Samsung's press conferences are often polarizing — from the heights of weirdness at CES 2011 to the depths of boredom at CES 2013. For the launch of the Galaxy S4 on Thursday, the company clearly wanted to make as big an impression as possible, with a presentation that was kitschy and bombastic, but accessible. (It was also offensive to some and Samsung was called out for portraying women in insulting stereotypes). But Samsung's presentation at Radio City Music hall went far beyond its song and dance for press and fans, and the company took to Times Square, turning it into a mammoth billboard for the S4.
Samsung clearly wanted to make a big impression
Thousands gathered on a chilly evening to watch the phone's unveiling, streamed on multiple jumbo screens in Times Square. The crowd didn't show much emotion during the unveiling, but many seemed interested enough to video or photograph the spectacle. Missing was the applause and cheering commonly heard at Apple events, but money can't buy everything.
- Times Square has long been a battleground for advertisers, but Samsung's promotion of the S4 phone launch may have come close to setting a new standard for hype.
- Massive ads for the new Galaxy S4, Samsung's flagship mobile phone, appeared on every corner of Times Square on Thursday night. The Galaxy ads dominated the area at a time when the streets were teeming with tourists and commuters.
- Samsung drew a Times Square audience that appeared to number in the thousands. The company cordoned off a large area in the heart of the Square and set up massive jumbo screens so the audience could watch the unveiling of the new phone.
- Sure, some members of the audience were just passerby, but crowds began gathering well before the start of the presentation and it was cold out. What was obvious was that there was plenty of interest in the phone.
- The presentation itself seemed to underwhelm the audience. Missing were the cheers and applause common at Apple events.
- As a venue, Samsung could have hardly picked a flashier or more exciting backdrop to showcase the phone than Times Square. It certainly beat the Moscone Center.
- As the start of the presentation drew near, the audience fittingly pulled out cellphones to snap photos or shoot video of the event.
- Samsung executives tried their best to tease the audience and build anticipation with a lengthy run-up to the phone's unveiling. As showmen, Samsung's execs need some help.
- Finally, the phone.
- Samsung reportedly went all out for the S4 promotion, spending $400 million on billboard, web, TV and print advertising.
- The "unpacking" of the S4 was no thrill ride but the audience stuck around even after the phone made its appearance.