It seems product placement is about to get sexy. Someone will without doubt invent a new phrase for it. (I’m off to trademark VPI, or Virtual Product Integration.) Accenture has been working on a new technology that allows them to embed their clients’ products programmatically into content within online video services. The product doesn’t actually need to be there physically; a representation of it can be added into or out of shot for a pre-agreed period of time as required. Having launched the idea at Cannes this year they are now in discussion, according to The Drum, with regulators prior no doubt to speaking with the likes of Netflix and Amazon.
There are various interesting angles to this story.
The first and most obvious is that this initiative is coming from Accenture. This isn’t a game for the faint-hearted; the development costs must be considerable, but then Accenture and others from the management consulting sector have deep pockets. Ever since the management consultants entered the marketing services world through the acquisition of the likes of creative agencies Karmarama (in the U.K.) and Acne (from Sweden) there has been speculation as to how and when they’ll enter the media arena. Well, now we know. At least one play is going to be through the smart application of technology in partnership with large content players.
The second interesting angle is the choice of approach. Why bother with something apparently unfashionable like product placement? At the moment, online advertising is unpopular -- and justifiably so. Adblockers are on the rise, and survey after survey make the point that not only are most online ads creatively poor but also that the very manner in which they appear manage to interrupt and irritate.
What nobody doubts is the reach and influence of online platforms – what’s wrong is how they’re being used. Personally, I’ve always thought that the word “ad” is half the problem. Ads online conjure up creative approaches far too many of which are shadows of ideas that would be far better executed on another medium altogether.
As an industry, we haven’t worked out how our brands should best to talk to people online. Yes, there are interesting formats and some fun stunts but the mix is not as it should be (which is no doubt why companies like P&G are pulling brand budgets from the large platforms).
Product placement, if done well and targeted properly with the opportunity for different segments to see different products, could be an interesting idea -- especially if it plays into the current interest in influencer marketing.
So what we have here is a serious player, with top C-Suite contacts spending a truckload of money to build a better mousetrap. Will the world beat a path to his door? Probably.
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