Almost 15 years ago, market-research firm Yankelovich estimated that the average city dweller saw more than 5,000 ads every single day. That was before smartphones and social media. Now, some estimates peg the number at about 10,000 ads. Everywhere you look, there’s an ad nearby, which means a brand has paid to put it in your sight line. Billboards, TV ads, Instagram influencers, promoted tweets—they all cost money. Proctor & Gamble spent $8.2 billion over the last year on TV, print, radio, internet, and in-store advertising.
Now Pabst Blue Ribbon wants to make your house its newest ad platform—and put some of that ad budget in people’s pockets. The brand is launching a new campaign called “In Home Advertising,” in which it will pay you to decorate your house with PBR-branded merchandise. From highly visible items like shower curtains, rugs, toilet lids, and tablecloths, to more subtle logos, such as label stickers for fridge items and fish-tank billboards, people will be able to order these for free online and, once posting photos of it all and tagging the brand, the check will be in the mail.
It’s either a delightfully clever beer-brand joke, or a dark harbinger of our impending Black Mirror-esque, ultra-branded future in which every available surface in our lives is plastered in advertising.
Nick Reely, PBR’s VP of marketing, says the idea is rooted in self-deprecation. “We were having conversations about ad effectiveness and cost, and it was a bit of a joke where we said, ‘We can barely afford to do any out-of-home advertising. I don’t think we can afford to advertise in someone’s home . . . .’ And then a light went off for a concept.”
The ads, created by the Austin, Texas-based agency Callen, lean heavily into the joke of this entire concept, giving it a very 3 a.m. infomercial vibe. Reely says that the pricing is based on two things: scale and silliness. The more square footage of your house, apartment, or dorm room that the PBR branding occupies, the more they’ll pay you. “On the silliness side, there are a lot of little things,” says Reely. “There’s something funny about getting paid $6 to have a PBR toilet roll. Or $3 for putting a PBR label on the mayo in your fridge.”
There definitely is something funny about it. And yet the flip side is that somewhere, someone is in a boardroom right now pitching this type of thing with stone-faced solemnity. It’s the natural extension of when a burger joint offers free burgers in exchange for getting its logo tattooed on your body. Or when a company offers consumers the chance to turn their car into a moving billboard. It’s also an eerie echo of Scott Galloway‘s declaration years ago that “advertising is a tax the poor and the technologically illiterate pay.”
Reely sees the potential here, too, but pumps the brakes with effort. “There is a dark view of this, but for us, we’re just trying to be a bit silly while giving people some cash,” he says. “There are reasons people bring brands into their lives, and for PBR, people consistently do it for value. So what better value could we offer someone than actually putting cash in their wallet?”
Let’s just hope there’s not a branded butterfly effect, where every blank surface in our lives become available media space because a butterfly flapped its wings at a PBR shower curtain.