Walgreens lights up colossal multi-component LED sign in Times Square

Nov. 25, 2008
The massive 250,000-pound sign is programmed from street level to 341 feet high at the top of the building.
Walgreens' billboard

On November 20, Walgreens lit up its huge digital multi-component sign that wraps itself around three sides of New York City’s One Times Square building. The electronic billboard contains 12 million LEDs spanning 17,000 square feet and soars 341 feet above the street.

That same day, the pharmacy chain opened its 16,000-square-foot flagship store on the building's first three levels.

The diagonal stripes skyrocketing 17 stories on the east and west sides of the building are programmed to display synchronized animation delivering messages and images 20 hours a day (off-time runs from 2-6am).

The One Times Square store, which will also be surrounded by 13 digital signs at street level, is located on the island between Broadway and Seventh Avenue and 42nd and 43rd Streets. Reportedly, more than 1.6 million people pass by the building each day.

Installation "This special location demanded something completely different than anything ever seen on Times Square," added Arthur Gilmore, president and CEO, Gilmore Group, whose designers conceived the giant diagonal video screens that soar from street level to rooftop. "The digital signage runs around the bottom of the entire building and ascends to embrace One Times Square like a giant slash that visually dominates the vista on all sides."

Gilmore Group supervised the construction in partnership with the Walgreen company and technology firm D3 LED.

New York-based D3 LED, the designer of the high-tech hardware and software for the sign, says that the high-resolution graphics are running on 10,987 modules, each containing 1,024 to 1,600 pixels.

“Not only is the Walgreens spectacular the largest display of its kind in the country, but it truly breaks the mold in the way it interacts with consumers,” said Jason Barak, founding partner, D3 LED. “Using D3’s proprietary LED technology, we created a display that virtually reaches out and grabs the attention of consumers.”

Advertising and content
Walgreens' One Times Square sign will deliver content in an endless loop of paid advertising, Walgreens' branding and promotions and Times Square nostalgia. Each hour of programming will include up to 30 minutes of paid advertising (six minutes maximum per hour per brand), plus Walgreens branding and promotional spots, and animated interstitial material.

"Producing content for Walgreens One Times Square poses some interesting challenges," said Gilmore Group managing director Greg Tribbe. "We have to craft messages that will stop people in their tracks so we took inspiration from the traditional billboard style along with a healthy dose of influence from [the movies] 'Blade Runner' and 'Minority Report.'"

Since passersby will engage and dis-engage with the content in an on-going manner, the animation cannot follow traditional advertising story cycles. Instead it must cover the entire story idea at a glance and be visually stimulating enough to get people to look up and hold their attention."

And hopefully not run into a taxicab.