The Newest Print Magazine Ad Format: A Real Smartphone  

The "ad" up close

The CW put an innovative ad inside this week’s issue of Entertainment Weekly. Interspersed inside the pages, there is a small video screen that plays some video clips of new shows and then loads a live, real-time Twitter feed from the network.

The overall experience kind of sucks, and I think most of us viewed it as an exercise to get press coverage rather than a real ROI opportunity – but it’s still neat to see tech like this.

After getting our copy of the ad, we were curious about what was powering the screen. I was guessing it was s small 2G or 3G radio and an embedded system that was just loading a single Twitter stream.

It turns out, there is a full-blown Android smartphone powering the ad. We took ours apart see all the details here and were shocked to find the phone.

At first, I was convinced it was a BlackBerry they hacked to run some custom software. Then, after pressing some of the contacts that act as keys, it was clear this was an Android-based BlackBerry clone. As best I can tell, it’s an ABO A810. Manufactured by Foxconn, I saw bulk pieces going for as little as $29 a pop.

This is interesting for a host of reasons:

  1. It showcases just how little commodity smartphone parts cost. At 1000 pieces, I’d imagine the advertising agency probably got the devices for about $20 a piece. Now, that’s still awfully expensive for a 1,000 issue run, but that’s probably less than what a designated embedded device would cost.

  2. Android is truly the new Busybox/WindowsCE. If you need to use an embedded OS and you don’t need the power of something like QNX (and really, who wants to deal with RIM?), Android gives you a full networking stack, as well as multimedia support.

It also made me question – just how many of the 950,000 daily activated Android devices are not used as phones. I think I’ll ponder that issue for a future article.

Still, I remain stunned that we’re living in an age where a full-blown smartphone is cheap enough to get inserted as an ad unit inside a print magazine.

Alas, The CW’s bid to get press about their ad campaign worked. Well played, The CW, well played.


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