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The Evolution of Technology

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Old TV

Originally uploaded by crumpyss

When I was a kid I remember watching TV shows and as the suspense built the show would abruptly cut to a commercial. I would get up and run to the bathroom or into the kitchen to grab something to eat or drink. I would try to make it back so I could find out if the hero lived or died. Thanks to the DVR, “on demand” programming, and streaming TV shows over the internet I never have to wait through a commercial break again. Consequently, this also means advertisers will have to find new ways to reach consumers.

Borrowing a page from how companies advertised their products in movies the advertising companies have started using product placements within TV shows. Backdrops of scenes have billboards advertising a product. Also in the background of scenes there will be a commercial playing on a TV, a radio ad playing, or a popular soft drink on the table. These are the subtle product placements that are now becoming standard in TV shows, and the in future product placements will only become more common.

Companies are pushing into the realm of direct interaction of products with the main characters on TV shows. Nissan paid a large sum of money to NBC to have one of the main stars of “Heroes” insist that he needed a Nissan Versa when he rented a car. Throughout the first season the car was always referred to by “the Nissan Versa” instead of just the car. “Heroes” became famous for being the unofficial spokes show for the Nissan Vera.

In “Heroes” cars were not the only thing that was advertised. In the show everyone used Sprint mobile phones. In one episode a character complained that his mobile phone was not working. Another character stated, “You should have used Sprint”. In the show “Chuck”, the characters keep in touch with their mobiles phones. At least twice an episode, a character’s phone will ring and the show will cut to a 5 second shot of their iPhone. The iPhone is also used as a tracking device as well as multiple other functions. In the show “Smallville” the Verizon logo is visible almost every time a phone rings. Every show seems to use a specific brand of mobile phone.

Mobile phone providers have taken this one step further by offering exclusive content to their subscribers. AT&T offers extra scenes of “Chuck” to their customers. Sprint offers sneak previews of upcoming episodes of “Heroes”. Not to be out done, Verizon offers mini episodes of a character from the show “Smallville” to their customer base. The tie in to shows is a new market that mobile phone companies are exploring to replace tradition commercial advertising.

Companies have started looking to the past for ideas. As far back as the 1950s companies were sponsoring radio and TV shows. Over time this method died out for the most part. Over the past few years companies have started to once again sponsoring limited interrupted episodes of television programming. Leading up to the program all the advertising for the show will state, “Brought to you with limited interruption by (random corporation)”. The shows will sometimes carry the sponsor’s logo in one of the corners. This is usually done during the season premier or season finale of TV shows.

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Not all product placements on TV are successful. There was attempt to take the Cavemen from the Geico commercials and make a TV show out of it. This idea failed. Critics gave the show negative reviews, and viewers never tuned into the show. In less than a season the show was canceled.

Online video sites, such as Hulu.com, have become the new frontier for advertising new products. Often the websites will make a viewer watch a commercial before their programming will start to play. The pages are also full of banners advertising products that are seen in shows. Advertising during a show on the web is becoming easier as the technology advances.

A new technique that has been pioneered by GE uses the DVR technology to its advantage. GE placed video clips in their commercials that lasted only a second. This challenged the DVR users to find the clips and play the clips in slow motion. Playing the clips in slow motion would reveal the hidden content. This is known as an “Easter egg”.

As newer technology emerges and more internet based content is released advertisers will be able to track how well a show is generating interest in their product. By determining where a visitor to their site is coming from the advertiser will be able to tell if they were referred from a webpage that is streaming a program that their product is in. This will allow the advertisers to be able to easier tell what works to sell a product and what does work.

I believe, in the future, the lines between Web content and TV will be blurred. A consumer will be able to select a product and purchase that product through their TV. Verizon FiOS is now making this possible through the addition of “Widgets”. Widgets are web based tools that are displayed on the viewers TVs.

As the technology advances the advertisers will need to find new and creative ways of reaching the viewers. The companies that can’t adapt will die out, and the companies can, will thrive. In the end the evolution of technology will change the face of advertising for years to come.