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For digital TV advertising, the future is now


The future of TV is digital and promising: ultra-high definition images, unlimited choice, interactive features, and much more. But for many of these features, the future is now. With this tone, Rector Professor Klaus Fischer opened the 2nd Product Placement Congress, an event jointly organized by Nürtingen University and the Andreas Waldner Marketing and Communications Agency.

According to host Ronniccia Eisenmann the starting point for advertisers in the dawning digital TV-age is clear cut. The days of the familiar 30-second-spot during the commercial break are over. The viewers readiness to flip channels using their remote control combined with the TiVo makes for the advertising professional’s nightmare, explains Walter Berner, head of the technology department at the agency for communication of German state of Baden-Württemberg. The TiVo is a new digital video recorder which handily eliminates annoying ads from movies or TV-shows and stores it, ready to watch and commercial-free, on a hard drive. The antidote to this assault on the industry is product placement. Products are visibly placed in the hands of actors or in the background of scenes and so become part of the action. The big advantage for companies: the image of the programme eventually rubs off on the brand.

"To make a product really successful, people have to love it," says the President of the professional soccer club VfB-Stuttgart, Erwin Staudt. "For that you need emotions." Therefore soccer clubs such as the VfB offer a unique option for presenting products in the public spotlight. "The VfB Stuttgart produces emotions," Staudt sums up the fascination of soccer. Indeed, soccer has a high potential for getting a marketing message across, confirms Arne Bergmann, head of the advertising marketing department at the Pay-TV-channel "Premiere". The channel is at the forefront of digitalisation and knows its viewers very well. "We know your name, your birthday and your account information," Bergmann jokingly describes the opportunities for targeting specific audiences. In this new TV-world, special interest channels and video-on-demand services offer something for every taste. Advertisers also get to know every secret, enabling them to fine-tuning their message for every single viewer.

Digital technology hasn’t even reached its full potential yet. Stacey L. Jones, vice president of Creative Entertainment Services, a product placement agency in Hollywood reported from some product placement new trends in the US. Next to the still important broadcasting market, video games offer splendid conditions to introduce brands. Nowhere else are consumers so young, attentive, and spent incredible amounts of time in front of the screen. According to Ms. Jones, traditional advertising in the US is already in retreat, opening up tremendous growth opportunities for new forms of marketing such as product placement. New virtual technology, for example, makes it possible to exchange products in digital media. With this "virtual product placement" James Bond would be able to drive a BMW, Mercedes, Ford, or a Mazda in the same movie, depending on world region and the targeted audience. In addition to many legal problems with this approach there is also the question of credibility: What car is James Bond actually driving in? Does this kind of obvious product placement convince anybody anyway? Prof. Ing. Wolfgang Pappler, the owner of Product Placement International, an agency in Vienna, has a clear answer: "Obtrusive product placement is useless and contra-productive." On the other hand, well-done and fitting product placement shows significant results and leads in the long-term almost certainly to success, insists Mr. Pappler. He is supported by Wolfgang Schürmann, Business Development Manager Marketing at the satellite company Astra, who sees numerous new marketing possibilities in the rapid digitalisation of TV. Satellite companies already offer a wide range of services (special interest channel, electronic TV guides, web-TV etc.), which not only threaten traditional advertising but also provide previously unknown opportunities to target viewers ever closer.

Another big dream of advertisers that digital technology might realize is the dream of TV as a truly interactive medium. "Digital technology brings enormous progress in this area," observes Annett Reimer, executive director of Ancari Teleshopping. With interactive TV, the viewer should be able to pick programmes as he or she pleases, get background information and, preferably, be able to order the product just seen on TV with the remote control. Although real interactivity is still rare, the future of interactive product placement is bright. In a more general way, Dr. Iris Ramme, professor for marketing and media research at Nürtingen University affirms this view: "Companies increasingly acknowledge the importance of product placement." This is one result of the newest Product Placement Monitor, a study that was presented by Dr. Ramme and Andreas Waldner during the congress.

Is Digital TV, a brave, new world for advertisers and customers? The possibilities for product placement seem boundless. Only the constant worry of uncontrolled and "invisible" commercialisation of TV casts shadows at the bright future. But there is some hope. "In the end the customers make the decision," says Andreas Waldner, lecturer at Nürtingen University. "Too much product placement annoys the viewers, harms the companies’ images and, in turn, leads to a reduction of advertising. In the end, the system regulates itself." Hanns-Peter Nagel

Gerhard Schmuecker | idw
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