Samsung is to trick millions of people into believing their TVs have broken as part of a controversial new ad campaign.

In the middle of many of the UK’s most popular shows – including the Champions League final and Coronation Street – Samsung will show a short ad that is specifically calculated to trick people into believing their TVs have broken down. Screens will initially begin to flicker and then shut off entirely, in a way indistinguishable from a really broken TV set.

In all, more than eight million TVs will be “turned off” as part of the campaign. It will also affect cinema screens showing the new Solo film and the screens at Piccadilly Circus.

Samsung says that the unprecedented ad campaign will be used to promote the Ambient Mode technology in its new QLED TVs. That “redefines what it means for a TV to be ‘off'” by allowing the set to show information or completely blend into the wall behind it when it is not being used, avoiding the site of a big black void in the middle of the room.

Samsung acknowledged in its release that the ad campaign could send people scrambling for their remotes or trying to fix their TVs right in the middle of many of the country’s biggest TV moments. “Screens will buzz with static and interference before going blank and entirely silent, leaving viewers staring into the void – or searching for their remote controls – for five long seconds,” it wrote.

But the reason people are being tricked should become clear soon enough, when the ad spot comes to an end and a message will display that reads: ““This is your TV screen … most of the time; a void full of nothing.” The rest of the ad will explain the QLED TV’s technology.

The ads will begin on Friday evening, when they will still be relatively short. But they will eventually become even longer – eight seconds of a 30 second ad spot – and will cut right into the middle of the Champions League final when it airs on Saturday evening.

Given that many people will be watching that match in pubs and other venues, it seems likely that the controversial ad campaign could wreak havoc in the middle of one of the most watched TV events of the year.

“This unique and disruptive marketing campaign has been designed to underscore our messaging in the most dramatic way possible, switching sets off to remind the public that their TV is simply a boring black screen for 90% of the time,” said Rebecca Hirst, Marketing Director, Samsung Electronics UK & Ireland commented.

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