Virtual Advertising: Virtually Terrifying
Since the infancy of advertising, new mediums have always popped up and advertisers have been forced to either adapt to them or be left behind. When the car was invented, so came billboards alongside the new roads we were driving. Then radio. Then television. More recently, the Internet and, with it, the latest fad of social marketing. As Americans discover new things to do, advertisers invent increasingly new ways to cram advertisements into the experience. And now, within the last few weeks, an entirely new medium for advertising has managed to come to the nation’s attention, and it may be the most exciting new form of advertising that the world has ever seen. Advertising inside of old reruns of How I Met Your Mother.
Wait, how is this new, you ask. People have been running ads during sitcom reruns for years. Yes, they have. But I didn’t say “advertisements during.” I said “advertisements inside.” As in, they are actually literally inserting advertisements inside of the sitcom itself. A picture may help.
If you look carefully in the helpfully circled background, you might notice something peculiar about the back of that magazine. Despite being from an episode of How I Met Your Mother that originally aired in 2007, that magazine has an advertisement for the movie Zookeeper starring America’s greatest funny man Kevin James on its back. What witchcraft is this? Did some time traveller travel backwards through time and leave that magazine in Robin Scherbatsky’s apartment? Oh, the conspiracy goes much deeper than that. For you see…
In the original episode, Robin didn’t even have a magazine rack back there! They rearranged the entire apartment’s layout! The fiends!
Digitally inserting advertisements into reruns of old shows isn’t actually a new practice. This has actually been occurring for many years now, it’s just that no one noticed because that’s the whole point. It’s called “virtual advertising,” the “insertion of virtual signs, banners, logos and the placement of virtual products into TV shows.” The purpose of virtual advertising is to subliminally insert the idea of the product into your head while you’re watching television. It’s advertising that doesn’t let you know that you’re being advertised to. Is it effective? Yeah, kind of. Is it ethical? Depends on your definition of ethical, I suppose.
So why are marketers resorting to practices like virtual marketing, when they seem to be borderline skeezy? Simple, really. With the proliferation of DVRs, people just don’t watch ads on TV anymore. Since you can easily fast forward through the advertisements, there’s no point in sitting through them any longer. Which means if marketers want to get viewers to see their products, they have to get them into the programs themselves. This is accomplished by sponsorships of sporting events, product placement within programs, and even through means like virtual advertising. Going forward, it may not even be necessary to have commercial breaks in the future. You’ll get to watch your program for the entire thirty or sixty minutes it’s on, but that entire time you’re watching, your mind will be literally bombarded with brand names and products for the duration. There will be no escaping the advertising, because the advertising will be the entirety of the program. Fun, right?
The good news is that at least ten years in the future, when you finish watching your latest episode of NCIS: The Next Generation on your iChipInsideYourHead and you suddenly have a profound and unexplainable desire to go see Zookeeper 4: Even More Farting Talking Animals, at least you didn’t have to sit through clips of the movie before seeing it. Which is a kind of victory, I guess.
Erik Hagen is a copywriter and social media writer for KK BOLD. You should go buy Crest toothpaste.