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One Times Square: A Global Icon Marks Time - 2003-2010, Part II

Slowly, but surely between 2003 to 2010, one spectacular display after another on One Times Square has been upgraded with a more modern version of itself or outright replaced with a new client and a new spectacular.

By Louis M. Brill

One Times Square propels through the Times Square skyline as the premiere international totem of the advertising world.

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  • With its blinking, glowing and morphing ads and its varied advertising content, its famous north face has displayed, at different times, a steaming cup of noodles, a Glockenspiel clock and a pair of plodding robots that mechanically adjusted its sign face, and since 1928, its horizontal electronic message center (the world's first 'zipper') that presented the headlines of the day. And let's not forget New Year's Eve when the Time Ball is lowered one-minute before midnight. We will take a look at all of this and more in this two-part series.

    Thus here in the 21st century, under Sherwood Outdoor (NY, NY) continuing as building management and sign lease representative of One Times Square, the entire north face of One Times Square has undergone a complete makeover. Slowly, but surely between 2003 to 2010, one spectacular display after another on the building has been either upgraded with a more modern version of itself or outright replaced with a new client and a new spectacular.

    Yahoo anchors the sign collection for One Times Square. Directly above Yahoo, the zipper announces the news of the moment. The police kiosk is in front of the building.

    As sign spectaculars come and go on One Times Square, each has its own unique story of design and how it arrives on the building in its own particular fashion. The Yahoo sign for example which is the anchor sign on One Times Square was installed in 2005. Now the Yahoo sign has the unique presence of being the only sign on the north face with some neon on it. It has a perimeter border of fluorescent chase lights and some distinct neon lettering in the center of the sign, and a small LED monochrome text message board on the sign's bottom.

    One Times Square in 2006, just before a series of massive sign changes were initiated on the building. The old Budweiser with its tilting bottle is still in place, Cup of Noodles has been removed, and awaits Chevrolet's new spectacular.
    photo by Louis M. Brill

    Chevrolet, robots, and all
    2006 was the end of an historic era for Nissin Foods (Gardena, CA), parent company of Cup of Noodles whose iconic product offered a gigantic cup of steaming noodles to one and all. After ten years on One Times Square, it was sayonara. Quickly dismantled by Landmark Signs (NY, NY) Cup of Noodles was replaced with a more familiar American icon: Chevrolet.

    Chevrolet who has been around Times Square in some form or fashion since the 1920s recently returned on One Times Square to replace the Cup Of Noodles with a digital spectacular designed as a giant Glockenspiel clock, complete with its side chains (done as vinyl faces). The clock face was a full blown high-resolution LED display provided by Multimedia LED (Corona, CA) and was designed with their eVidea display format. The new spectacular, described by project manager Barry Winston (Winston & Co. Teaneck, NJ), presented a 15-foot viewable diameter LED clock face with a 12 mm pitch and was encircled with a two-foot bezel of aluminum that hid the stepped edges of the eVidea LED modules. The Chevrolet clock was done in two Phases, first the clock face, and for the following year - a mysterious addition was revealed as a follow-on component to the clock face.

    An interesting component of the clock design was that it had not one, but four different clock faces to tell time. If the LED sign was always "locked" on one clock face image, it would have resulted in a certain amount of LED degradation from unequal use of its LEDs. A creative solution was to set up the clock with four different faces that rotated from one face to the other every 15 minutes. The clock faces were designed and operated by Steve Bumstead of Pixel Fire Productions (Seattle, WA). Thus the final initial installation of the Phase I Chevrolet sign included the Glockenspiel Clock with its large LED clock face, the iconic Chevrolet LED 'bow tie,' some background chains (vinyl prints) and two mysterious doors, one on each side of the sign cabinet.

