Beyond Home Plate: Dynamic Product Placement in Non-Sports Programs May Create New Options for Healthcare Advertisers
For years, a double standard has existed between branded entertainment’s use in sports versus entertainment programming. The increasing use of camera “keyed” billboards behind home plate of MLB games and sponsor logos on the 50 yard line of NFL broadcasts elicits nary a complaint these days, but the fact that a vaunted prime time TV producer might choose to have a scene shot at Dunkin’ Donuts versus Starbucks due to a revenue deal often makes purists scream. Yet the fact that most DVR viewers now skip traditional commercials when watching video cannot be ignored.
Enter SeamBi (for Seamless Branded Integration), a 5 year-old company which is just now beginning to make headlines due to a high-profile deal recently struck with Twentieth Television’s “How I Met Your Mother.” According to the technology’s developer, SeamBi “…allows brands to be quickly and seamlessly inserted into programs that already have been produced, and to do it very close to air time”. After some very successful local market tests, the technology is now being rolled out in all markets.
Unlike prior, more cumbersome efforts, SeamBi can handle moving targets, like t-shirts, signs on top of a moving taxi, and even restaurant table signs during a couple’s casual dining date. And the company claims options for other media, including Internet sites, and the opportunity for LOCAL television affiliates to insert local advertisers. The video demo on the middle of the company’s homepage is worth watching to see how far this technology has come.
The implications for healthcare advertising are immediately apparent. Both the Pharma Code of Conduct for pharmaceutical advertisers and AdvaMed’s guidelines for medical device firms make very clear that the involvement of a manufacturer in controlling content in which their product is discussed requires disclosures and med-legal reviews which often make such projects untenable. As a result, pharma advertisers typically settle for integrating their advertising “after the fact” by simply buying commercials, even though they know it allows far less brand benefit due to lack of control and the real possibility that most viewers will zap their commercials entirely via a DVR.
Could a future where a branded pill bottle might be “inserted” into a “Two & A Half Men” medicine chest whenever Charlie Harper runs to the bathroom following a bender, or a certain artificial knee company’s logo can be seen on boxes in the supply closet behind doctors kissing on “Grey’s Anatomy” be on the horizon? As far-fetched as it seems, inserting brands AFTER the fact might actually be more palatable to regulatory bodies more concerned with biased content being inserted in sinister fashion DURING the production process. The SeamBi process is to video what buying a print ad after an article has been written is to print…with the significant added advantage of better ad placement and no possibility of zapping.
User behavior continues to tell us that consumers do not want to watch pre-roll ads online or :30 or :60 commercials on television. As troubling as some purists may find the fact that a poster behind the characters talking on the street on “How I Met Your Mother” may be promoting Plavix for the September airing and selling Cialis for the December rerun of the same exact scene, this technology brings us one step closer. Before producers and consumers turn their noses, they should consider the alternatives.