Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Starbucks and PepsiCo produce drama exclusively for Shanghai's subway

The Wall Street Journal reports that Starbucks and PepsiCo are debuting a feature film in Shanghai's subways. According to the article, "tailored for an audience of 2.2 million who cram onto China's biggest underground railway each day, the full-length feature film will be shown in daily segments of a few minutes each over 40 weekdays, soap-opera style. Subtitles in Chinese will help commuters follow the dialogue over the subway noise, and multiple daily rebroadcasts and tie-ins on the Internet are designed to ensure no one misses any of the cliffhangers."

Product placement in movies has been standard fare for a long time now, so a production created by a product-centric team really doesn't come as too much of a surprise. But while it may seem ho-hum for Hollywood (even Burger King was pitching a movie about "The King" a few months ago), it's a pretty exciting development for the digital signage industry. Not only does it raise the bar for the production value of advertising content and concepts on digital signs, but with it's tie-in to the Internet it's a prime example of how signage can combine with other forms of media in order to increase effectiveness.

The key to making this project a success is that Starbucks and PepsiCo will need to find a balance between pitching their products in a meaningful way and just using the whole film as a giant ad vehicle. The film's creators are going to have to work really hard to draw viewers in with an engrossing story that does more than just glorify the products, although my guess is that will be a stretch considering anybody making a movie for Starbucks and Pepsi isn't likely to be Spielberg-caliber.

One issue that I do have with the project is the way they are cutting it into "daily segments of a few minutes." To me, 8-9 minutes would probably be more effective. I could be wrong, but it seems like if something lasts "a few minutes" then it's easier to ignore. If this film is on screens for a semi-prolonged period of time, viewers will almost be forced to take notice. And if they have to leave the train just as they start taking notice then they may be more likely to visit the corresponding website. On the other hand, I don't know how long the typical person rides a subway for in Shanghai, so maybe a few minutes is all they really have to work with.

Either way, it'll be interesting to see how people react and whether or not something similar will makes its way to the States. I hope Starbucks, Pepsi or whoever else is behind the project gives us some follow-on info once the project gets underway.

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