What’s wrong with this picture?

Just watch the first minute or so of the above clip, a Brits broadcast from online entertainment channel ITN On. As product placement goes, you might think that Will Ferrell’s new film, Semi-Pro, had lucked in what with the reporter’s clipboard proudly declaring its title to camera (0.33). But keep watching – Farrell’s only gone and innocuously got his film into another shot (from 1.12-1.30): this time the intrepid reporter’s standing next to a billboard advertising the movie and – hey – there’s its title again, on the side of the taxi she’s climbing into! Lucky coincidence?
Well, no. All of these references to Semi-Pro were actually added in to the broadcast digitally and, according to MirriAd who are behind the work, this is a first for “embedded advertising in showbiz content”. While the work is for an online commercial channel, targeting an audience who, potentially, would be interested in seeing the film, doesn’t this all just feel a little creepy?

Just watch the first minute or so of the above clip, a Brits broadcast from online entertainment channel ITN On. As product placement goes, you might think that Will Ferrell’s new film, Semi-Pro, had lucked in what with the reporter’s clipboard proudly declaring its title to camera (0.33). But keep watching – Ferrell’s only gone and innocuously got his film into another shot (from 1.12-1.30): this time the intrepid reporter’s standing next to a billboard advertising the movie and – hey – there’s its title again, on the side of the taxi she’s climbing into! Lucky coincidence?

Well, no. All of these references to Semi-Pro were actually added in to the broadcast digitally and, according to MirriAd who are behind the work, this is a first for “embedded advertising in showbiz content”. While the work is for an online commercial channel, targeting an audience who, potentially, would be interested in seeing the film, doesn’t this all just feel a little creepy?

Of course it does, but then as many ad execs will argue, is using this technology any worse than a sponsored opener, or the common-or-garden “in association with…” tagline? Perhaps not, but it does seem that the parameters within advertising (advertorial, advercontent, whatever you want to call this) have shifted again. By becoming actual content, these ads aren’t ads in the way we’re used to experiencing them.

OK, so a spot like the Cadbury’s Gorilla isn’t a “regular” ad – it irreverently plays with ideas of branding and association and owes its success to the power of redistribution through the web; but embedding ads/products digitally into what appears to be a straight-to-camera video report (regardless that it’s for a commercial “entertainment” channel) seems like very different territory.

Here’s a snippet from the release that accompanies the launch of the work which was commissioned by WPP’s media planning agency, MediaCom, to promote Semi-Pro (out this Friday):

“The move to embed advertising within online content heralds a significant development for online publishers and advertisers. Unlike other forms of online advertising, such as pre-rolls, post-rolls, companion ads overlays and pop-ups, MirriAd’s digitally embedded brands and images cannot be skipped by viewers, and do not intrude on their viewing experience, giving advertisers a powerful new promotional tool. They can also be interactive. MirriAd provides content owners with a new way to monetise online content.”

Hmm.

So there’s no “pre-roll” advertising, allowing the viewer an uninterrupted experience? No. That’s not true. This experience has been interrupted from the beginning. It also means there’s just more space for another name to tag on the start of such a broadcast and that, in fact, what you end up watching on your monitor isn’t all that it appears to be.

One could of course argue that as this is all part of an “entertainment” package from a commercial channel and that those looking to secrete their messages within commerical broadcasting will always seek to do so in more inventive ways.

But ITN On is also a provider of “news” broadcasts to mobiles. Will it be long until this kind of technology is used during actual news coverage, if only to ensure that “brands and images” do not “intrude” on a viewing experience?

We’ll see.

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