CBS Video Advertising Experiment Decidedly Unfuturistic
American TV network CBS has teamed up with Pepsi to bring video advertising into print, with an upcoming issue of Entertainment Weekly featuring a page with a video screen blaring moving adverts from it. It includes clips from upcoming “fall” shows, and the screen can hold 40 minutes of footage and has a battery life of 70 minutes. I know, it’s like Harry Potter and Minority Report, right? The future has arrived, right? Unfortunately not.
In my mind when I first heard about this I saw a full-page, flexible screen with flashes pointlessly shimmering down it a la any Philip K Dick story adapted by Hollywood. The reality is a tiny wee screen housed in some cardboard pages that’s sure to annoyingly interrupt your enjoyment of all the beautiful people.
Lamer yet is when you find out that this is costing CBS thousands and thousands of dollars, and is only getting put in mags for subscribers in LA and NYC. Not sure how the numbers got crunched here, and the channel is keeping quiet on budgets, but I think it was conceived in their “cool stuff that makes it look like we’re really innovative, no matter how unsustainable the cost” department. Admittedly the traction is getting increased by people like us talking about it, but the reality is that this campaign just isn’t going to reach enough people to justify its cost. With ad margins getting smaller mid-recession, this kind of showboating seems like a dangerous course to take.
If you do expensive, limited experiments, do them like Fallon recently did with their Make Me A Supermodel campaign. By creating an interactive shop window, they wrung every bit of engagement from and exposure to its audience, which was constantly refreshing itself on the pavement in front. By contrast, CBS’s video screens have much less reach, and will look very average once the battery runs out. They also have to be inserted by hand, which makes the whole thing take on a distinctly pre-Cambrian tone.
But perhaps the most annoying aspect of this whole thing is the stuff its actually advertising, the toxically unfunny “comedies” How I Met Your Mother, The Big Bang Theory, Two And A Half Men, and new show Accidentally On Purpose, whose title alone makes it sound like it’s straight out of a two-minute brainstorm in 1986. These are shows which can only be enjoyed when off work with swine flu, when ER seems like Len Loach and when you need a show with an extra-loud laugh track to flag the jokes up for your tired, monged-out brain. If this is the future, then its sitcoms still suck.