SAN FRANCISCO When the Times Square New Year's Eve Ball slides down to mark the beginning of 2006 at the stroke of midnight Saturday (Dec. 31), it will also commemorate the end of an era. That's because this year will be the final year in which the ball is lit entirely with conventional, incandescent light bulbs.
Beginning in December 2006, the New Year's Ball will be outfitted by Royal Philips Electronic NV with solid-state light-emitting diodes (LEDs), moving a tradition that has marked the start of the New Year since 1907 squarely into the 21st Century.
Since this will be their final journey, Philips, which has been contracted to supply lighting for the famous ball for the past five years, plans to user in 2006 by sponsoring a charity auction of the light bulbs used to illuminate it. According to the company, 100 percent of the winning bid for the bulbs will go toward the American Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund. Bids can be placed via the company's Web site.
Philips is even embarking on a promotional campaign, dubbed "Next Year is brought to you by Philips," to commemorate the event. Television advertising is scheduled to run Dec. 30 through Jan. 6 in support. The campaign encompasses the charity light bulb auction and invites people to share their New Year's resolutions on the Philips site.
"New Year's is an ideal opportunity for people to pause for a moment and contemplate the upcoming year," said Paul Zeven, CEO of Philips Electronics North America, in a statement. "We see this 'pause' as an opportunity to help consumers spread goodwill."
For the past five years, Philips has been supplying the light bulbs for the ball, which is made by Ireland's Waterford Crystal. This year, Philips Halogena Brilliant Crystal light bulbs, exclusively engineered for the New Year's Eve Ball, illuminate the exterior. The interior of the ball is lit by several colors of Philips bulbs, including clear, red, blue, green and yellow, along with high-intensity strobe lights, according to the company.