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New Free Toilet Paper with Banner Ads
December 13, 2013

CINCINNATI--Consumer products giant Procter & Gamble today announced trial marketing in the U.S. of a new version of its classic Charmin bathroom tissue displaying dynamically generated and updated ads for other Procter & Gamble products. The new ad-enabled Charmin will be free to consumers and distributed through supermarkets and other large retail outlets for Procter & Gamble products. "We're very excited about the changes in the Charmin line," explains VP of Bathroom Marketing Barry Oile. "This is an 'attention economy,' as they say, and we're looking for new ways to leverage our brands to generate attention-related revenue."

The new Charmin is made of an ultra-thin, organic electroluminescent film deposited chemically on both sides of a substrate of traditional cellulose-based tissue. Each perforated section of the tissue functions as an independent 256-color, 480x480 pixel display connected through a continuous, ultra-thin ribbon-wire "channel" to a system-on-a-chip etched on flexible substrate and sandwiched between the layers of the roll's cardboard "support cylinder." The central system is equipped with nanotube "ballasts" that orient the roll and enable it to determine which of the tissue screens are facing outward.

"One of the challenges we faced was how to cope with the fact that some consumers are 'under-rollers' and some are 'over-rollers,'" explains Trish Falt, director of the research team responsible for the new Charmin. "The system has to know whether the most out-facing square--the square with optimum ad placement--is the leading-square, as it is with over-rollers, or whether it is a higher or 'shoulder' square, as it is with under-rollers. The real trick isn't getting the display and the tissue to work together, but building a system capable of adapting to the variability of consumer behavior."

The first generation of the new Charmin will offer advertisements for other Procter & Gamble consumer products tailored to individual users on the basis of data gathered through bluetooth communications with the packaging of other Procter & Gamble products in the vicinity. Informed by a nearby bottle of Tide that it is reaching empty, for example, the Charmin roll will generate a reminder ad.

"For this test phase, we are working with ads only for our existing product lines," explains Marketing VP Oile. "In the second phase we'll begin selling ad-space. We've already lined-up a number of big names, including Ford, AOL, and the Gap. In the third phase we'll be looking to our content partners, including Yahoo and AvantGo, to help us increase the stickiness of Charmin through the addition of customized news and contentoids."

Early results suggest significant public interest in the colorful new tissue, and positive response to the price-point. "People seem to be most impressed by the display quality," notes Falt, "but, from an engineering perspective, the real challenge was maintaining the softness and absorbency for which Charmin is known."

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