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ESPN tries split-screen commercial


The NFL’s Week 16 action featured experimentation with different approaches to commercials. Shorter breaks with more of them and longer breaks with fewer were planned for the various games, and the reaction to the “back in 30 seconds” approach seemed to be very positive.

Another device, used at least once during Monday night’s ESPN game between Dallas and Detroit, also was well received. Even if it didn’t generate the intended effect.

In the second half, a split screen appeared under an “ESPN Monday Night Football” header. On the left was a large box that played an ad for the Microsoft Surface. On the right was a “Sideline Cam” at the game, with a shot of Cowboys linebacker Sean Lean consulting on the bench with a coach.

It likely was meant to be the ultimate blend of product pitch and product placement, given the prevalence of the bright blue Microsoft devices along the boundaries of every NFL field. Alas, Lee was perusing not the images from a Surface but from an old-school binder full of photographs.

The contrast provided for an intriguing visual. But that’s surely not the outcome the folks at Microsoft were hoping to see.