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Product placement seeks online consumers’ wallets

by Ian Dickson

Product placement within the entertainment industry has become widely accepted as commonplace. You only have to watch “Casino Royale” — the most recent movie in the James Bond series — to see that in-film advertising is big business. From cars and laptop computers to entire airlines, if it can be flaunted on screen for even a split second it provides consumers with an incentive to invest in a company’s wares.

The importance of on-screen product placement is accentuated by the success of SeenON!, a Web site that provides consumers with the ability to search for a product they’ve seen in a film, television program or music video and be directed to a site where they can purchase that item. For example, while watching a Pussycat Dolls music video you may notice a fancy new mobile phone that you just have to buy. Searching for the Pussycat Dolls on SeenON! brings up a list of products that have been used in their videos; click on the flashy new phone and within seconds you’re at the checkout ready to confirm the purchase.

There’s no doubt that this is a service for the mega-consumer, those at the forefront of style who just have to have the latest fashion, but for one company even the quick and easy system introduced by SeenON! is too laborious to truly benefit the target demographic. GET Interactive is a media-based advertising service that boasts a new “Ad-Venture” technology that allows consumers to purchase products while they watch. Rick Harrison, CEO and founder of GET Interactive, suggests that this method of on-the-spot purchase is the way forward for advertisers in the age of mobile media to make “all video content shop-able, any time, any place.”

He goes on to boast, “Our new advertising platform works with existing methods of content distribution to connect audiences with the brands and the products they are interested in, seamlessly, cost-effectively and in real time.”

Currently benefiting from the rise of Internet television and video on demand, GET Interactive allows consumers viewing streaming media, be it on a computer or mobile device, to bring up a new window displaying a still image of the scene littered with so-called “GET shop spots.” Each of these shop spots is tagged to a product within the image, which when clicked will link the user directly to a product description — and, more importantly, the checkout.

GET suggests that this not only makes it easier for consumers to purchase desired products, without the hassle of scouring specialist Web sites, but also means that companies don’t have to stop at promoting obvious products such as watches and sunglasses — they can now fill an entire set with their products safe in the knowledge that nothing will be missed by the consumer, thanks to the fully interactive still images the GET system provides.

The implications are endless: With the ability to pause a video and view the frame for an unlimited amount of time, the number of products that could be fashioned into one scene is limited only by the context of the shot. Imagine watching your favorite soap and spotting a pair of curtains in the background that would go wonderfully in your bedroom. Simply bringing up a new window means the curtains could be yours, and you didn’t even have to hit the search bar.

GET’s new service, of course, has other implications. As more and more companies sign up to this new method of product placement, the number of products flashed before our eyes in video media will undoubtedly grow. You only have to look at the state of advertisements within video games, such as Electronic Arts’ latest extreme-sports simulator “Skate,” to see that product placement within popular media can often be an eyesore that detracts from the overall experience.

Only last month, GET Interactive signed a deal with amusement company Sega Sammy to use the new technology in select titles from Sega’s range of published video games. How this will affect the in-game experience is yet to be announced, but Rob Lightner, Sega’s vice president of strategic planning and business development, seems perhaps a little overconfident that the new advertising techniques will benefit gamers.

“GET’s groundbreaking technology helps gamers engage directly with Sega’s titles and the consumer brands included in those titles in new and exciting interactive ways,” he says.

“At the click of a mouse, consumers can connect directly with products in our games that they want to learn more about before they make a purchase. GET is taking us into the next level of interactive advertising.”

A similar deal with Universal Music Group also means that GET will provide links from music videos by artists on the Interscope, Geffen and A&M labels, further developing GET’s influence on the entertainment industry.

With such a rapidly growing service and state-of-the-art technology, it can’t be long before GET finds its way into the Japanese market. Japan is already known as one of the largest consumer bases in the world, and with streaming mobile television and Internet protocol television (IPTV) already way ahead of that in Europe and the United States, it can only be a matter of time until GET shop spots appear throughout the Japanese media.

Love it or loathe it, product placement within the entertainment industry is here to stay. And thanks to these pioneering technologies it’s likely to play a much wider role in our consumerist habits.