When You Can’t Make it on The O.C . . .


You can scarcely measure the infinitesimal time span between a hot band’s press hype and their first corporate check. It’s hard to blame ’em —after years of sleeping on friends’ floors and getting cheated by skanky club owners, do you think we’d let our precious song play behind a Volkswagen or Fruit Roll Ups commercial? You fuckin’ betcha.

On that note, we welcome the latest batch to join the pack: Critics’ darlings Bloc Party, the Hold Steady, 22-20s, and British Sea Power, all of whom have signed on to encourage young frosh to buy their back-to-college stuff at Target.

You might have seen the TV commercials for free Bloc Party downloads on a website called When you go to the site, what greets visitors is a rather curious film, a WB-esque five-part miniseries that revolves around seven college freshmen trying to nail down a band to play at their school. But the freshmen don’t want just any garage band: They accost the 22-20’s manager at a show, unwittingly audition British Sea Power, run into the Hold Steady at a Mexican restaurant, etc. (The final fifth part will air on the website August 17). In the midst of it all, sexual tension arises between the primed-for-Williamsburg Madison (who’s described on the website like this: “You could comment on her new Killers tee, but she’s on the phone with the boyfriend”) and shy cutie Jake (who, in the real world, would have slept with half your freshman hall by now). Will more kooky capers ensue? Will they score a cool band for their concert? Will Madison and Jake hook-up? And, the real question, will all of this make college kids want to shop at Target?

In what may be the future of advertising, is one big commercial to sell Target as the hip place to buy back-to-college beddings and clothes. Though Target is never blatantly mentioned in the mini-movies, links from the site allow you to purchase the dorm-room set-up of the characters—a point-and-click layout of the room comes complete with captions: “Chicks dig it when your bed is made . . . Shop beddings [at Target.]” (And we know from personal experience how good those cheap 300-count sheets for $22 are—we do love our Target.)

Why you would visit the site in the first place, of course, is because of the free downloads and rock bands associated with it. Even if you don’t care to watch the film, you can download free Podcast interviews and ringtones from the artists featured, and enter a sweepstakes to win free tickets and VIP passes to hang with bands including Louis XIV, Coldplay, Foo Fighters. A cunning (if somewhat convoluted) way to associate the store with the image of these artists, but we expect no less from a company who’s worked hard to distinguish itself from its staid Wal-Mart competition, and whose efforts are hardly limited to the web or television. At P.S. 1’s Warm-Up this summer, Target passed out free cushions printed with their trademark bull’s-eye logo (participants promptly turned them into makeshift Frisbees).

About, Target P.R. says: “The Internet sitcom series is really an effort of ours to connect with our back-to-college customers. In the case of our back-to-college customer, they’re online quite a bit. We used those particular bands because [they’re] cutting edge, up and coming, very unique. We realized a lot of our back-to-college customers are very savvy consumers of the music that’s out there.”

Could this be the future of commercials? Instead of pushing for product placement in movies and TV shows, maybe an advertiser will just create its own programming. The Hold Steady, for one, don’t feel like they have anything to hide—they ask fans to check out the Target site themselves.