Living in an urbanised, modern world, most of us have seen a billboard before; their size makes them hard to miss. But even for the digital natives amongst us, digital signage still manages to evoke a sense of awe. Certainly, their dynamic edge over billboards make them even more captivating and eye-catching, especially in a newly high-tech world where still imagery can easily be tuned out. It’s no wonder, then, that the global digital signage market is expected to grow by US$10.3 billion during the 2020-2027 period.
These kinds of screens are part of what we call the ‘DOOH’ market, standing for ‘digital-out-of-home’. This is because the screens are typically outside, most commonly on the sides of buildings in big, metropolitan cities. Today we’re going to be looking at some of the most impressive, innovative, and creative digital signage that exists around the world. There are some incredible contenders on this list that feel like they’re straight out of a retro Sci-Fi classic, in part due to their awe-inspiring size, and in part due to the technological mastery that sustains them.
In Madrid’s Plaza de Callao is a giant LED screen, the largest in Spain, which seamlessly marries an impressive new technology with the plaza’s 1920s architecture. Installed by Samsung in June 2016, the screen can withstand temperatures down to -40ºC and up to 55ºC: a necessity for the hot Spanish summers. Standing at 37 metres tall and 6 metres wide, this is not the largest screen on our list, but it is one of the most efficient; its built-in temperature control means it can run continuously for over 100,000 hours.
Just around the corner from Times Square, itself an iconic home of bright lights and immense DOOH signage, the Marriot Marquis Hotel screen stands out for its sheer size: at 24 million pixels, it’s nearly as big as an American football pitch, equating to 23 metres in height and 100 metres in width. Located on Broadway (45th) on the facade of the hotel itself, the screen displays the instantly recognisable New York skyline at night, with its brightly lit buildings emphasised by the lights’ reflection in the nearby Atlantic ocean. The screen has the added functionality of cameras which livestream to social networks the millions of passers-by who populate and visit the city on a daily basis. The sign represents an immense celebration of New York’s stunning infrastructural achievements, the sign itself a technological feat worthy of admiration.
Installed at the end of 2018, this giant tower-screen is 4864 x 6656 pixels and takes to heart its role as a global messaging system, displaying striking short films from international media artists as well as advertising. As one of the busiest airports in the world, it certainly warranted a digital sign of this scale, and it provides an intriguing welcome to any visitors passing through. Photos don’t quite do it justice, as its sense of magnitude is amplified by the viewer’s position down below, staring up at the screen as if it were a skyscraper.
Known for its innovative curved shape, Piccadilly Circus displays Europe’s largest single digital screen at 790 metres squared. Its sheer size encourages a patchwork pattern to efficiently use the space and maximise exposure to multiple brands. However, there are brief moments when a single brand can take over, which provides an emphatic and dynamic contrast with the previous patchwork; see for instance this reel of Tiffany & Co. and their recent takeover. As one of London’s busiest spots for the past hundred years, the technology has changed over time, from billboards, to neon signage, to the LED screen we see today. And it’s not just the size that has changed, but the way the technology interacts with its viewers, too; the screen includes Ocean’s ‘Look Out’ facial technology, which identifies the age, gender, and mood of passers-by, and with multiple adverts ready to be displayed, the screen changes accordingly.
Working against gravity, Beijing is home to the biggest DOOH screen in Asia at an incredible 250 metres long, 30 metres wide, and suspended 25 metres up. It is located at The Place, a high-end shopping centre in Beijing’s Chaoyang District. Despite its size and beauty, it is actually one of the earliest of the LED screens to appear on this list, as it was installed in anticipation of the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. Due to its expansive size and enormous energy output (over 2 million watts!), the screen doesn’t operate during the day; during sunlight hours, it instead doubles as a transparent roof, making it less intrusive. At night, the 14.5 million LEDs that constitute it are turned on for maximum effect: an aesthetic skyway whose immensity evokes a sense of the sublime.
These digital signs represent an incredible leap in advertising and display technology, not only in terms of their size, but their durability for outdoor settings and their dynamic, HD quality too. Given how impressive these infrastructural feats are, and how futuristic they feel, it is no surprise that digital signage represents the future of advertising. Further, their interactivity invites infinite possibilities for innovation; as such, it may be time for your company to invest in digital signage in order to stay relevant in these newly high-tech public spaces.
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