Giant Times Square Advertising Billboards Of The Past
The New York Times article about the new eight story high, block long, LED illuminated billboard that will be put into use on Tuesday night, November 18, 2014, made me think about some of the classic advertising signs that were in place during the 1940’s and 1950’s at the crossroads of the world.
Chief among these ads was the dramatic Bond Clothiers sign taking up the entire Broadway block between 44th and 45th Streets. The 200 foot wide, 50 foot high billboard was brightly lit up at night and had a waterfall cascading between the two large scantily clad statues flanking it. The figures appeared nude during by day and had electric lights draped around them which produced a quasi-covering effect on the statues when the lights went on.
We previously showed what the area looked like at night in our story about the giant New York snowstorm of 1948.
The Bond sign replaced an earlier sign for Wrigley’s Spearmint Gum that also was breathtaking with its neon aquatic design. Designed by Dorothy Shepard, it occupied the site from about 1936 to 1948.
The Camel ad blew giant simulated smoke rings. It was designed by Douglas Leigh who had also came up with the Bond sign. It remained in place from 1941 – 1966. In 1999 all cigarette billboard advertising was banned.
Finally, in the 1950’s at the northern end of Times Square (Duffy Square) on 47th Street, stood three outstanding billboards: Pepsi-Cola, Admiral Television and Appliances, and Canadian Club Imported Whisky.
What was appealing about all these old billboard ads is that they were dazzling. You knew what was being advertised and it was conveyed simply with a sparsity of words and an abundance of neon.
Today Times Square’s advertising is an overwhelming mish-mash of distraction.
The new giant digital billboard will have Google as the debut, exclusive advertiser from November 24 until the New Year 2015. A digital art exhibition by Universal Everything studio collective will kick off the billboard’s first week starting November 18. From the test photo below it seems like it will be an incredibly bright and eye-catching display.
Who knows, maybe I’ll be impressed with this modern marvel of big screen technology. But probably not.
If the recent past of the area is any indication of the future, the ads themselves will be like every other billboard designed for gawking tourists: flashy, fast moving, lots of cuts with more irrelevant content added to the already gaudy Times Square.
For a color photo essay look back at Times Square in 1954 click here.