Monday, September 27

You see a beer, I see a soft drink: Bill Gates’s project to change the products that appear in series and movies

The protagonist has cereals with milk for breakfast at the table in his living room. In front of him, strategically placed so that the brand is clearly visible, are the cereal box and the milk carton. Several shots of the scene use similar approaches and the viewer receives a few publicity hits. It is a book product placement, a type of promotion that is growing driven by the rise of streaming platforms, which have left behind the traditional television advertising cuts. This 2021 the ‘product placement’ will move 14,000 million dollars worldwide, 14% more than last year.

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However, our example has a problem. The series that has achieved this advertising impact for milk and cereals has achieved a global reach, but it was not shot with the Spanish public in mind. The dairy company is not present in Spain and the multinational that distributes the cereals does so under another name and with another monster in the package. For the Spanish viewer they are simple props. In the opinion of Bill Gates, there is a business opportunity that is being lost.

BEN (Branded Entertainment Network) is one of the companies owned by the magnate specialized in ‘product placement’. He assures that he can put digital vitamin into this type of promotion strategy to adapt it to the era of ‘streaming’. BEN’s plan is to apply data, segmentation and artificial intelligence to adapt the products displayed on the screen to the profile of the viewer who is viewing it and maximize the impact of the advertising. Each person is shown different products depending on their habits as a consumer.

Geographical segmentation is one of the first profiling options of the ‘product placement’ that Gates’ company handles. But the options go much further. “Streaming platforms are rushing to provide the volume and quality of content needed to respond to the meteoric surge in consumer demand. Their next challenge is to better understand what resonates with audiences so that resources production meet that demand, “suggests Alex von Krogh, one of the company’s vice presidents.

At the moment BEN has not reported that it has reached an agreement to use this technology on streaming platforms, but it has with the on-demand content that some US television channels offer in their apps and web pages. It is not the only ordeal that it has thrown based on artificial intelligence, since it also claims to have developed a system that allows it to predict which productions will be a success in certain types of public before they are put on distribution, with which it can place the products of the brands in the series and movies that interest them the most.


Advertising has long flirted with the possibilities of artificial intelligence. Earlier this year, Lola Flores’ viral ad reopened the debate on the ethical limits of technology applied to ads, using deepfake technology to show the artist delivering a speech she never made. His family accepted the collaboration with the brand and agreed to use his image to promote beer.

The message that the agencies that carried it out wanted to leave is that, in addition to its advertising purpose, the viralization of the ad served to draw attention to a reality. “People have to be aware of what technology can do, that they can no longer trust that everything they see in a video is real. That is why I think it is very positive to raise awareness of what can be done with this technology, for purposes like this. Otherwise, what would happen is that these tools would only be used for harmful purposes, “Nico Roig, artistic manager of one of them, told

Product placement is no stranger to this trend, although its objective is the opposite of what the beer brand was looking for when using the image of Lola Flores. The less it attracts attention, the better. “One of the big problems for advertisers is not only the fact that these platforms are subscription services and therefore do not have advertising with few exceptions, but also that the viewer is becoming extremely intolerant of the message advertising, with the conventional spot “, Elena Neira, professor of Audiovisual Distribution at the UOC and author of ‘streaming’ Wars (Planet).

Apple was one of the first companies to bet heavily on ‘product placement’, trying to avoid the rejection that the traditional advertisement produces in consumers. The technique, which was once an innovative way of infiltrating advertising into series and movies instead of cutting them in half, “is becoming more and more sophisticated and there are areas in which it is very evident,” continues the expert. “Although then we have problems like the last James Bond film. Much of the production was paid for by the brands, who later found that the film was late at the box office and much of the models that are advertised in it already they are out of season. ”

In any case, artificial intelligence and strategies such as BEN’s will have a very difficult time filling in all the bump that is involved in altering the original product with which the film or series was shot, say other specialists. The key is not just that the brand is seen, but that your product is integrated naturally in the story. “In low-value product placement, these things can be done, but in the integration of brands within the narrative, there is no room other than artisanal”, says Francisco Asensi, director of Digital Business for the DeAPlaneta production company.

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