Let the virtual TV product placement begin

Channel 4 is set to kickstart a new era in UK TV product placement and a new virtual advertising technology next Tuesday, when it superimposes digital branding in to a gameshow centrepiece.

It is tapping MirriAd‘s technology to overlay a PG Tips tea logo on the mug used by thirsty Deal Or No Deal contestants.

London-based MirriAd’s technology, which relies on a cluster of several GPU graphics processors, can identify spots in TV shows and movies that are ripe for replacing with sponsor logos or items.

The firm has spent the last three years developing the system under a total £10 million investment, and had just half a dozen active users at year’s end.

Now it is pitching it to broadcasters around the world, and is hoping to capitalise on recent deregulation that allows TV product placement for the first time in European countries.

MirriAd CEO Mark Popkiewicz told me he is targeting 33 clients in 14 countries by the end of 2012. His technology can even insert brands and objects “behind” competing on-screen objects, not just over the top.

Thanks to the old European rules, many TV shows and movies have never been produced with product placement in mind. But super-imposing brands in to shows allows producers and broadcasters to start thinking about new ways to monetise their work – and the sponsorship deal could differ on a per-country basis.

The Channel 4 PG Tips deal will run for three months from August 7 in Endemol’s Deal Or No Deal and was brokered by BE, a brand placement agency.