The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Advertisement gets on the dollar bill
- Media house pastes cable-show stickers on 50,000 currency notes

Washington, Jan. 25: If anyone thought the best gimmick in advertising is yet to come, it may have arrived! Where else, but in America'

Tipplers in New York and Los Angeles thought they had one too many when their barmen handed back change last week and they found their dollar bills carrying advertisements.

But it was not their senses playing tricks. Nor were the bills fake.

USA Network, part of the media conglomerate Vivendi Universal, has circulated 50,000 one-dollar notes with peel-off stickers stamped with the date, time and channel showing its three-part, new cable show, Traffic. The notes were primarily sent to cashiers in bars, but also in shops and restaurants.

Another major network, NBC, did not go quite that far. A few days ago, it printed 5,000 fake $100 notes and distributed them at traffic stops in New York to advertise its new show, The Apprentice.

NBC’s dollar bills had billionaire real estate developer Donald Trump instead of Benjamin Franklin on the fake notes. Trump is playing a reality TV role in The Apprentice.

Any suggestion that USA Network’s gimmick is a pioneering promotion has been challenged, not by advertising pundits, but by a baseball historian.

Mark Langill, a historian for the baseball team Los Angeles Dodgers, recalls that in 1952, when the team was practising in Vero Beach, Florida, the town’s mayor decided that the presence of the players in Vero Beach was not a healthy influence on residents.

The team stamped 20,000 two-dollar bills with the legend “Brooklyn Dodgers” and spent the money in the town’s shops, bars and other commercial establishments.

Money talked then, as it does now, and the team was soon more than welcome in Vero Beach.

The training of the team in the Florida town, says Langill in an advertising industry magazine interview, is a tradition that goes on 52 years later.

But advertising pundits have no record of the promotional gimmick having been tried again in more than half a century — until USA Network put it into practice once again.

The idea is the brainchild of GoGorilla Media, a gimmicky advertising agency in New York, whose motto is that “there is nothing more regrettable than an empty space with no advertising printed on it”.

Since it was founded two years ago, GoGorilla approached several clients with the idea, but none wanted to take it up, possibly because of the uncertain legal implications of such a campaign on legal tender.

But USA Network, which had run earlier gimmicky promotional campaigns with GoGorilla, decided to take the plunge after it was convinced that the removable stickers advertising Traffic would deface greenbacks no more than markers used by bank tellers after checking if one hundred dollar notes are counterfeit.

Will advertising on dollar bills, hitherto in the realm of the unthinkable, become the norm'

In India, it is not unusual to find names or company logos occasionally stamped on the white space on rupee notes and the dollar’s example may give some people ideas.

GoGorilla is aggressively promoting the concept with other prospective clients citing the example of USA Network’s success.

An advertisement on greenbacks, it says, surprise those who receive change after making a purchase, and more often than not, people will share their surprise with others. Money is the epitome of objects which are passed along and GoGorilla insists that advertisements on dollars will ride from person to person with no limits.

In this society where shopping discounts are ever so popular, the agency is now proposing that companies offering discounts should affix stickers on one-dollar bills providing such discounts with those very stickers.

Traffic is about illegal trafficking in drugs, human beings and arms. Money, says those associated with its promotion, is the central theme of the mini-series, justifying advertising it through the medium of dollars.

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