This is remarkable: The middle DVD case is not a DVD case at all, but a thin piece of cardboard cut to the approximate dimensions of a DVD case and printed with the same cover. We expect (near) instant gratification at movie stores; the product should be on the shelf. But by this system when the product itself is not, the product’s advertisement is. This increases consumer autonomy: We are no longer held at the whims of the clerk’s “doesn’t look like we have it” response.
This idea could be improved, I think, by printing the back matter of DVD cases on the back of these cardboard stand-ins (right now the back is blank). The DVD cover, while advertisement, is really the last step of an elaborate way-finding system. The action’s on the back.
More broadly, DVD cases themselves are interesting—they are designed to the same height and width dimensions as VHS cases, to better enable the two formats to coexist on the shelves of renters, retailers, and consumers. The DVD case is a conscious adaptation to the format of an existing system, even though DVD cases thus manufactured use up more material and space than necessary.