    Chevrolet robots march on
    Within these doors lay Phase II, a playful addition to Times Square and homage to Chevrolet automobile manufacturing. This was explained by Winston who oversaw the Chevrolet project design. "Phase II which was completed in the Spring of 2007 included the addition of a pair of 14-foot tall "marching robots" (known as Frick and Frack) that adjusted the front of the Chevrolet spectacular."

    2007 - by this time big changes on One Times Square's north face. The Chevrolet sign (with clock & bow tie) has been completely installed. A prestigious moment has arrived where the maintenance doors have opened and the two robots are getting ready to "to do their thing." Directly below it is the new 10 mm high definition LED spectacular.
    photo by Louis M. Brill

    "Upon each quarter-hour, a set of doors within the spectacular opened and two mechanical marvels, a mechanic and a welder moved out along a track, and approached the Chevrolet bow tie. Once in front of it, they raised their arms to 'adjust' the Chevrolet icon which then allowed it to lift itself into place under the clock face. One robot even had a wrench to seemingly make adjustments on the bow tie before it even lifts up. The robot marvels were engineered and fabricated by Oceaneering (Houston, TX), brought to Times Square and installed in place by Landmark Signs.

    Here the two robots, Frick and Frack, are making their final "adjustments" to the Chevrolet bow tie just before it lifts into place under the Chevrolet clock.
    photo by Louis M. Brill

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    The 10 mm high definition Budweiser spectacular advertising Grolsch, part of its family of beers.
    photo by Daktronics

    Budweiser reinvents itself
    Another big change on One Times Square in 2006 was the addition of a new Budweiser spectacular that replaced the original Budweiser sign with its tilting beer bottle. Completely rebuilt, a new 70-foot tall by 40-feet wide LED spectacular was positioned on the building frontage. This new Budweiser LED sign was a 20 mm pitch with a stunning high definition resolution of 1072 x 608 pixels. Its vertical sides also offered an LED edge that surrounded the main face perimeter on three sides (left, right and bottom) giving the display a three-dimensional perspective. With its high-def look, the new Budweiser sign became a very impressive visual anchor, both because of its gargantuan screen size and high-resolution image clarity that now dominated the entire south side of Times Square. The Budweiser sign content is created by Spark Agency (St. Louis, MO) and managed by Keyframe.

    One Times Square in 2009 where the Toshiba sign has replaced the Discover sign. The new roof top sign structure (yet to have its sign face installed), complete with the new Time Ball and current year open channel letters now decorates the top of One Times Square.
    photo by Louis M. Brill

    In 2008, yet another dramatic building change occurred as the former Discover sign (1999 - 2008) ended its reign as the One Times Square roof top sign. Toshiba had acquired that sign space and brought with them their very own HD LED video screen.

    In gaining the top sign position, Toshiba also inherited the previous Discover sign cabinet, minus the original LED display that was housed inside. The former Discover sign cabinet was actually two cabinets, and in Toshiba's modernization of that space, the two cabinets were merged into a single cabinet which became the new Toshiba LED video display.

    Toshiba not only leased the One Times Square sign roof space, but it also manufactured the LED video screen that sits within the sign cabinet, as explained by Barry Winston, project manager who handled the Toshiba sign spectacular. "In its new cabinet configuration," said Winston, "the Toshiba sign is housed in a fifty-five foot square cabinet with a Toshiba HD LED, full color 12.5mm virtual (or 25mm) pitch display. From the ground, the Toshiba roof top sign rose up 340 feet."

    In an impressive feat of sign removal by Landmark Signs (NY, NY), the previous Discover LED screen was lowered from the roof top, down to the 17th-floor roof landing and taken through the window for final removal from the building. To successfully manage this sign egress, all sign parts had to be cut down in size to easily fit through the window opening. At that point, the sign parts were then stacked into a mini dumpster moved into the freight elevator and brought groundside for dispersal. Likewise, the installation of the Toshiba LED signs followed the same route in reverse for eventual placement into the new sign cabinet. Interestingly enough within a year, the Toshiba sign was soon to double in size and scope.

