Back Adswards

Slate's Culture Blog
Aug. 21 2009 11:11 AM

Back Adswards

CBS and Pepsi are teaming up for a promotion in an upcoming issue of Entertainment Weekly . When readers open to a two-page spread in the magazine, a tiny embedded video screen will flicker to life. Various buttons on the player will call up short promo clips from fall CBS shows, along with an ad for Pepsi Max.

The Financial Times compares the stunt to a singing greeting card and to the moving pictures on the pages of the "Daily Prophet" (the newspaper read by characters in the Harry Potter series). The FT estimates the cost to build the video screen into magazines was "several dollars per copy." Given this tremendous expense, CBS and Pepsi are placing the ad only in EW issues sent to subscribers in New York and Los Angeles—attempting to generate maximum buzz among TV freaks and entertainment-industry machers. Ad Age calls the promotion "intriguing," and claims it demonstrates that marketers are "experimenting with new technologies to get their messages out to consumers." A CBS marketing exec tells the FT that the ad is "part of the future—a way to engage consumers in new and surprising ways."

Ah, so this is the bold new future, and a potential savior for dying print-magazine ad sales: a teensy, low-fi screen that costs a huge amount of money to distribute in just two cities and can only play a few short video clips. Fascinating! If only this screen could be larger and sharper and didn't need to be shipped to people's homes because they already owned one, and it could display an unlimited array of content that people could click on for more information, and it were incredibly easy and inexpensive to distribute that content onto screens in every corner of the world. Seems like the sort of futuristic idea advertisers might get really excited about sometime down the road. Until then, thank goodness for bold marketing innovations like this one.

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Seth Stevenson is a frequent contributor to Slate. He is the author of Grounded: A Down to Earth Journey Around the World.

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