In Depth

CBS Teases Viewers With ‘Mentalist Awareness Test’

CBS is playing games with the latest promotions for the new Simon Baker drama “The Mentalist.”

The network has teamed up with U.K. psychologist Richard Wiseman to create a series of one-minute brain teaser videos in which viewers are challenged to spot what’s really happening.

The promos—dubbed “The Mentalist Awareness Test”—tie in with the “Watch Closely” tagline CBS is using to hype the series.

CBS’ marketing department filmed three videos for the campaign. The videos, which have been slowly leaking on to the Internet over the past week, will make their TV debut tonight during the network’s fall preview special, scheduled to air at 9 p.m.

Ron Scalera, executive vice president and creative director for CBS’ marketing department, said the awareness test “is an opportunity to sell the show with a totally different approach that gets into something a little more visceral.”

“We get to the core of what the character in the show does by letting the viewer do what the character does,” Mr. Scalera said. “The idea is that viewers would be challenged in the same way our character is.”

In “The Mentalist,” Mr. Baker plays Patrick Jane, an independent detective who helps authorities solve crimes by using his “Colombo”-like powers of observation. The videos, introduced by Mr. Baker, ask viewers to be on the lookout for a certain action while something else is happening right before their eyes.

The awareness test campaign began when “The Mentalist” was still a pilot and Mr. Scalera saw an Internet video for a U.K. bicycle safety campaign. He and his staff tracked down the British agency behind the ads, which connected them with Professor Wiseman.

“The production values (on the videos) are stripped down, by design,” so that the videos don’t feel like a TV commercial, Mr. Scalera said.

The executive said CBS plans to show the 60-second awareness test on TV just a few times, mostly to drive traffic to Web sites featuring the campaign. “It’s most effective when you’re sitting right in front of a screen,” he said.

CBS’ three awareness-test videos revolve around a football game, security guards and a card game. “The Mentalist” premieres Sept. 23.