December 13, 2006
Times Square: A Publishing Platform?

Many of you may have already ran across Louise Story's article in Monday's New York Times about the ways in which Times Square has become an important icon in viral marketing. The ads that appear in the famous Manhattan area are seen by millions of tourists but have their reach expanded even more now that publishing photos through blogs and sites like Flickr has become a more prominent activity.

The article attempts to give some cursory information about how prominent that reach can be and how far your message can travel across geographic boundaries just by making an appearance in Times Square.

Story writes that, as opposed to the ad campaigns that involve billboards, marketers are increasingly interested in "low cost, face-to-face marketing campaigns" which are more easily photographed and spread by passersby.

"Hosting events in Times Square, advertisers said, is like buying product placement in a TV show or a movie -- except the cameras are held by consumers and the placement is on the Internet," Story said. The case most heavily used by Story is a Procter & Gamble display for its product Charmin, which set up public toilets to promote their product. She reports that videos of these public toilets have been viewed on YouTube more than 7,400 times.

Certainly, the focus here is on creating experience events that will drive people to then spread the word themselves. But Lori Roinson, senior vice president of Hill and Knowlton, has a good point when she says that, despite Times Square being one of the most viewed places in the world, there is somewhat of a saturation point.

The title of this post comes from a quote from Peter Stabler of Goodby, Silverstein and Partners, who says, "What happens in Times Square is no longer strictly the province of location. You can experience things that are happening there, even if you're not there."

Last year, I wrote about the beauty of using scenes depicting Times Square in films and television, where the choices for ads on billboards could be sites of additional revenue for the film. At the time, news had broke that Peter Jackson wanted to recreate the Times Square of 1933 as accurately as possible, but Columbia Pictures refused to allow the Columbia logo in the film without getting paid for its use. I wrote, "So, imagine this...The producers of King Kong, a film getting massive amounts of hype and guaranteed to be seen by a huge audience, want to put a big sign for Columbia Pictures in their film, despite being competiton, but Sony refuses this prominent product placement because they want to get paid? Am I missing something? Or are they?"

And back in May, I wrote about Fenway Park as another site that drives a huge amount of traffic and the importance that fan tourism and the experience economy can drive. Considering the number of people who take and share pictures at sites like these, should that viral marketing aftermath of fan tourism be taken into account?

See my post last month in response to another of Story's...well...stories about Google's branching into more traditional corners of the advertising industry.

Thanks to William Uricchio for passing this along.