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Have You Seen What’s on TV-Shirt Today?

Times Staff Writer

Americans falling short of the daily average of three hours spent watching TV have a new opportunity to catch up.

Starting today, a San Francisco marketer is sending models out in public in T-shirts with built-in television sets.

“People of my generation and younger are so used to moving images on TV that if it’s not a moving image, it doesn’t move them,” said 30-year-old pitchman Adam Hollander, who created the Adver-Wear shirts.

His company, Brand Marketers, will debut the T-shirts today at theaters, malls and elsewhere to promote the Fox movie “I, Robot.”

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An 11-inch flat screen is mounted at chest level in each shirt, and four hidden speakers deliver sound. A shirt weighs about 6 1/2 pounds and costs about $1,000 to make.

Adver-Wear isn’t for sale, however. “I don’t want to lose my shirt,” Hollander said.

For other clients, Hollander has created more low-tech advertising vehicles -- a billboard tricycle in one instance -- and national marketing campaigns for Toyota Motor Corp., Qwest Communications International Inc. and Levi Strauss & Co.

With Adver-Wear, wired-up male and female models wear T-shirts customized to help spread clients’ messages. Today and Saturday, the ambling advertisers will be showing a trailer for the futuristic thriller about technology run amok. They’ll appear in the 10 largest U.S. urban areas, including Southern California, where they’ll parade outside theaters in Irvine, Westwood, Santa Monica and Ontario.

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The concept is “really brilliant” because it grabs attention without the artifice of some guerrilla marketing tactics that pretend to be something besides advertising, said Peter Sealey, an adjunct professor of marketing at UC Berkeley and a former president of marketing at Columbia Pictures.

“A person walking by with a TV is not trying to slip one by you.” The shirts are the latest in a lifetime of experiments with electronics, said Hollander’s mother, Debra Hollander of Bethesda, Md., who watched her son take apart motorized toys, phones and other gadgets and reassemble them into “Frankenstein-like” creations.

“He wasn’t malicious,” she said in a phone interview, “just trying to figure out things.”

Rapid improvements in television and miniaturization suggest that the TV T-shirts are a pale prototype of what is to come. “Soon screens will be flexible and larger,” Adam Hollander said. “The whole shirt will be a screen.”


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