Piccadilly Circus billboards to be bigger and brighter than ever
After nine months in darkness, the digital billboards in London’s Piccadilly Circus are about to come back bigger and brighter than ever before.
Later this month, a new 790-square-metre behemoth of a screen will flash into life for the first time. The screen, which is larger than three tennis courts, packs in almost 11 million pixels at a resolution that’s greater than 4K. The display is the largest of its kind in Europe.
Cameras concealed within the screen will track the make, model and colour of passing cars to deliver more targeted adverts. Brands can even pre-program triggers so that specific adverts are played when a certain model of car passes the screen, according to Landsec, the company the owns the screens.
The giant screen replaces six separate screens that previously wrapped around the buildings at Piccadilly Circus, each one dedicated to a different brand. “This screen can be electronically carved up as opposed to having individual screens,” says Landsec portfolio director Vasiliki Arvaniti.
This also means that the entire screen can be taken up by a single advert – something that had been tried on earlier versions of the display, but didn’t really work with six screens of different sizes, made by different manufacturers.
“For the first time ever brands will have the opportunity to take over the entire screen,” Arvaniti says. Every ten minutes a single brand will fill the entire screen with a single advert for 30 seconds. Coca-Cola, Hyundai, Samsung and L’Oréal will be the first brands to share the supersize screen.
Most of the time, however, the screen will be divided into six separate chunks that can each stream live video, social media feeds and sports results. The hope, says Arvaniti, is that brands will create adverts that people can interact with in real time, and can respond to changes in the weather.
The illuminated advertising hoardings have been part of Piccadilly Circus since 1908, when bottled water brand Perrier first installed a sign. The original light bulbs were replaced by neon signs later in the century, which were in turn replaced by digital projectors in 1998.
Now the LED display reigns supreme. The new screen can produce more than 281 trillion different colours and each pixel is 8 mm from its nearest neighbour, giving the screen a resolution that’s equivalent to a TV screen more than 1000 inches wide.
Landsec won’t say when exactly it’s planning on switching on the screen for the first time as it doesn’t want to cause overcrowding in the West End. When the screen does finally flicker into life, however, it’ll also provide free public Wi-Fi to people in the area.
That giveaway isn’t entirely altruistic, however. The big screen advertisers will be also sponsor the Wi-Fi landing page, so getting away from those adverts just got a little bit trickier.