Coming to a Screen Near You: Virtual Product Placement

Careful viewers of Indian soap opera “Pavitra Rishta” might think that husband and wife Manav and Archana are fans of Tilda, a brand of packaged rice. There it is, after all, on the shelf. Anyone watching the show being filmed, though, won’t necessarily come to the same conclusion, because on the set there’s no Tilda. Instead, the package of rice is digitally added to scenes in the drama from broadcaster Zee TV.

Zee’s owner, Indian billionaire Subhash Chandra, likes the idea so much that he’s investing 3 million pounds ($4.6 million) in MirriAd, the London company that sells the digital product placement technology. Earlier backers will kick in another 600,000 pounds.

Zee, one of Asia’s largest media businesses, with theme parks, online gaming and telecoms operations, aims to use digital product placement across India and elsewhere in Asia.

MirriAd says its technology helps advertisers reach more eyeballs since TV viewing drops off by an average 25 percent during breaks and audiences find banner ads and pop-up messages annoying. The startup has built an impressive client list, both among advertisers and media companies. For pet owners concerned with doggie dental care, Pedigree DentaStix were featured in a “dogumentary” on Sky1. To lure thirsty Brits, MirriAd placed the PGTips tea brand on contestants’ mugs in Channel 4’s “Deal or No Deal.” An ad for Disney Pixar’s Scottish fantasy film “Brave” found its way into a TV promotion for Scotland.

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