In Back to the Future, imagine that Marty McFly goes back in time to order a “Pepsi Free” but receives a Coke Zero instead. Imagine Daniel Craig’s James Bond in Skyfall not pressing his lips on a Heineken but instead wrapping his snout around a Bud Light Lime, which, would be a bigger insult to the classic martini drinker.
Well, those are two extreme examples, but with the advent of digital streaming, more advertisers are looking for ways to bring their products before your eyes subtly and overtly. Now streaming services from Amazon and NBCUniversal promise virtual product placement initiatives that allow creators and advertisers to “seamlessly” insert native ads into the movie or TV show even after it’s released.
Not only does it open the door for even more product placement in movies and TV, but as has already been seen in video games, advertisers will soon be able to rotate ads to designated spots within passive content. While the previews shown only feature recently released ranges, there is nothing but the public outcry for preventing ads from being placed in past movies or TV shows.
At the Interactive Advertising Bureau’s 2022 NewFronts convention earlier this month, Amazon showcased its virtual product placement beta program, promoting it as “helping brands appear in new places and reach an audience they want to reach” while promoting the takes over the burden of in-scene advertising, Away from content creators.
At the NewFronts convention, NBC’s Peacock showcased its “In Scene” service that similarly blends products or messages into movies and shows during post-production. Variety reported on May 2 that some shows may be framed with ads.
Amazon showed its VPP program through its streaming services Amazon Prime Video and Amazon Freevee. The live conference showed several scenes with digitally embedded products in the background. A set from Amazon Prime’s Reacher had a digitally inserted ad for TurboTax on a building in the background.
At the seminar, Amazon Senior VP Advertising Products & Tech Colleen Aubrey said the beta program has already been implemented in shows like Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan, Reacher, and Bosch: Legacy. The company claims that brands that tested VPP saw a 7% increase in brand preference and a 15% increase in purchase intent.
Producers speaking at NewFronts praised the technology for allowing them to save their product placement efforts for post-production. In Amazon’s release, Henrik Bastin, the executive producer of Bosch: Legacy, called the technology a “game changer,” adding: “You can sit with the latest version and see where a product can integrate seamlessly and naturally into the storytelling’.
Gaming advertisers were the first to tease the idea of interchangeable product placements in live media. Still, such services have expanded more into mobile gaming and free-to-play games in recent years. These services essentially allow advertisers to serve verified ads in select gaming locations, such as in-game billboards or flyers.
More streaming platforms that have long shunned ad breaks, like Netflix, are considering ad-supported account tiers tocompensatep for declining revenue. HBO Max created an ad tier last year, and Disney+ will release its ad-based account tier later this year.
Advertising companies are eager to get their ads on streaming platforms. According to Bloomberg, product placement in movies is already a $23 billion ($32) billion industry, and the form of advertising is trying to make its way to streaming media as it is much harder to avoid than traditional advertising.
But with the tendency of existing online platforms such as Google or Facebook to enable targeted advertising, it doesn’t take much to envision a worst-case scenario of where interchangeable product placement in existing media might eventually lead to.