Don't eat that CD-ROM

Ever seen a CD-ROM that looks like a pickle? A saw blade? The state of Texas? If you haven't, you probably will before long.

Custom-shaped CD-ROM discs are the latest trend in high-tech marketing. Some companies vying for your attention are distributing interactive material, usually of a promotional nature, on eye-catching CD-ROMs.

Impact Media produces CD-ROMs in custom shapes for a variety of businesses. For instance, the company produces discs resembling sports trading cards for Upper Deck, a sports and entertainment trading card company. The PowerDeck cards, as they're called, feature player stats, video clips, and other multimedia content. More than 100,000 such CD-ROMs were given away as promotional items at the 1999 World Series and the 2000 Super Bowl, according to Impact Media.

Impact Media has also produced CD-ROMs in the shape of Texas (for the Lubbock Cotton Kings hockey team), a key (sent to DJs to promote Vince Gill's MCA Records album The Key), and a fist (to promote Axent Technologies' firewall protection software).

Because they're often physically smaller than standard 650MB-capacity CD-ROMs, custom-cut CD-ROMs can hold only up to 300MB of data. Business card-shaped discs can fit only about 50MB. But customers use the CD-ROMs for their visual appeal and not their data capacity, says an Impact Media spokesperson.

Impact Media claims it creates more than 2 million custom-cut CD-ROMs monthly for Fortune 500 businesses and government agencies. Keys Marketing International also produces business card and custom-shaped CD-ROMs for promotional purposes. The company offers recordable business card-size CD-ROMs for small businesses as well.

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James A. Martin

PC World

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