You have heard of product placement in movies and video games but scientists and marketers have now cracked the code for entering a new channel: advertising in your dreams.

You are flying over your old primary school when you decide to touch down to say hello to a poodle-like dog that reminds you of the taxi driver you met yesterday. As you begin talking, the earth becomes a quagmire of quicksand and you can’t move quickly enough to flee the impending death that approaches. Suddenly, like uncovered treasure, you spy a shiny metallic object to your left. It is a fresh can of Coca Cola’s new "Uncal" diet soda. You drink the elixir and bound to the safety of your classroom, dressed only in a Speedo "DayGlo" swimsuit and a pair of Nike "AstroBounce" sneakers.

Then you wake up.

Fanciful? Perhaps not.

Coca Cola, Speedo and Nike are just three of the many mega-brands that are exploring this new medium called in-sleep advertising. While still in its infancy, eMarketer forecasts in-sleep advertising spending in the US to grow to over $3 billion by 2020, up from less than one million in 2005.

"One third of your life is spent sleeping. That is a wasted third, in our eyes."
Ida Gottit, Chief Executive
American Marketry Association

Nevin Fester of In-Sleep, a leader in providing in-sleep marketing solutions, explains the origins of the medium: "There are only 24 hours in the day according to most physicists," he said. "We’ve been lobbying the stubborn bunch for years to increase this but all we got in 2006 was an extra second! So we thought, the average person sleeps 7 to 8 hours a day. Let’s tap into that. To use a metaphor, let’s utilize this computing resource while it is in screensaver mode. "

With so much media competing for the attention of consumers during a typical day is it any wonder that marketers should be employing such radical measures? And one can see the obvious benefits. Where are the majority of Americans between the hours of midnight and 6 am — in bed asleep, of course. Perhaps there is even a chance of finding and targeting the illusive 18-34 year old male once again.

"One has to remember that brain activity is simply electrical charges. We’ve been able to successfully translate an advertising message into an electrical charge."
Professor Ivan Nydea
Chief Scientist, In-Sleep

For the layperson, this is how in-sleep advertising works. All in-sleep subjects have a procedure to implant a nanobot (a tiny robot about the size of a blood cell) into that part of the brain where dreams originate — the pons in the brainstem. Once the chip is in place, it acts something like a wireless base-station, sending and receiving signals from other nanobots.

Before an in-sleep subject goes to bed they put a small device in their ear, not dissimilar to a cochlear implant. When the subject moves into REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, the implant is triggered (by the increase in delta waves) and a nanobot containing the appropriate advertising message is released into the spiral artery of the ear and down through to the cochlear canal. Once it reaches the blood brain barrier, it is programmed to wirelessly send an electrical signal (the advertisement) to the nanobot located in the pons. That nanobot receives the signal, sources the appropriate neuroreceptor and implants the ad.

The beauty of the technology is that the cochlear implant communicates wirelessly with the ad server connected to the Internet so new ads can be tailored to each subject and delivered at each REM phase. Since adults typically move in and out of REM four to five times a night, this process is repeated throughout an evening’s sleep. As is well know in the marketing world, an advertisement needs to be ‘seen’ three or four times over a short period of time if the message is to be remembered beyond the short term, which makes in-sleep advertising particularly effective.

When a nanobot fires its electrical signal it is actually stimulating the neurons and new synapse connections are formed. This in turn enhances the subject’s memory of not only the in-dream advertisements, but of the entire dream.

"Memory, dreams and learning are all closely related from a neurological point of view so creating new synapses in the brain is literally opening up new channels for learning and memory."
Professor Ivan Nydea
Chief Scientist, In-Sleep

Ah, the marketers dream…a nation of consumers humming the latest jingle over breakfast every morning!

More here.