Watch Google's Eric Schmidt in New TV Ad for The Economist

Are You Ready for Small Talk With a Genius?

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A new TV commercial from The Economist stars Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt as someone you don't want to look dumb around. Which is to say, he's playing himself.

In the 30-second spot, which starts running globally Monday on CNBC, Mr. Schmidt steps into an elevator with an unsuspecting young man as a British-accented narrator says, "Oh, look, it's Eric Schmidt. Ready for a nice chat?"

If the young man reads The Economist, he will be well prepared for that chat, according to Michael Brunt, head of circulation at The Economist.

Advertising and branding agency Eyeball is behind the concept, creative direction, and production of the commercial. It was shot in two takes at Google's New York office. During the first take, the elevator door closed on Mr. Schmidt's arm.

The Economist was able to cast Mr. Schmidt because he is a non-executive board member for the magazine. "He said yes straightaway," Mr. Brunt said.

Beneath Mr. Schmidt's arm is a copy of a book by former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. That's no accident. The commercial pays homage to a 1996 U.K. ad for the Economist in which Mr. Kissinger sits next to a similarly unsuspecting, if slightly older, man at the front of an airplane.

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"The difference between 1996 and today is the circulation is much younger and broader," Mr. Brunt said. "Back then most of our readers might have sat in 2A on a plane, but now I think it's a bit broader."

The Economist is a 171-year-old weekly business and news magazine based in London. This week, it introduced The Economist Espresso, a daily email newsletter and smartphone app that highlights five topics boiled down to just 140 words. It's the magazine's first attempt at a daily news product and costs $3.99 a month for non-subscribers to the magazine. It's free for subscribers.