Pepsi's much hyped "Play for a Billion" TV show is yet another example of the new diva in the advertising business: advertainment. With consumers displaying shorter attention spans for traditional TV commercials, advertainment might well have the answer. However over-exposure is a danger, as are the high costs involved.

Pepsi's "Play for a Billion" TV show is to be aired on the WB Network in September. The show offers 10 finalists a chance to win cash prizes up to US$1m and a shot at a US$1 billion bonus. Finalists will come from a pool of 1,000 participants picked by Pepsi. The ticket to becoming a billionaire requires special codes, which will appear under caps of Pepsi, Sierra Mist and Mountain Dew products starting May 1.

In exchange for the prizes is the opportunity for Pepsi to incorporate products as an integral part of the live show. This means near-guaranteed consumer attention for two hours, a feat that seems almost impossible in this era of channel surfing and on-demand viewing.

It is no surprise that a number of companies have also chosen alternative routes for product exposure. In 2002, soda rival Coca-Cola received tremendous coverage from its part in Fox's American Idol show. Encouraged by the results, the company announced its intention to become a 'shareholder' in the new College Sports TV cable channel and has invested US$10m into this new venture. Anheuser-Busch has followed suit, backing up BOB, a short-film cable channel which, starting this summer, will air films that feature long ads.

While advertainment might well be the success story needed in combating the attention fatigue associated with traditional TV commercials, marketers must be careful to avoid too conspicuous an appearance. This can certainly turn off viewers, whose prime purpose in watching shows is to relax, not read the TV equivalent of junk mail.

Furthermore, advertainment is very costly and for smaller companies there are cheaper alternatives with proven success rates such as guerilla marketing. While advertainment might be the up and coming advertising strategy, it is by no means suitable for all companies. The success of advertainment will hinge on the marketers' ability to avoid over-exposure and balance costs with profits.

Related research: Datamonitor, "Soft Drinks in the USA to 2006" (DMCM0237)