AI sparks a new era of product placement
Product placement, one of the oldest tricks in advertisers' toolbox, is getting an AI makeover.
New technology has made it easier to put digital, realistic-looking versions of soda cans and shampoo on tables and walls in videos on YouTube and TikTok. And a growing group of creators and advertisers are taking advantage of the opportunity for an additional revenue stream.
recently TIC Toc Dancer Melissa Beecroft had a poster of PepsiCo-owned sparkling-water brand Bubbly hanging on the wall of her apartment while she sang a Shakira song. known as a pair Hive Mind The band conversed while an animated can of Starry Soda, another brand owned by PepsiCo, dropped on a table between them. And a YouTube video from “AsianBossGirl” podcast A table of Garnier hair products was recently displayed.
In recent years virtual product placement has been offered by start-ups and streaming services such as Amazon Prime and NBC's Peacock. But a recent wave of them on social media, in which brief, animated messages disclosing sponsorships appear over videos themselves, is the work of a start-up called Rembrandt.
The ads provide a glimpse of how AI could shape advertising in the future, especially as marketers look to reach younger audiences who may skip or ignore standard ads.
Rembrandt executives say their technology could replace product placement, which is often used to cut production costs on large projects and can take weeks, months or sometimes years to negotiate.
For creators, it's a way to make money from advertisers without physically handling the products or discussing them.
“It feels like I'm making my own original content, but it doesn't feel like I'm making an ad,” said Ms. Beecroft, 28, who has made two TikTok videos featuring Bubbly. “I have no obligation to talk about this.”
According to PQ Media, a research firm, the industry of product placement in the United States is estimated to be worth approximately $23 billion. This has become increasingly attractive to advertisers, who have become increasingly concerned about consumers skipping ads or commercials before YouTube videos.
The shift in viewership to social platforms and advances in technology have opened up a new frontier for this work, taking it beyond Coca-Cola cups to the “American Idol” judges' tables or cereal brands on The WB show. .
Rembrandt, which has 42 employees and is based in Palo Alto, Calif., believes it is at the forefront of these changes. Since its founding in 2022, it has raised $14 million in seed funding from Greycroft and the venture arms of UTA Ventures and L'Oréal. One of its founders, Omar Tawakol, 55, spent years in programmatic advertising and is best known for it. Founded and sold BlueKai – which helped marketers track users' online behavior for ad targeting – to Oracle in 2014.
Mr Tawakol said he saw the opportunity to insert virtual products into influencer videos and use AI to make it faster and easier to buy ads.
Rembrandt uses a form of generative AI that can “take an existing scene and figure out how to put a product in it,” Mr. Tawakol said. He said, “The product has to look perfect – Pepsi won't forgive if you mess with their logo.”
“The company had to train the laws of physics into the network, so that objects would react properly to things like light, distance to the camera and speed,” Mr. Tavakol said. Rembrandt began placement with podcasts on YouTube because “they were indoors, they had steady cameras, and they had a table and a wall,” he said.
It then expanded to LinkedIn and TikTok; Instagram is next. (The company said it was named Rembrandt – a nod to the Dutch artist who wrote it, Rembrandt – because it wanted it to sound like shorthand for “remember the brand” as well as have an artistic twist.)
Rembrandt is still asking creators like Ms. Beecraft to film indoors as they improve the technology. “The things I'm more famous for are dancing out in the rain and dancing in Times Square,” he said. “They told me our tech might have a heart attack if you did that.”
The placements aren't as subtle as in the TV show. wired and bubbly cans Move before entering the video, and have the logo hover over them. The company shared a demo in which a digitized Tide pen danced on a podcast host's shirt and erased a stain in “Fantasia” style before disappearing. Corey Treffiletti, 50, Rembrandt's chief marketing officer, said the company “experimented with what animations were acceptable” after realizing they could draw attention to the products.
Madison Luscombe, chief marketing officer at Creator Society, the agency that worked with Ms. Beecraft, said that although the use of AI-generated product placement was in its early days, the deals could be valuable to “entertainment creators” who are focused on performance, While podcasting or playing games, and not necessarily brands, they often contact their fans to praise their mascaras or new snacks.
Advertisers use Rembrandt's marketplace to connect with over 1,000 creators from the agencies it works with. Creators upload their videos on its platform and receive them with product placement within 24 hours. Rembrandt has someone else's scrutiny for quality and someone else for how the brand looks. Creators then upload the clips and ultimately receive payment from brands based on video views. Rembrandt declined to share specific figures related to the payment.
The company said it hopes to transform it into a “self-service platform” by the middle of this year, where any manufacturer or brand can connect and run a digital product placement campaign without Rembrandt's involvement.
When asked why YouTube, TikTok and Instagram wouldn't directly offer this option to creators on their platforms, Mr Tawakol said he would “love” if they wanted to work with them. “I designed my business to integrate with the platforms,” he said. “We want to be the best in the world at this one specific problem.”