Some Amazon Prime Video and Freevee shows will have special guest stars in upcoming seasons, brands like M&M's, which will appear in virtual product placements thanks to a new ad format for connected TV.
On Monday, Amazon provided details about virtual product placements as part of its advertising announcements at NewFronts, which were held live in New York City. Alan Moss, Amazon’s VP of worldwide ad sales, talked with Ad Age ahead of the NewFronts event and said that Amazon has been experimenting with virtual product placements for a year. M&M's was one of the initial testers, Moss said.
“These placements can be as small as lip balm or as large as a truck,” Moss said. The virtual product placements can appear in the foreground or background, and they can splash brand names in settings like billboards that appear in the shows, Moss said.
Product placement has been a staple of TV advertising since its inception, but digital TV has provided a technological boost to the concept. Virtual product placement is a way to insert a brand into a scene in post-production, and it opens the potential to switch brands in the future, even years down the line. Network TV shows and live sports have been playing with digital product placements for years, too. Ballparks can digitally insert different brands into billboards at stadiums during live broadcasts, for example.
NBCUniversal announced a similar ad format on its streaming platform Peacock during the NewFronts.
“Product placement is not new, but in most cases those decisions need to be made months or even years before a show premieres,” Moss said. Virtual product placement “simplifies” the process,” Moss said.
Amazon owns Prime Video, its subscription service, and Freevee, the free ad-supported video-on-demand app. Amazon said virtual product placements would appear in shows like “Reacher,” “Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan,” the Bosch franchise, “Making the Cut,” and “Leverage: Redemption.” Amazon shared an example of how M&M's packages appear in a scene in “Bosch,” which has a new sequel series coming this month.
“It creates the ability to film your series without thinking about all that is required with traditional placements during production,” said Henrik Bastin, CEO of Fabel Entertainment and executive producer of “Bosch: Legacy,” in the NewFronts announcement. “Instead, you can sit with the final cut and see where a product could be seamlessly and naturally integrated into the storytelling.”
Amazon made a number of announcements at its NewFronts, which was hosted by Amy Poehler, former star of “Parks and Recreation” who produces shows for Amazon. This was Amazon's first in-person NewFronts event, as the company is trying to build out its ad service that reaches its e-commerce website, connected TVs, Twitch video and third-party publishers that plug into Amazon's demand-side platform.
Amazon discussed its upcoming Thursday Night Football production, which will stream exclusively on Prime Video in the fall. Amazon’s NFL rights have become a centerpiece of the e-commerce giant’s offering to brands, which are signing up to advertise during the streams of the games.
Popular NFL announcers Al Michaels and Kirk Herbstreit will host the Amazon Thursday Night Football shows, and Amazon announced that former star tight end Tony Gonzalez will also join the program. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell was at Amazon’s NewFronts to promote the partnership.
Twitch, Amazon’s live video streaming site, also had some brand-friendly announcements at NewFronts. Twitch discussed brand opportunities around “Pog Picks,” a live-shopping show, and a new live unboxing show called “Drops with Swagg.” Twitch highlighted “Co-Op Drops,” which is a sponsorship program where brands give—“drop”—rewards to viewers of livestreams. In March, Adobe was the first brand to test “Co-Op Drops.”
Twitch also announced a program called “For Twitch, With Twitch,” which is a selection of livestreams “curated for brands,” Amazon said in its NewFronts announcement. “For Twitch, With Twitch,” “provides opportunities for advertisers to authentically invest in popular, live, community-first content on Twitch,” Amazon said in the announcement.