy cross section, so advertisers did continue to invest in billboards, electronic signage and neon lighting. However, tourists often kept away from the block due to its notoriety, therefor limiting the number of visitors to the site. (PICTURE 3). Any hope of Times Square emerging from these somewhat dark days emerged in the late 1980’s as long-term development plans were announced and local government took decisive action in order to improve the area. By the mid 1990’s extra security was placed in the area, sex shops and adult theatres were closed down, tourist friendly attractions were built and upscale establishments were opened. This created a safer and cleaner neighbourhood that laid the foundations for the now popular tourist destination.

Since then there has been dramatic investment from all sorts of companies. For example Good Morning America is broadcast live from the site and many companies such as McDonalds and M&Ms have retail stores. Ultimately, this all increases footfall and traffic to the junction, which is why it is now renowned for its signage.

Today, Time Square receives over 131 million visitors a year and every inch of advertising spaced if filled with the world’s biggest brands. This includes the likes of Coco-Cola, who have had a sign in place for over 80 years, with their 3D high-tech display which stands more than 6 stories high. The 30-ton display uses more than 2.6 million LEDs and has the clarity of a HD TV.  The money these large companies invest into their signage at Times Square demonstrates how important it is for any business to ensure their brand is seen and recognised, in order to stay in the mind of customers, however big or small.