January 3, 2008
The Mysteries of Times Square
Times Square, August 2007
Mystery #1: The M&Ms Store on Broadway. The animated signage is, I think, the most visually striking thing on Times Square. The over-sized M&Ms are, quite literally, eye candy and the conceit, M&Ms frolicking in a simulated Times Square, is cleverly executed. However, the merchandise within (see below) is hideous. This “25,000 square foot, three-story sensory immersion into the world of M&Ms” is full of ugly plastic things that no one, not even tourists, could truly want, like M&M shaped, candy-filled Statues of Liberty. The mystery is why the sign is so beautiful and the merchandise so ugly….Okay, it’s not really much of a mystery. The answer is actually simple: it’s Times Square. (Oddly, the Hershey’s store across the street has the opposite problem; the sign is dull and ugly, but the merchandise is surprisingly well-designed.)
M&Ms store, interior.
Times Square, December 2007
Mystery #2: The Charmin’ toilets. For about six weeks, the length of the holiday season, the Charmin’ toilet paper people set up a heavily branded phalanx of public toilets on the second floor of a building on Times Square. You’re lured in the entrance by Toilet Man (above) , go up an escalator decorated with framed pictures of the Charmin’ bears, and there are 20 count-em 20 toilets you can use without pretending that you’re buying a vente. Here’s the mystery: Why doesn’t Charmin’ perform this wonderful public service all year round? And why doesn’t New York adopt the branded toilet model as a way to make up for the city’s extreme shortage of public conveniences? Yes, there is now one count-it one pay toilet in Madison Square Park, of the sort we were supposed to get in quantity nearly a decade ago, and it is presumably underwritten by advertising. But branded, attended public toilets in bulk quantities would be a godsend. And so many potential sponsors: Lysol, are you listening? OB Tampons? Trojan?
Charmin’ NYC Restrooms, December 2007