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Strategies That Make AI-Powered Virtual Product Placement Soar

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Today's audiences command absolute control over their content experiences, sparing no time for anything that fails to resonate with their interests. A recent study conducted by the London Business School, involving discreet cameras and microphones in diverse households, examined the nuanced reactions to television advertisements. Unsurprisingly, they found that several typical behaviors were triggered when a commercial came on the screen. Four of them – talking, reading, getting up to do something or changing the channel – indicate a resolute disinterest in dedicating valuable time to on-screen advertisements.

Another recent study, run by Facebook, shows that smartphones are on hand for 95% of viewers. So even if viewers stay in front of the TV during an ad, the likelihood is high that they’re focusing on something else and just not paying attention to the ad. And a study conducted by AdTech company Sharethrough reveals another distinct trend, emphasizing that women, in particular, are proactive in retaining control over their experiential autonomy. Female viewers are 50% more inclined to reach for their phones during ad breaks compared to their male counterparts (51% vs. 35%).

It is clear that the prevailing sentiment surrounding advertising interruptions, viewed as hindrances to intended experiences, manifests in a cognitive and behavioral rejection of ads. Consequently, the rise of ad-avoidance and diminishing attention spans represents two sides of the same coin. This phenomenon is propelled by an escalating oversaturation of ads that persistently disrupt viewers’ experiences without delivering sufficient relevance and value in return.

When attention comes naturally

Non-interruptive advertising in TV and streaming content itself, such as with virtual ad and product placements, captures attention effectively rather than stifling it.  Dozens of studies show that virtual integrations, by virtue of their native relevance, are naturally embraced and observed by viewers, and there are strategies that can make these new formats even more engaging and effective.

Unlike traditional ad creative, in-content advertising, including Virtual Product Placement (VPP), needs to work directly with the content and not simply in a loose adjacency. Exploiting the narrative, environments, emotions, and context in general as catalysts for relevance, is pivotal to producing results that go even beyond the baseline performance of these new formats.

In-content advertising extends beyond traditional approaches, encompassing inventive formats resembling street billboards, wall posters (virtual signage), or screen-based TV commercials—both indoors and outdoors (video within video). By harnessing the inherent significance of content, virtual in-content product and ad placements present very dynamic and scalable opportunities for advertisers. Each integration occurs within diverse scenes, ensuring a perpetually fresh and engaging narrative. The integration of advertisement with content links a brand with moments, environments, and characters, fostering a cohesive narrative.

AI-driven virtual product placements present a remarkable opportunity for advertisers to gain prominent visibility across a wide range of content. Consider a coffee brand as an illustrative example. Through strategic scheduling, the brand can seamlessly integrate into kitchen and breakfast scenes featured across various programs and networks. This precision-targeted approach yields substantial benefits. Research conducted by Tobii underscores the effectiveness of such contextual links, revealing a staggering 4x increase in brand recall and a compelling 42% rise in brand interest. Furthermore, the incorporation of product placements into TV schedules yields tangible effects, as evidenced by Kantar's studies, indicating a notable 12 percentage point increase in ad awareness and an impressive 22 percentage point boost in brand consumption. This strategy proves to be exceptionally powerful for brands seeking not just visibility but meaningful and impactful growth.

Leveraging emotions fully

In the realm of advertising, in-content advertising emerges as a beacon of high-attention viewership, a stark departure from the landscape of traditional TV commercials, where a significant majority (66%) of viewers remain disengaged. To harness this captive audience effectively, advertisers can elevate their impact by harmonizing with the emotional context.

In a collaborative study with neuroscience company Spark Neuro, we explored into the intricate interplay between the emotional tenor of content and viewers' reactions to virtual product and ad integrations. It turns out that simply focusing on positive emotions such as happiness or excitement is not necessarily the best approach. Instead, a variety of intense emotions that captivate viewers can set the stage for a memorable product and ad integrations. Consider, for instance, a Jeep Wrangler billboard placement that thrived in a nerve-wrecking, suspenseful scenario, resulting in an 8% surge in brand value. Similarly, Lysol demonstrated its prowess when situated in a scene featuring gruesome imagery, contributing an impressive 17% augmentation to its brand value. This nuanced understanding of emotional dynamics underscores the potential for creating impactful and memorable brand experiences within diverse and suggestive contexts.

Cultural pertinence for the individual

Virtual ad and product placements within content provide brands with opportunities to forge deeper connections with audiences that traditional ads often struggle to achieve. One compelling example lies in the capacity to establish engagement with multicultural viewers. A strategically positioned sign in a Spanish-language TV show not only conveys the brand's message but also signals a commitment to cultural relevance, showing a willingness to go the extra mile.

In addition, VPP and virtual ads open innovative avenues for advertisers to partner with diverse and multicultural publishers. Many brands express a keen interest in allocating their media budget to diverse publishers, yet encounter challenges related to scale. Virtual product and ad placement introduces entirely novel inventory, unleashing more scale and a wave of creativity that transcends conventional advertising norms.

The implementation of addressable delivery for virtual in-content ads and product placements takes audience relevance to new heights. By harmonizing creative formats with the specific context of diverse audiences, advertisers can augment the impact of their campaigns. The integration of programmatic approaches for in-content formats represents a pivotal shift, and also marks the genesis of a groundbreaking intersection where content, commerce, and marketing converge, creating a new synergy that redefines the landscape of advertising.

Re-building relevance, re-capturing attention

The worlds of TV and video are undergoing rapid transformations, with advertisers and media companies transitioning from linear TV to Connected TV (CTV) and streaming platforms. In this dynamic environment, interactivity, addressability, and the integration of artificial intelligence are eventually reshaping advertising, making it more engaging, relevant, and effective.

The most decisive factor in these transformative shifts are the changing viewer attitude and behavior. Audiences are increasingly gravitating towards higher-quality entertainment experiences, while also asserting their desire for complete control over their time. This shift is unmistakable when viewers opt for alternative activities over traditional ads, reflecting a preference for an autonomous viewing experience.

A strategic approach that takes these critical factors into consideration allows brands to rebuild relevance and recapture attention, paving the way for differentiation and growth. The content itself, now enriched with virtual integrations of products and ads, emerges as the primary conduit to a future where brands once again become a welcomed and integral part of the viewer's experience.

[Editor's note: This is a contributed article from Mirriad. Streaming Media accepts vendor bylines based solely on their value to our readers.]

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