    At the southern end of One Times Square is another part of the Walgreen sign system. Directly above it is the zipper (first installed in 1928), which is now an LED message board, managed by Dow Jones.
    photo by Alice Arnold

    Walgreens returns to Times Square
    2009 was a dynamic moment for One Times Square as several significant events altered its spectacular north face building coverage and gave it some additional LED spectaculars on both sides of the building. Thus in that year, it gained a series of new LED spectaculars, and also lost a recently acquired LED display.

    Walgreens, the nation's largest drugstore chain made its historic return in 2009 to Manhattan. It not only returned to Times Square, but also returned to One Times Square, the very building that it originally occupied four decades earlier, from the 1930s through the 1970s. In enhancing their presence on One Times Square, Walgreens has covered the sides and back of the building with 17,000 square feet of LED video screens, of which the LED components were manufactured by D3 (NY, NY).

    Because One Times Square's north side is already completely covered with LED signage, Walgreens had access to the east and west sides of the building and from that had conceived a unique Walgreens spectacular package (designed by Gilmore Group, NY, NY) that would make it visually competitive with all its neighboring spectaculars.

    In Part III of a look at One Times Square, we'll meet the Slash, say goodbye to General Motors, and go up on the roof to take a look at the new Times ball.

    Readers who wish to follow the entire story of Times Square can follow with these other pieces related to its history:

    One Times Square: A Global Icon Marks Time - 2003-2010, Part III
    In this third and final part of One Times Square, we examine even more of the fascinating, ever-evolving changes to this iconic landmark and how technology plays a very interesting and important role.

    One Times Square: A Global Icon Marks Time - 2003-2010, Part II
    Slowly, but surely between 2003 to 2010, one spectacular display after another on One Times Square has been upgraded with a more modern version of itself or outright replaced with a new client and a new spectacular.

    One Times Square Revisions: Signage in the crossroads of the world through the years
    If any building was to be dedicated as homage to sign displays, honors could easily point to One Times Square. It stands tall not only in height, but also throughout its 100 plus year history with its influence on iconic advertising, on sign displays, with its vinyl and electronic billboards and its timeless metaphors, all wedded to the building from top (the annual New Year's Eve ball drop) to the bottom (the news zipper wrapped around the building's base).

    Toy's R Us Interior EDS Signage
    The Center of the Toy Universe can be found in Times Square and it's operated by Toys 'R Us. With 110,000 square feet of various toy shopping zones, all aligned within three floors of merchandising space, the toy universe is a vast space.

    LED Electronic Message Reader Boards: Watching the world go by in streaming headlines
    The electronic message reader board is the town crier of the modern age. It is a simplistic, horizontal column of light bulbs or LEDs whose intermediate flashes of world watching headlines, slide effortlessly across reader board signs attached to banks and financial institutions and to the front walls of major corporate headquarters.

    King Kong Embraces Times Square with Electronic Signage Debut
    The latest remake of the King Kong epic, directed by Peter Jackson, sought out its east coast premiere in the place where the big ape met his demise, in New York City. Nothing is too good for the premiere of his latest film and only in New York City could a film of such epic proportion have an opening of similar grandeur.

    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.

    Minskof Theater
    The Minskoff Theatre (1,597 seats), one of the many major live performing venues along Broadway has recently undergone a signage transformation of its old blade / marquee and window display into a very modern and elegant sign package that was fit for a king: The Lion King that was.

    ABC Times Square
    It may be home to ABC's Good Morning America, but to Times Square passersby it is the building with the curvy front wall that is a gigantic television screen displaying current news and ABC TV previews all day long.

    Signs of Love: A spectacular marriage proposal on the white lights of Broadway
    This is a story of unrequited love converged with New York City's first electronic billboard, where a marriage proposal was displayed in all its glory directly above the Crossroads of the World.

    Louis M. Brill is a journalist and consultant for high-tech entertainment and media communications. He can be reached at (415) 664-0694 or

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