Whether you live on the East or West Coast, whether you are a teenager or an octogenarian, whether you are a fan of TikTok or Instagram, when you think of New Year’s Eve, you think of Times Square in New York City.
The two things have been synonymous since 1907, when the first Times Square ball drop took place. Since then, millions of people over more than a century have attended the celebration.
Of course, there’s another thing Times Square is synonymous with the other 364 days a year, and that’s outdoor advertising. So New Year’s Eve is basically the perfect fusion for out of home advertisers. It’s the highest-profile venue for a billboard anywhere in the world on this particular night, writ even larger through exposure on television on a global scale.
While it’s too late to secure advertising for this year’s New Year’s celebration — you need to do it months ahead of time — it’s not too early to think about next year. Plus, it’s fun to know just what you get when you buy into the magic of Times Square on Dec. 31.
The History of Times Square New Year’s Eve Ball Drop
People began gathering for New Year’s Eve in Times Square in 1904, and the first ball drop came three years later. That initial one slid down a flagpole when the clock struck midnight, and it looked fairly impressive. It weighed 700 pounds and had a 5-foot diameter.
Some form of the ball drop has occurred every year since except during 1942 and ’43, when World War II raged, and the city underwent dimouts to avoid attracting attention from warplanes. Many versions of the ball have been used since then, including a lighter aluminum one for decades. The current ball is pretty fancy, made by Waterford Crystal and Philips Lighting.
How Many People Go to Times Square on New Year’s Eve?
Depends who you ask. New York City officials often say 1 million to 2 million people attend the big night; Times Square claims 1 million in its advertising pitch. Experts in crowd science and statistics say it’s probably way less than that, though it’s difficult to say for sure. The area people gather in, going between Seventh Avenue and Broadway, is about five blocks and fits around 60,000 people.
But the city also counts people watching from bars, hotels, office buildings and residences, which brings that number up higher. And for advertisers, that means even greater exposure than the people outside.
How Much Does Advertising in Times Square on New Year’s Eve Cost?
It costs a lot to advertise in Times Square on New Year’s Eve. On a regular day, the cost of a digital billboard may be $5,000 to $50,000, depending on the complexity and location of the campaign. The collective boards rake in upward of $20 million on NYE.
How Many People Watch Times Square on TV on New Year’s Eve?
Of course, the other component of the NYE celebration is television. The ball drop is broadcast on TV by several networks. Times Square claims in its sponsor materials that 175 million people watch the ball drop on TV in the United States and another 1 billion view it around the world. That’s also probably an exaggeration, especially in these current days of fractured viewing where people have so many choices of what to watch in a given moment, so roughly half that is probably a more realistic number.
Still, that’s a huge audience—nothing else on TV draws close to that many engaged viewers outside of the Super Bowl.
Prime billboard spots in Times Square could get minutes or even hours of exposure during broadcasts on ABC (which draws the biggest audience), CNN, Fox and more. And people snapping pictures of the festivities around Times Square and posting them to social media amplify that reach even further.
The Best Billboard Space in Times Square for New Year’s Eve
So, where are the prime spots for advertising on this high-exposure holiday? Five of the most desirable spots include:
- ABC Supersign: The curved LED broadcasts shows on the Disney-owned networks, such as Good Morning America and Monday Night Football. You can bet the billboard gets a lot of exposure on Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve with Ryan Seacrest. It features nine LED ribbons curving around the building and measures 3,685 square feet.
- One Times Square: Credited as one of the world’s most valuable advertising locations because of the prime real estate right on Times Square, the board went electronic in the mid-1990s and generates upward of $23 million per year in advertising revenue, according to New York Five blocks of pedestrian traffic can see the board, which is rated No. 1 most-seen in America by Geopath.
- NASDAQ Sign: Soaring seven stories high and delivering full-motion video, the screen can deliver live events or sync with the Midtown Financial sign for an unavoidable spectacular takeover.
- Express Screen: You can buy the four screens together or separately, and they go up 18 stories. They sit next to Father Duffy Square, which is at the northern end of Times Square.
- American Eagle: The sign sits across from Father Duffy Square and includes 15,000 feet of LED signage. You can’t miss it, and almost as importantly, you can see it when you stop to rest in the area — as may do on NYE.
You can also find signs through individual vendors. Clear Channel Outdoor has a vibrant presence in Times Square, with extras including 3D props, extensions, LEDs and more. It also has wallscapes and spectaculars available.
In addition to buying ad space on the billboards, you can sponsor the actual ball drop, for a hefty price. Some past sponsors include Cosmopolitan and Cover Girl. This year, for the second year running, KAY Jewelers is the official kiss sponsor of New Year’s Eve in Times Square. It’s coordinating that sponsorship with a TikTok campaign challenging people to hashtag their kisses as they ring in the new year.
Lead Time for Times Square Advertising
The earlier you secure a spot, the better your chances of getting one with high exposure or your first choice. Tiger Party, which handles digital ad tech for many Times Square boards on New Year’s, has said most of its advertising is sold by about six weeks out from the event.
Fun Facts About Times Square on New Year’s Eve
Here are 10 things you may not know about New Year’s Eve in Times Square.
- It began as an event brainstormed by the publisher of the New York Times.
- This year’s crystal ball represents 16 million colors (did you even know there were 16 million colors?).
- The first “time ball,” which inspired the ball drop concept, was installed in England in 1833.
- People claimed they could hear the revelry from the first NYE celebration in 1904 up to 30 miles away.
- There have been seven versions of the NY Eve ball.
- It takes 50 sanitation workers all night to clean up following the ball drop.
- The average temperature in New York City on New Year’s Eve is 34 degrees Fahrenheit.
- The ball was first controlled by a computer in 1995.
- Though dropping the ball was prohibited during 1942 and 1943, people still gathered in Times Square for a silent salute to the new year.
- Last year, NYC limited the crowd to 15,000 due to COVID.
Are you interested in learning more about advertising in Times Square at New Year’s or during the rest of the year? Reach out to DASH TWO to learn more.