American Eagle Outfitters offers 15 secs of fame in Times Square

American Eagle Outfitters (AEO) is giving its shoppers 15 seconds of fame. A 15,000 square foot LED display atop the retailer’s new store in Times Square, which opened on November 19, is adding more flash to New York’s busy hub. Anyone who makes a purchase can broadcast a photo and a 20 character-long message on the screen, which towers over the corner of 46th Street and Broadway. Already, one man popped the question on the big screen (she said yes).

I headed to the new store this afternoon and took a photo with my BusinessWeek colleague Anne Vandermey. One of the AE staffers operating the studio, which is in the lower level, said that in the last hour he had photographed more than 50 people (some in groups). They came from Ireland, the U.K., Germany, Australia and other countries.

Along with other customers, we went across the street to Father Duffy Square, the pedestrian plaza where the TKTS box office is, and waited to see our photo appear. It takes 15 minutes, on average, from the time the photo is taken. Indeed, it was gigantic.

"The goal is to create the newest landmark in Times Square for customers, tourists, and New Yorkers," and offer customers a different experience, says Steve Kubinski, senior director of marketing for the AE brand.

Partners on this project include the Barnycz Group, a design firm in Baltimore, Md. that specializes in large-scale installations, Barco, a Belgian high-resolution LED and display company, and R/GA, a digital advertising company in New York.

R/GA also worked on the Reuters and NASDAQ displays in Times Square. This time, "The inherent challenge is the shape. It's not a rectangle," says John Jones, R/GA's executive creative director for retail. In total, the display has 12 panels that face different directions and play different content, including photography, ads and messages inviting observers to take their photo. It is controlled by four computers, and two additional computers manage indoor displays.

American Eagle Outfitters does not plan to install displays elsewhere. Competition for people's attention in Times Square is fierce, but the company believes the installation will draw traffic through the store. With one of the biggest displays in this bustling location, "We will reach a lot of new people," says Kubinski.

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