The importance of advertising, as the economic force behind the creation of high quality content, cannot be overstated. For decades, advertising has provided the funding for creativity to flourish and for mass audiences to access that content. As brands compete for consumer attention, the advertising formats being used have become increasingly intrusive, interruptive, and repetitive. You only have to look at the rise of ad blocking technology, which is used by nearly half of internet users worldwide, to understand the gravity of the situation and its impact on consumers.
With the global reach of distribution platforms, the accessibility of powerful creative tools, and engaged global audiences, the creative economy has absolutely taken off. And with it, the rise of platforms like TikTok, YouTube, SnapChat. However, the most common monetization mechanisms and ad formats have not kept pace, and continue to be interruptive, annoying, and incongruous with these new creative formats and platforms.
If the medium is the message, then it seems clear that brand messages have not evolved to fit the medium. As it turns out, however, there is one type of non-interruptive ad-format that has existed for decades, and deserves another look: Product Placement. Product placement is the perfect type of insertion point for creating advertising that is consistent with the creator economy. It is non-interruptive, it is engaging, and when done well, it is unobtrusive.
Product placement can take many forms, but the most common is integrating a brands products or services into the content itself. This can be as simple as featuring a can of Coca-Cola in a party scene, or as elaborate as having a character use a Samsung Galaxy phone throughout the film. The key is that the product placement feels natural and organic to the story, and does not interrupt the flow of the content.
While product placement has been around for a long time, it has only recently begun to be used in a more strategic way by brands. In the past, product placement was often seen as a way to simply get a brand logo on screen, without much thought given to how it fit into the story or why it would be meaningful to the audience. However, as the creator economy has taken off, and audiences have become more savvy and discerning, product placement has had to evolve to become more strategic and intentional.
Today, when brands work with creators, the process is extremely manual, in terms of the creative approval process as well as the commercial negotiations. This limits how many brands can work with creators, and how many creators can work with brands. These limitations hinder how many creators a brand can work with, leading to missed opportunities and limited reach. However, a programmatic approach to product insertion allows brands to efficiently and effectively work with creators at scale, and to have a lot more ‘at-bats’ to get their message in front of audiences in a non-interruptive way.
By leveraging technology, brands can automate the process of identifying opportunities for product placement, as well as virtually inserting 3d objects directly into creator content. This would allow for a more efficient and effective use of resources, and would open up opportunities for brands to work with a much wider range of creators.
The potential impact of virtual product placement on the advertising ecosystem is significant. As brands begin to invest more heavily in product placement, and as the technology behind it continues to evolve, we will see a shift in the overall landscape of advertising. Product placement has the potential to upend the current interruptive model, and to pave the way for a new era of advertising that is more consistent with the creator economy.