At CES, Netflix uses presence to promote new TV series about presence

[This story from Engadget describes how Netflix used an exhibition booth at the 2018 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas to evoke presence in visitors to promote a new TV series about presence after death (the topic of the most recent new episode of The X-Files (season 11, episode 2; spoiler-filled summary available from Vulture). The Engadget story includes 11 more photos and for more information see the Netflix page for the new series and coverage in DesignTAXI that includes photos, videos and tweets from CES. –Matthew]

Netflix hid a fake biotech booth in the middle of CES

Oblivious attendees might have been the best part.

Mat Smith
January 10, 2018

Venture beyond tech whales like Samsung and Sony, beyond the rows of smart speakers and giant TVs, and you’ll discover that there are weirder things to be found at CES. That might be why Netflix’s trojan horse public relations move, establishing a fictional vendor booth deep within the Las Vegas Convention Center, worked a little too well.

Well, I cheated. I was already briefed (through a press release) that “Psychasec” wasn’t a genuine CES exhibitor, despite this full-fledged stall you see here. Nope, this is a fictional company from Altered Carbon, the next big-budget sci-fi series from Netflix, which seems to borrow heavily from Blade Runner, at least in visual delivery.

Most of the other attendees, a mixture of businesspeople, media and other exhibitors, were immediately curious about the glossy white stand with two sexy, realistic mannequins on display at the front.

When they ventured inside, an army of slightly too pretty attendants, dressed in white, offered vague sci-fi responses to questions (“It’s about transferring your consciousness to a new, better body”) while screens all around scrolled through the benefits of replacing your body with a new (sexy, stronger, smarter) model. The aforementioned staff clutched tablets to take email addresses, with promises of more information come February 2nd. Plenty took the bait, genuinely curious to know where this company was based and whether this was all even possible.

The twist, if you can call it that, happens once you turn a corner and you’re confronted with a vacuum-sealed human. This is another mannequin, although with some carefully placed condensation inside the bag, which made it rather unsettling. Naturally, I had to poke the “person” in a bag. Morbid fascination.

So what about the only real thing here? The show itself, Altered Carbon, is set 300 years in the future, at a time when human bodies are interchangeable: Death just isn’t a thing. From the glimpses I saw here, it looks like Netflix is putting plenty of cash into the show — and I don’t just mean renting a plot in Las Vegas. Expect some action, navel-gazing thoughts on what it means to die, and a firearm or two. The show launches globally on February 2nd.


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