British tech company Mirriad can add product placements to classic movies and TV shows on streaming sites

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A British technology company is adding custom product placement to movies and TV shows – even films originally released decades ago.

London-based company Mirriad adds products or signage, such as a branded beer bottle on a table, to a clothing ad on a giant billboard, in streaming content.

The company uses artificial intelligence (AI) to analyze movies and TV episodes for space where the ads or objects can be subtly inserted.

It means old Hollywood classics like Casablanca or The Great Escape could soon hit streaming services with the latest ads running in the background, like a new Apple smartphone or the latest McDonald’s whopper.

Streaming services, including Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, could be enticed by big offerings from companies to insert their ads into content to accompany user base subscription costs.

Mirriad’s technology even allows different ads to be viewed by different people, based on their web search history, just like targeted ads on Facebook.

Mirriad, which calls herself a ‘computer vision and AI-powered platform company’, came up with the technology after previously creating special effects for movies.

The company used its experience to make inserted ads look as realistic as possible so viewers would never know they weren’t present in the original shoot.

In China, ads inserted by Mirriad have now been seen by more than 100 million viewers on the video streaming website Tencent Video.

‘The technology can’ read ‘an image – it understands the depth, the movement, the substance, whatever,’ ‘said Mirriad CEO Stephan Beringer to the BBC

‘So you can introduce new images that the human eye does not actually realize were made afterwards, after production.’

MailOnline's interpretation of what a scene from The Great Escape - starring Steve McQueen as Captain Virgil Hilts - would look like before and after an ad for a Samsung smartphone is digitally inserted

MailOnline’s interpretation of what a scene from The Great Escape – starring Steve McQueen as Captain Virgil Hilts – would look like before and after an ad for a Samsung smartphone is digitally inserted

British-American film producer John C Crissey III said he had “mixed ideas about remastering classic films,” but admitted that Mirriad’s work is “still very exciting to watch.”

Meanwhile, film critic Anne Billson told the BBC that digital product placement raises legal problems while at the same time jeopardizing artistic integrity.

“I would like to know the legal angle of digitally editing a copyrighted work, or whether the advertisers should buy the film before tampering with it,” she said.

“It also questions the role of the production designer, who has put a lot of thought into the look of something, just for a random advertiser who comes over at a later date and spoils it with changes.”

This image shows a scene from a Chinese TV show, with a significant empty space on the top left, ideal for hosting an ad
Image shows a huge Coca Cola ad on the left digitally added - and looks impressively realistic enough to suggest it was present in the original shoot

This image shows a scene from a Chinese TV show, with a significant empty space on the top left, ideal for hosting an ad. Mirriad placed a billboard for Coca Cola

Mirriad also previously collaborated with Samsung Electronics and the Chinese video site Youku, a subsidiary of the Chinese internet giant Alibaba.

In the show ‘Ode to Joy’ on Youku, as two characters emerge from an underground escalator, a billboard is featured with an advertisement for Samsung’s Galaxy C phone.

After the episode was shot and produced, Mirriad’s technology placed the ad on a real billboard near the setting.

Product placement has been used on American television since the 1950s, characterized by some memorable corny recommendations.

It was satirized in the 1998 Hollywood movie The Truman Show – Jim Carrey’s character Truman Burbank begins to realize that his life is part of a 24-hour reality TV show when Meryl, his wife, checks major brands for hidden cameras.

According to an recent report by data analysis company PQ Media.

The total value of product placements across all media – including TV, movies and music recordings – grew 14.5 percent over the year to $ 20.57 billion (£ 15 billion), it turned out.

The cans of beer from Mexican brewer Tecate have been digitally added to this video clip by Mexican singer Giovanny Ayala

The cans of beer from Mexican brewer Tecate have been digitally added to this video clip by Mexican singer Giovanny Ayala

Mirriad’s potential isn’t just limited to movies and TV shows – musicians would love to be able to add new digital product placement to their old music videos for an additional source of income.

“The ability to create a new revenue stream is rare, and the ability to retrofit existing content and build new content with it in mind is exciting,” said James Sandom, CEO of Red Light Management in the UK.

Colombian singer Giovanny Ayala has already used Mirriad’s technology, allowing Mexican brewer Tecate to insert his bottles and logos into his music videos.

And if football clubs decide they need even more money, another option is to digitally add product banners to live sports or concert broadcasts in near real-time.

“There is a huge demand for that,” said Beringer. So a penalty or VAR decision in football could see a new ad appear behind the referee.

THE EVOLUTION OF PRODUCT PLACEMENT IN FILM

Pictured is Laura Linney as Hannah Gill, acting as Meryl Burbank holding cocoa in the 1998 movie The Truman Show. In the movie, Jim Carrey's character Truman Burbank begins to realize that his life is part of a 24-hour reality TV show. show when Meryl, his wife, checks major brands.

Pictured is Laura Linney as Hannah Gill, acting as Meryl Burbank holding cocoa in the 1998 movie The Truman Show. In the movie, Jim Carrey’s character Truman Burbank begins to realize that his life is part of a 24-hour reality TV show. show when Meryl, his wife, checks major brands.

Product placement has been used on American television since the 1950s, characterized by some memorable corny recommendations.

It was satirized in the 1998 Hollywood movie The Truman Show – Jim Carrey’s character Truman Burbank begins to realize that his life is part of a 24-hour reality TV show when Meryl, his wife, checks major brands for hidden cameras.

While ads allow organizations to have full control over their ads and direct exposure, it is often considered less credible to the public.

However, according to a 2003 study, ads are considered more credible when distributed through the media.

An example is product placement aimed at influencing a film or television audience through ‘the planned and unobtrusive entry of a branded product’.

While many cite Steven Spielberg’s film ET: The Extra-Terrestrial as the beginnings of product placement (namely Reese’s Pieces), further investigation shows that products were present in cinematic films from the medium’s creation, including the Lumiere films from the 1890s.

Product placement in movies arguably peaked in the 1990s – movies like Richie Rich (1994) starring Macaulay Culkin were a prominent place for the McDonald’s brand.

More recently, the James Bond film Quantum of Solace (2008) has been heavily criticized for its outrageous product placement, including those from Ford, Heineken, Smirnoff, Omega SA, Virgin Atlantic and Sony Ericsson.

Read more: The Evolution of Product Placement in Film (Walton 2010)