Video Ads in Print: Innovation or Gimmick?

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The September 18 issue of Entertainment Weekly will feature an embedded video that plays clips advertising for CBS's fall show lineup and for Pepsi Max soda, thanks to a partnership between the two companies. This is the first example of video-in-print, though the integration of technology into magazines is not new to the industry.


According to the WSJ's blog, Speakeasy this is how the ad functions: The screens measure two-and-a-quarter inches diagonally and play about 40 minutes of clips from new and old CBS shows. Push one spot on the cardboard insert that holds the screen, and watch a clip of sitcom "Two and a Half Men" or "The Big Bang Theory." Push another to see a preview of the new crime-investigation spin-off "NCIS: Los Angeles." Another press delivers an ad for PepsiCo Inc., which is helping fund the promotion.

Amid the endless print deathwatch that consumes so much of mainstream media, it is inspiring that CBS and PepsiCo are spending big bucks to advertise in a print publication. Yet I think this innovative stunt is misguided. (Or, in Slate's memorable words, "back adwards.")  Only subscribers in the Los Angeles and New York City areas will receive magazines that include the video ad; all other subscribers, and all newsstand buyers, will miss out. This is likely a factor of the ad's production cost, which is one reason for concern (is the payoff really worth the "several dollars per copy" it takes to produce?).

More importantly, sending magazines with the ad to only two regions means the vast majority  of EW readers won't even get to weigh in on the gimmick. Other magazines -- like Wired, Rolling Stone and Esquire -- have tried similarly creative ad/edit innovations with personalization and e-ink, but it's unclear exactly how much revenue these innovations bring in. I might hope this try at video-in-print marks a new frontier in print advertising. But its undoubtedly high expense and print's stagnant (at best) circulation make me think that this will remain a gimmick in a last-ditch effort for profit.

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Kerry Golds

Kerry Golds is an intern in the editorial and art/production departments of The Atlantic magazine. She lives in Rosslyn, VA.
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