Revlon's 'Kiss Cam' in Times Square back on after groping problems

People standing in front of a Times Square billboard by Revlon that takes their pictures and displays them, on Oct 13.
People standing in front of a Times Square billboard by Revlon that takes their pictures and displays them, on Oct 13.PHOTO: REUTERS

NEW YORK (REUTERS) - Cosmetics company Revlon switched on its "Kiss Cam" in New York's Times Square on Tuesday (Oct 13), four days after the interactive billboard went dark over complaints that it was attracting gropers.

City and law enforcement officials have been increasingly concerned with the state of Times Square, previously known as New York's hub for peep shows and other X-rated attractions but cleaned up in the 1990s and transformed into a family-friendly destination.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio this year remarked on the proliferation of topless women and aggressive costumed characters who pose with tourists for tips, saying it threatened to drag the area back to "the bad old days."

Last week, New York Police Commissioner Bill Bratton said the "Kiss Cam" was a new top concern.

"There (are) people coming up and groping people who are so intent on taking selfies of themselves, they don't realise somebody is grabbing their butt," Bratton said on Friday at a New York Law School breakfast.

The interactive billboard, mounted to a building in one of world's most tourist-trafficked crossroads, displays live images taken from a nearby camera of people locking lips and embracing. A neon pink heart and messages promoting affection overlay the shots.

Several men were arrested last month for forcibly touching women they did not know who were taking selfie photographs at the site, police said.

The same day that Bratton spoke about the groping, the display, which was launched in November as part of Revlon's "Love Is On" marketing campaign, was switched off.

Revlon spokesman Mario Ruiz said it was shut down temporarily while the situation was evaluated. He did not elaborate on why the company decided to reactivate the screen on Tuesday but said it took police recommendations into account.

"We are taking the lead of the NYPD and will continue to do so," he said.

Revlon did not disclose the cost of the electronic billboard, but 2012 estimates by the Wall Street Journal put Times Square advertising space at between US$1.1 million and US$4 million per year (S$1.54 million and S$5.6 million).

The billboard, which was previously active 24 hours a day, will now click off at night, when police say most of the groping incidents happened.

Police said the department had urged Revlon to turn off the sign indefinitely.