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James Hibberd

'Top Model' Disconnect

January 19, 2007 7:13 PM

I’m failing to keep my CW coverage to two paragraphs.

Their “America’s Next Top Model' mobile phone avatar is, all snark aside, pretty cool. It’s a mobile game where the user is responsible for the care and feeding of a pouty “Top Model' contestant who “lives' on the phone.

Cyriac Roeding, VP of wireless for CBS Interactive, describes the game as a 21st century version of those “keep them happy or they die' Tamagotchi pets. The CW plans to have the game tied to the next season, so that if your “Top Model' contestant gets a new haircut or gets into a fight with a competitor, the avatar on your phone is updated appropriately. In an industry that flogs and abuses the term “interactive,' this game really is.

Now let’s bring the snark back.

Roeding is likeable, quick-witted and has a strong German accent. CW PR man McGuire says that he likes to give him twenty bucks to say “Kill Bond!' Roeding enthuses at length about the “Top Model' cell phone game, then declares he’s now going to do something that Bill Gates says a man on stage should never attempt—a live demonstration. The “Top Model' game comes up on the large projection screens beside the stage.

Now, every critic in the room knows exactly what’s going to happen next. Because the Pasadena Ritz Carlton, despite regularly housing this television conference and media event, has all the cell phone reception of a bomb shelter in Duluth covered by a dozen feet of snow. Given that his title is VP of Wireless, Roeding should probably know this.

On screen, the “Top Model' game suddenly disappears and is replaced by a Sprint logo.

“And this is why you should never do a live demo, because our phone basically just decided to switch off,' Roeding says.

The critics laugh. This is what happens a dozen times a day when their editors call.

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