Product placement is big business. The producers of the latest James Bond movie, No Time to Die, reportedly banked $100m in fees from brands including Aston Martin, Heineken and Chateau Angelus. This sum would have covered most of the costs of producing the film, but not the over $200m that were spent in marketing and distribution.
One of the biggest problems in product placement always lies in the possible conflict between what the director and cinematographer want to show on the screen and the way they want to show it – and the ambitions of the brand owner. There are many stories of unhappy companies who discover that, for the money they have paid, their product is only visible to the audience for a second or two. Occasionally, commercially placed products, like unfortunate actors, find themselves on the cutting room floor, with no presence in the movie at all.
Another issue involves regional distribution and possible clashes with local legislation. Alcohol, for example, may be an issue in some Arab markets. And product placement is subject to different regulations in individual countries.The EU, for example, is stricter than the USA.
Now, however, technology seems to have come up with a solution. A US business called TripleLift, majority shares in which were sold last year for $1.4bn (to Vista Equity Partners), offers a service that places products into the scene after the film has been edited. As the promotional video on its website reveals, a bottle of beer can be inserted at will - and then replaced by a bottle of Pepsi for an audience for which the alcohol may be inappropriate.
A number of interesting possibilities are opened by this new advertising model. Audiences in Texas, New York and California for example, might be shown different packaging options for the same product in an episode of a popular TV series, and then questioned by researchers to discover which option had been noticed more often - and liked or disliked.
According to the advertising publication The Drum, the technology, which relies on AI to select the ideal way in which to insert the products, is already being used by Amazon Prime and its US streaming rival Peacock. How this model will comply with alcohol advertising regulations remains to be seen, but it seems quite likely that rather more bottles of wine may soon be finding their way onto screens across the globe.