Hershey’s ­ How Sweet It Is: The Eye-Candy of Times Square
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Hershey’s ­ How Sweet It Is: The Eye-Candy of Times Square

In the middle of all its surrounding Times Square spectaculars, billboards and sign edifices, stands the flagship Hershey Times Square, a retail gift store which is a chocolate confectionary paradise that is the center of the chocolate universe.

By Louis M Brill

In the middle of all its surrounding Times Square spectaculars, billboards and sign edifices, stands the flagship Hershey Times Square, a retail gift store which is a chocolate confectionary paradise that is the center of the chocolate universe.

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  • To mark that spot, Hershey's did so with not one, not two or three signs, but nineteen different signs representing each of the nineteen chocolate brands they merchandise including PayDay, Twizzler candies, Swoops, Resse's peanut butter cups, Almond Joys, Hershey Kisses®, Hershey's Milk Chocolate, Heath, PayDay, York, Jolly Rancher, Hershey's cocoa and Hershey's Syrup.

    The culmination of that sign project involved a collaboration between many great contributors to Times Square signage including Clear Channel Spectacolor (project manager), Ogilvy & Mather Advertising (concept development), BIG (Brand Integration Group - a division of O & M), Atomic Props (fabrication of props), Multimedia LED (provider of LED ticker), and North Shore Neon (fabrication of props & sign installation).

    Now that's a Spectacular, signage can sure convey a message and it's clear what this building is all about.
    Photo credit: Clear Channel Spectacolor

    The gift store has come to represent a 15-story outdoor fantastical "chocolate factory" whose incredible signage includes 34 dimensional props, four steam machines, over 4000 chasing lights, 30 programmable gel lights, 56 neon channel letters, 14 front-lit signs and an LED ticker, all designed to represent the various Hershey candy products in their packaged wrappers. In total, the spectacular measures 215 feet in height with a 60-foot width from one side of the building to the other. The crowning touch of its factory look was its two Times Square smoke stacks that are identical to the ones in its main Hershey, PA factory, complete with the company's name vertically painted on each stack.

    This entire collage of signs is located on the northwest corner of Broadway and 48th Street, on the lower rooftop and building sides of the Crowne Plaza Hotel. Although this sign project was completed in 2002, it is still a paramount project because of the diversity of signs used to complete the project. With this diversity, the Hershey spectacular has an odd pedigree of also becoming a sign museum representing every type of sign technology used for outdoor advertising since the 1900s.
    Some last minute adjustments to the Hershey blade sign.
    Photo by North Shore Neon

    The concept behind the store front signage was that of a "historic fantasy" where the store was intended to mimic the company's chocolate factories in Hershey, PA. "Its design concept was born out of imagining that founder Milton Hershey had also built a chocolate factory in Times Square in 1905," said Brian Collins, executive creative director at Ogilvy & Mather's BIG. "We then imagined what the factory might have looked like as Hershey's grew throughout the century. To further enhance its factory look, we also have steam coming from the factory pipes encircling various parts of the spectacular."

    Talk about eye-candy, the "factory" includes a pair of visually dominating 51-foot tall smoke stacks with the company's name painted vertically down the smoke stack shaft, a giant 15-story Hershey Milk Chocolate billboard, a pile of 28 dimensional perfect Hershey Kisses stacked up pyramid style on a roof top, and a giant cup of hot chocolate, with steaming vapors rising up and away from the cup. On the bottom of the spectacular is placed a horizontal LED ticker, that is reminiscent of the "Kiss Plume" which is the paper release strip used to pull the protective foil away from the candy. The ticker employs the same colors, white background with a 'powder blue' color for the text messages that appear across the white background screen.

    Eye-candy sign museum
    A more interesting factoid of the Hershey spectacular is that the 19 displays of its sign blitz represent the entire history of sign making with each of the signs representing just about every form of sign making since the 1900s. In gazing upon its sign collections in sudden enlightenment, a sign man would quickly notice the following: paint-on-walls (smoke stacks), incandescent chase lights (Hershey blade sign and Twizzler blade sign), neon channel letter (Reese's sign, Hershey's sign), dimensional signage (Hershey Kisses, Hershey's Milk Chocolate billboard, cocoa cup, Hershey's coco container), mechanical animation (spinning Breath Savers mints), a kinetic wind vane (Jolly Rancher candy), tri-vision (Almond Joy), front-lit signs covered in vinyl (Heath) and bringing it into the modern age a horizontal LED message center whose text not only displays Hershey brand messages, but selected customer messages as well.

