A.I. Fuels a New Era of Product Placement

Product placement, one of the oldest tricks in advertisers’ toolbox, is getting an A.I. makeover.

New technology has made it easier to insert digital, realistic-looking versions of soda cans and shampoo onto the tables and walls of videos on YouTube and TikTok. And a growing group of creators and advertisers is grabbing at the chance for an additional revenue stream.

A recent TikTok from the dancer Melissa Becraft featured a poster for Bubly, the sparkling-water brand owned by PepsiCo, hanging on the wall of her apartment as she shimmied to a Shakira song. A duo known as HiveMind chatted about bands while an animated can of Starry soda, another brand owned by PepsiCo, landed on a table between them. And a YouTube video of the “AsianBossGirl” podcast recently displayed a table of Garnier hair products.

Virtual product placements have been offered by start-ups and streaming services like Amazon Prime and NBC’s Peacock in recent years. But a recent wave of them on social media, in which brief, animated messages disclosing the sponsorships appear on the videos themselves, is the work of a start-up called Rembrand.

The ads provide a glimpse into one way A.I. might shape advertising in the future, especially as marketers look to reach younger viewers who are apt to skip or ignore standard ads.

Rembrand’s executives say their technology could transform product placements, which have often been used to cut production costs on bigger projects and can take weeks, months or sometimes years to negotiate.

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