voice + video blog

Piccadilly Circus relit - immediately resembles my virtual service

The huge advertising billboard at London’s Piccadilly Circus beamed back to life this week following a ten month refit that saw the lights shut off in January.

Street illuminations at the Circus were first erected on the junction of Shaftesbury Avenue and Regent Street in 1908. Perrier was the first brand to take a spot on what has become a world famous destination and the Holy Grail of advertising locations.

Ads have been laid out in neon lights almost continuously for over a hundred years. The only times they were switched off were in  war time blackouts, special events or during powercuts.

In 2011, the site was upgraded and LED lights replaced the neon bulbs.

This year’s engineering work was to remove the hotpotch of six individual screens that made up the original hoarding and replace them with one large screen occupying the entire space. Six advertisers will share this new expanded screen and will have individual spots to promote their particular brands. But there is now scope for extra large video campaigns, occupying the full screen. These will appear at regular intervals each day, effectively taking over the entire billboard.

Live streaming video of news and events plus other interactive elements are also now possible and content can be dynamically changed according to the weather, ambient temperature and other aspects of the surrounding environment.

Another interesting feature, according to TheVerge, is new recognition technology that uses hidden cameras to analyse people and traffic passing through Piccadilly Circus. Artificial Intelligence now makes it possible to register the make, model and colour of vehicles and discern the age, gender and mood of pedestrians. The technology can program certain ads to appear when specific cars or emotional individuals speed by.

Coca-cola, Hyunda, L’Oreal and Samsung are amongst the big brands vying for the full screen ad treatment. In fact, Coke and Samsung have been present at the circus for many years.

Image: Sky News

Land Securities, the owners of the billboard, recently offered a sneak peek of the new screen. The large blank green screen immediately rang bells with me. For some time, I’ve offered a “Virtual Piccadilly Circus” service, where I electronically substitute the billboard’s six screen layout with one large video. It’s received a lot of interest and I’ve created a number of ads for people wishing to promote their business, service or product in a novel way. Looks like I was ahead of the curve.

If I’m lucky, the new screen may send some reflected glory on my own offering. Get in touch if you want to book a full screen spot on my Virtual Piccadilly Circus!

Posted by Tim Longhurst on Sat 28 Oct 2017.