    Above the Hershey gift store, on the Broadway facing side, part of the Hershey blade sign, a flex face vinyl (Hershey's Dark Chocolate), the Tri-vision (Mounds), the steaming cup of hot coco, and the neon-lit Twitzzlers sign.
    Photo by Louis M. Brill
    To complete the Hershey's spectacular on the southeast corner of the Crowne Hotel, both the 48th Street side and the Broadway facing side of the building were covered in signs, even extending upwards along the side of the hotel. Mike McGraw, who was then Director of Spectaculars at Clear Channel Spectacolor noted, "In Hershey's signage integration with the Crowne Plaza Hotel, the Hershey spectacular was designed to be more architectural in its look. It's not just a series of signs hanging off the building. Instead the signage is adopted to the building, and built in tiers taking advantage of the Hotel's facades and lower roof levels for sign mounting purposes."

    North Shore Neon
    The placement of the 19 different signs in an integrated fashion was no mean feat as logistics, street accessibility, and size all determined which signs went up and in what order. The complete installation was handled by North Shore Neon, (Deer Park, Long Island) under the direction of Larry Brown and crew. With so many Hershey signs going up on a daily basis, between the building facades and the rooftop, Brown noted the company utilized several Cherry Pickers (man lifts) and a crane with a 285-foot telescoping arm.

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    North Shore Neon crew putting the final touches on the Multimedia LED Hershey ticker.
    Photo by North Shore Neon

    As for the integration of all the sign components coming together, Brown said that the size of the various sign pieces determined whether they were placed on the Crowne Plaza during the day or the evening. "Smaller pieces were easily put up in the day, and the larger, more complicated signs which required the big crane and a more controlled use of street space were put up at night. The evening window for Hershey sign placements was slated for 10:00 PM to 6:00 AM. Thus, the big evening jobs included the steel frame for the Kisses, the Reese’s letters, the Hershey's corner blade sign and the Hershey smoke stacks."

    "In terms of putting up the signs in Times Square, beyond the heavy lifting with cranes, there was also an equal amount of lifting to get all the required permitting in place to put the signs up," Brown noted. "We started with a sign permit for being on-site and another one for street closure to shut down parts of Broadway. As for using our big crane on Broadway, we needed to get an engineering permit from the Manhattan Transit Authority (MTA) because we had a heavy load (the crane) over a subway tunnel."

    Much of the signs on the 48th Street side of the store is in place, the rotating BreathSavers cylinder is on its way to a final installation.
    Photo by North Shore Neon

    In regard for placing the rest of the various Hershey signs up on the sides of the building, a collection of horizontal steel pipes were placed on each side of the building where various Hershey signs had been assigned including on the Broadway side for the Heath, the Almond Joy tri-vision sign, and the Hershey's steaming cocoa cup. On the 48th Street side was Paydirt, York, and Lifesavers. "The concept behind the grid was not only the ease of getting all the different types of signs on the building," Brown explained, " but it also offered a degree of flexibility in that if the client wanted to move or change certain signs later on, we could pull off the old sign and replace it with a new one.”

    One of Hershey's most visible brands is its silver foil Kiss candy with its little white and powder blue pull tag foil release sticking out. It was an obvious brand choice for the Times Square spectacular and placed in such a way that it was the visual center of attraction as visitors came upon the building signage.

    Atomic props and the big kiss
    When it came time to fabricate the Hershey Kiss spectacular element, honors went to Atomic Props (St. Paul MN), a company that specializes in making giant three-dimensional props and unusual components for billboards and spectaculars. Altogether, Atomic Props fabricated the Hershey smoke stacks, the Jolly Rancher wind vane, the steaming Hershey cocoa cup, and over 500 feet of colorful factory piping that popped out around the spectacular.

