A few months ago, while watching a rerun of How I Met Your Mother, I noticed that behind Neil Patrick Harris and Alyson Hannigan was a poster for The Roommate, the quickly forgotten thriller starring Minka Kelly and Leighton Meester. After getting distracted and thinking, “Well, I guess that’s what 3,000 hits can get you,” I wondered how this was possible. The episode aired a few years ago and yet the movie was coming out only in February. How’d they do that? Tanner Stransky, from Entertainment Weekly, helped answer this question when he interviewed the CEO of SeamBI (Seamless Brand Integration), Roy Baharav. When asked about what his company does, Baharav responded:
What we do is we insert, very efficiently, brands into content in a natural way and in a way that is valuable to advertisers, so we find the balance between not compromising the integrity of the content and, on the other end, bring a lot of value to the advertiser.
A perfect example of this was when Baharav inserted posters for Cameron Diaz’s Bad Teacher (Gee, can’t they ever promote a decent movie?) in different places throughout the set of the How I Met Your Mother. Baharav repeatedly made clear in the interview that when adding advertisements into the show's background, he wanted to ensure that it wouldn't interfere with the quality of the show being watched. With this stream of revenue now being available to TV networks, there’s no reason to think that this will slow down. The feedback from this early experiment hasn’t been overly negative, so there's a good chance that these ads will continue to seep into our TV sets for new episodes of shows and for reruns of shows that are even older than How I Met Your Mother.
Making Sure It Works
Baharav’s idea has potential, but it needs to avoid a few landmines in order for it to have a lasting effect. The networks, above all else, need to not get overly greedy. With too many plugs, the ads will quickly become distracting and every show will start to feel like a NASCAR car, with ads in every little corner. Nobody wants that, so it has to be avoided. Baharav’s already said it, but keeping the quality of the content intact is absolutely key. If these ads start to interfere with the shows, they’ll lose viewers and SeamBI will be to blame. Finally, the tone of the show needs to factor in to what’s being advertised. Seeing an ad for the latest Jim-Carrey-plays-with-animals-fest during a gripping drama could really be distracting, so properly pairing brands with shows is vital.
The best example of how brand integration has been brought into an event is with international soccer. Since the format of a soccer game only allows for commercials at halftime and requires over 45 minutes of commercial-free TV at a time, networks for a long time were hesitant to air the games at all. But in recent years, companies have put their logos next to the TV scoreboard during games and in other strategically placed spots as the game went on. The networks made money, the ads were shown without disrupting the pace of the game, and soccer had more viability as a TV sport. If SeamBI can have similar success, it could revolutionize the way we watch TV. Maybe we could even cut down on the seemingly endless commercials during prime time TV? Don’t count on it, but maybe someday.