March 12, 2011

Products added after shooting

Ever since the VCR first allowed television viewers to tape their favorite shows and fast-forward through the commercials, advertisers and their audiences have been engaged in a technology-driven game of cat and mouse.

While advertisers have developed numerous gadgets and apps to recapture viewers' attention, their target audiences have amassed an equally impressive arsenal of high-tech tools for ad avoidance.

On a national level, advertisers and audiences have proven a fairly even match, but local advertisers have been at a disadvantage because of smaller budgets and lack of control over on-screen content such as product placements, tickers and bugs, according to high-tech entrepreneur Roy Baharav.

But not anymore, he said.

Baharav is co-founder and CEO of SeamBI, based in Sherman Oaks, Calif. The company sells do-it-yourself, digital product-placement software that allows local TV stations to insert local advertisers' brand names, products and logos into existing shows with a digital brush.

One of SeamBI's first customers is Phoenix-area station KASW-TV, owned by Belo Corp., which broadcasts on Channel 49 and is carried by Cox Communications on cable Channel 6.

The station is affiliated with the CW network, a joint venture by CBS and Warner Bros. Entertainment.

SeamBI - short for Seamless Brand Integration - lets local stations sell their own "in-program advertisements" and insert those images at the local level into already-filmed content, he said.

The added images track with the show's camera movement and are difficult to distinguish from original props such as posters, billboards and items on tables and countertops.

The advantages, Baharav said, are that viewers likely won't notice they are viewing ads, and that the only way to avoid those ads is to not watch the show.

"This product is part of the solution to the problem that people are skipping the commercials," he said.

It's good for local advertisers because they can charge a relatively small amount for a digital-ad placement that's targeted only to the areas in which that business operates.

SeamBI and a handful of competitors in the digital product-placement arena have been working steadily to improve the quality of their technology in the past several years, according to TV-industry reports.

While the technology is finally ready for prime time, it still involves meddling with someone else's artistic creation - in some cases, at least.

Baharav insisted that his company treated each program into which products can be added, mostly reruns from the past decade, with the utmost respect.

For instance, viewers will never see an iPad resting on Jerry Seinfeld's kitchen counter, because audiences know iPads did not yet exist when the show "Seinfeld" show was in production.

"You have to make sure that the product you're going to put in there makes sense," he said. "You have to incorporate the advertising in a way that doesn't bother the viewer."

by J. Craig Anderson The Arizona Republic Mar. 12, 2011 12:00 AM

Products added after shooting

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