Ringing in the New Year in New York’s Time Square, our mission was to figure out how to get a selfie from your smartphone onto the largest screen in Time Square, in seconds.

Time Square everyday is a jumble of digital screens, showing ads for everything from retail, movies, video games and beverages. Content for most of these screens is created months in advance by advertising agencies, and most of it is static images and videos. Every so often though advertisers are willing to take advantage of the fact that each of these screens can do much more than show simple images or videos. With the right type of content development, these screens can create a one-to-one experience between the advertiser and consumer using social media, real-time games and by posting photos to the screen.

Time Square always has a huge crowd, but it’s biggest night by far is New Year’s Eve for the Ball Drop. Advertisers bring their best for NYE, knowing there will be millions of viewers both in person and watching various broadcasts at home around North America.

Almo Pro AV Content Services teamed up with Diversified Media and Silvercast to deliver a special New Year’s Eve experience for Wilkins Media and their client Freixenet. The brand wanted a way to connect with partiers in Time Square and around the world. Using the largest digital screen in Times Square they encouraged people waiting for the ball drop to text their photo to the screen in real-time.

That’s where Almo Pro AV came in. Our Content Services group does a lot more than make beautiful content – and in this case, we handled programming and data connectivity with all the creative coming from the advertiser.

The big screen showed a special text phone number and keyword which encouraged people to text a selfie to the screen. Once people snapped their photo and texted it to the number, we first had a live moderator verify the people were well behaved. Once approved, the photo went into a data queue to show on the screen and everything from there was automated.

The digital sign wasn’t showing the typical video-based ad, but a real-time generated HTML5 application. This custom built application animated the selfies to appear as if they were a bubble popping out of a Freixenet bottle and allowed for four new selfies to show each time the ad played on the screen.

Selfies create challenges because each one is so unique. Some photos have just one or two people, others have a large group. Some are portrait and others landscape or at strange angles. The creative called for us to show the photos exactly the same for everyone, with the faces all fitting in a tight circular bubble.

With hundreds of photos coming in at the same time, all of the cropping and animation had to be automated. We used facial detection algorithms to best fit the photo on the ad layout and adjust each photo to best fit in the circle. As each photo was texted in and passed our live moderator, we had in some cases just a few seconds to get it in the queue and on the screen.

After each photo passed moderation, we also sent a text back to the viewer. This text alerted them they were being shown on the screen and sent them a small preview image of how they looked in the bubble. This preview creative was different than the big screen, meaning every photo had to be auto cropped and sized twice.

The ad was live in Time Square from 7pm to just after midnight and the big countdown. Once the party was over in New York, the campaign was over. Months of programming work and prep was over in a flash.

Hundreds of partiers sent in photos and the content performed flawlessly thanks to amazing teamwork with Diversified, Silvercast and Wilkins Media. We helped people ring in the New Year in style and they looked great up on the big screen, without knowing about all of the behind the scenes programming and magic that made it happen.

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