3Digitally Editing Product Placement Into Old TV Reruns
Product placement isn't a new thing -- hell, its history dates back to the 19th century, so it's hardly a shock for us to turn on the television for a slice of blatant advertising sluttery right there in the middle of our favorite show.
"I'm sorry about your wife ... not being able to drink the new and improved Dytrix Blue! Mmm, BLUE."
And is it really so bad? It's not that jarring to see a sitcom character using, say, an iPod, when you can see the same thing 20 times during your real-life morning commute. And is it really any more distracting to have the gang from The Office eat at an Outback Steakhouse than to have them make up some fictional restaurant chain?
But now imagine you go back to watch an old rerun of Seinfeld you've seen a dozen times, one you can pretty much recite from memory ... only now Jerry suddenly has an iPod in his hand. Or something else that didn't exist at the time.
Like a rude soup vending machine.
Welcome to the innovative new world of "dynamic product placement."
Same scene, different ad.
A company called SeamBI (Seamless Brand Integration) has been digitally inserting product placement into reruns for 20th Television, on shows like How I Met Your Mother and My Name Is Earl. And if you thought we were joking about the anachronistic "iPod in 1995 TV show" thing, that sort of thing is exactly what dynamic product placement is for -- inserting current products into shows too old to have featured them.
That's why if you recently watched a five-year-old episode of How I Met Your Mother, you saw a TV in the background playing an ad for the 2011 movie Bad Teacher:
Both starring Jason Segel, whose head is then digitally retouched to explode.
It doesn't matter if the show specifically takes place in a timeline that would explicitly prohibit that ad from making any sense. They've got bills to pay, baby.
And don't take the above example to mean this technology is limited to the TV screens and billboards in the backgrounds of scenes -- it totally isn't. Things like cellphones and beverages can also be swapped out. SeamBI claims they'll even be able to change the cars the characters drive in the future, so don't be surprised if Sean Connery is rocking a Prius the next time you watch an old Bond movie. Hell, then you can get Rambo wearing a TapouT T-shirt throughout First Blood, and Breakfast at Tiffany's will consist solely of Double Downs and Red Bull.
2Eavesdropping Through Your Computer
Tired of being bombarded with sci-fi marketing messages from all directions, you decide to spend the rest of the day indoors idly browsing the Web. Sure, there are commercials and whatnot, but you're well-trained in the art of tuning them out.
It's just a matter of smashing your head against the wall in the right place.
Then your roommate walks in and says, "You know what I wish I had? A blanket for my face." Just as you are about to turn around and tell him that he is too stoned for conversation, a pop-up ad appears on your computer, inviting you to buy a Face Blanket at Getyourfaceblankethere.com.
"It's full of BOOgains!"
Ha! You think. It's almost like it can hear us!
What's going on is your computer's microphone has been listening all along. And it's not a thing of the distant future, nor necessarily even of tomorrow: Google has already developed the technology to listen in on ambient sounds around your house, then fire off relevant ads to your Web browser. It can even keep up with your TV while you're channel surfing.
"Google: Expect that secret volcanic base any day now."
And while they're only talking about using it in synch with broadcast TV content (advertising products that tie in to whatever is playing on your TV), this acoustic fingerprinting technology could be applied to any and all sounds coming from within the reception area, including the ones made by you.
"We heard loud screaming! Would you like this noise-canceling headset for only $19.95?"
But we're not going to have to speculate for long -- acoustic fingerprinting technology is actually going to be rolled out by AsSeenOnTV.com any day now. Their plan is to listen to the television infomercials that your cellphone picks up and then take you directly to a mobile website where you can purchase the product pretty much instantly. But hey, it's all about convenience and not at all about listening to whatever is going on in your house. Certainly no potential for abuse there.