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Microsoft Picks Up Six-Second Ads in AMC’s ‘Walking Dead’

Before you get to see people eaten by zombies, you can be enveloped by technology.

Microsoft Corp.’s Xbox has agreed to run a six-second ad before the second and third episodes in the next cycle of AMC’s “The Walking Dead,” the first purchase of the inventory since AMC offered the inventory earlier this month. Six-second ads were once commonly known in the industry as “billboards,” and usually were placed adjacent to the last moment of a content segment of a TV show in a nod to reliable sponsors. But in a new digital era, where short-form commercials are gaining more popularity, the seconds-long pitches are finding new favor.

The quick-hit pitch creates a new solution to a regular challenge for marketers who want a closer-than-normal link with “Dead.” Simply put, weaving product into the show is difficult. In a world where humans have ceased creating new products and flashy contraptions, viewers likely would be distracted by the sight of the latest smartphone or car model. As a result, the dystopian world depicted in the series has been relatively devoid of product placement since a kiwi-green Hyundai drove off the show a few seasons ago.  As part of this season’s advertising pacts, “Walking Dead” characters will appear on limited-edition Mountain Dew packaging this fall, while supplies last. The PepsiCo-owned beverage and AMC will also launch a new augmented-reality app to boost the program.

Xbox is taking part in an extended link with the show as well. Xbox is slated to run a sixty-second spot in the eighth-season premiere of “The Walking Dead,” which debuts this Sunday, and also sponsor the “coming attractions” – scenes from the next week’s show – in all eight episodes of the cycle, according to AMC Networks.

In addition, Microsoft Xbox will serve as the presenting sponsor of a red carpet live stream from a premiere event at The Greek Theatre in Los Angeles Sunday night. The 45-minute feed will be carried by Facebook Live, Twitter, YouTube and the Mixer Xbox Channel. Xbox will  produce a 30-second spot with footage from the red carpet that will appear as part of the special two-hour episode of “Talking Dead” following the season eight premiere.

Others have been testing the short pitches on TV. Fox Networks Group has experimented with six-second ads in a recent broadcast of the “Teen Choice Awards” on the Fox broadcast network and during sports events like NFL games and the World Series.

“The Walking Dead” is one of TV’s most expensive for advertisers. A package of ads that runs across an evening’s worth of broadcasts on AMC is valued at about $415,000, according to Variety’s annual survey of primetime ad prices.

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