Thoughts — 27 May 2021
By Craig Lawrie

Taking the artificial out of AI driven product placement

by Craig Lawrie

What do the following have in common?

  • Modern Family
  • How I Met Your Mother
  • Made In Chelsea
  • First Dates Hotel
  • And Mexican pop artist, Giovanny Ayla?

 

You’d be forgiven for thinking, nothing at all. And that’s exactly what Mirriad, the inventors of a new AI driven product placement solution, are hoping for.  Thanks to highly sophisticated AI and movie standard VFX, viewers will start seeing less blatant, jarring product placements and more where brands feel authentic and contextual to the story or location around them. Indeed, this technology is already actively in use, with all of the above content using it over the past 12 months as content producers try to remonetise back catalogues and build extra revenue into ad-free streaming services- sometimes years after the original was shot.  Of particular interest to brands and content producers, as well their audiences, is that this technology can be used retrospectively in classic or foreign TV shows, films and videos potentially bringing new relevance to old or international content. 

 

Because the technology combines the best of AI with the best of movie standard special effects, it’s clever enough to not only analyse where in film footage a brand can be authentically added – dropping in CGI created billboards, products and commercials playing in TV screens - but also what type of brand would be emotionally relevant at any particular part of the script.  So aside from your favourite show possibly featuring an additional bus side or product shot that was never in the original, AI is selecting brands that will emotionally resonate so that the brands enhance the storyline. For example, Pampers billboards being retrospectively added to scenes in Bridget Jones’ Baby.

 

From a client and agency perspective, the key benefit of this technology is that brands no longer need to demand seeing a script or detailed storyboard before committing to expensive product placement in a film, TV show or music video. And, they don’t need to worry about missing the boat after content has been released or that their brand can’t serve multiple markets. They can literally see the finished footage and decide whether their brand has a role to play in it or not – and when, where and how it should be used, however old the footage. 

Where the technology does raise questions is when video product placement is served in a programmatic way based on each viewer’s individual Internet search history as well as their location and time of day. Whilst audiences have become accustomed to behaviourally based advertising online, this isn’t something which they expect across platforms. Seeing ads related to previous search history on a different platform experience can feel very Big Brother, risking the audience’s relationship with the brand, as well as the enjoyment of the content they are watching. If this isn’t handled sensitively, audiences will start to question how their data is being used and by whom. 

 

Adding new elements into classic content is hardly new. (Lucasfilm added CGI to the original Star Wars movies in the late 1990s after all). But featuring new brands to “enhance” the story experience of established content, certainly is. Whilst there are many advantages for brands, content and audiences alike to use this new technology, it must be noted that artificial product placement must be handled with care. Otherwise, it won’t just be the data intelligence that feels artificial, but rather the viewer experience too.