    The Hershey Kisses in all their glory, mounted in full, on the Hershey gift\store rooftop.
    Photo by North Shore Neon

    While each Hershey sign has its own story, limited space only allows a few of those stories to be told. The Hershey Kisses played predominantly in the Hershey spectacular as just about every kid somewhere in time has gobbled them during a chocolate moment. Thus with a highly visible brand, the Kisses became the visual centerpiece, placed in a dominant position of the spectacular. How that sign component came together is an interesting story that started in Times Square, was born in Minnesota and ended up on a rooftop of the Crowne Plaza hotel.

    To replicate the Hershey Kisses, each kiss was scaled up from its ¼ inch original size to a 50 times enlarged replica. The Hershey Kiss fabrication project was described by Atomic Props President, Mike Pearson, who at the time of the project was the senior designer of the Hershey sign components. "In constructing the Kisses, we began by using Styrofoam, and turning each one on a lathe, here at Atomic Props. It wasn't any different than using a wood lathe to spin out a wood product. It was essentially a production run of 28 Kisses, one after the other."

    "Once the Styrofoam Kisses were formed, each one was cut in half vertically and then using a hot wire tool, the appropriate interior spaces were cut away to create a proper channel space for inserting steel pipe that was used to connect each Kiss to the Times Square rooftop support structure."

    "Once the steel pipes were fitted in place, the internal cavities within each Kiss were filled in, and the two Kiss halves were glued back together. The next step was to weather-proof each Kiss by spraying it with a urethane elastomer coating. We sprayed on a 3/16-inch coating and in seconds it cured into a hard plastic shell around each Kiss. Once the elastomer coating was applied, we sprayed an adhesive over that and then applied the appropriate amount of industrial aluminum foil and wrapped each Kiss to replicate its original silver foil look. Finally, at the top of each Kiss, a stainless steel 'pull tab' was bolted on. Once completely fabricated, all the Kisses were put on pallets, packaged up, put on a semi and sent off to Times Square where North Shore Neon installed them in place on the Crowne Hotel rooftop."

    Kiss cross section shows how all steel and aluminum foil elements came together to create the final Kiss sign component for Times Square spectacular.
    Shop drawing by Clear Channel Spectacolor and Atomic Props
    Putting kisses on the building
    The next step was preparing the rooftop structure to receive the Kisses. The desired final look of the Hershey Kisses was to present itself in a cake tier form, noted R. Scott Lewis, the structural engineer of record who designed the reinforcing support structure for the Kiss sign component. "To get that look, we used a series of eight-inch square tubes as diagonal beams that were connected from the rooftop dunnage beams up to a connecting point on the back wall behind the rooftop. We then placed a series of horizontal mounting platforms on the diagonal beams, and were ready for the Kisses when they arrived."

    Step by step, the Kiss pyramid came together. As Brown noted, "With the rooftop dunnage beams in place, North Shore was able to finalize that part of the sign installation. One by one, we lifted the finished Kisses up to the rooftop and stacked them in a pyramid fashion facing out towards Broadway and Seventh Avenue." To increase the Kisses visibility at night, there are two independent lighting effects: a strobing light embedded within the Kiss pyramid and around its exterior and a small collection of saturated primary colors used to create a 'wild, playful light show around the Kisses.

    Your name in lights at Hersheys
    On the hi-tech front, Hershey Times Square has gone far to provide an equal opportunity for one and all in getting their name in lights up in Times Square. Their white background with powder blue text LED message center sign (Multimedia LED, Rancho Cordova) allows visitors or customers, for a mere $4.95 per 15 minutes to create an appropriate family friendly message that the store will post on their message center. Of course, all the posted messages are very "sweet" including the usual happy birthday greetings, wedding proposals, and occasionally for surprising that special first time visiting friend, a personalized, "Welcome To New York City hello message.”
    Some last minute adjustments to the Hershey blade sign.
    Photo by North Shore Neon
    Hersheys loves you!
    No visit to Times Square can be complete without at least enjoying the view of the Hershey spectacular and its huge sign collection. Better yet, if you have a sweet tooth or a chocolate moment, the Hershey's gift store would love to see you.

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