The folks over at GoRumors have unearthed an interesting patent application filed by Xerox that describes a pretty radical approach to TV advertising: The “Apparatus and method for embedding commercials” would make it possible to add behavioral targeted advertising to TV programming by letting your TV or set-top box edit the content you get to see. One example described in the patent application would exchange company logos and audio messages in TV shows to make advertising more relevant to the likes and dislikes of a viewer.
However, we’re not just talking about those painfully obvious ad swaps your cable company is doing late at night to sell local businesses ad space on national cable channels. The technology described in the Xerox patent would actually edit some parts of the content while leaving other parts intact. The patent even envisions altering the lip movement of a person on screen “so that it seems as if he/she is saying” the name of an advertiser.
Xerox’s ad insertion technology is apparently not meant to cheat TV networks or cable operators out of ad revenue. The patent application refers to a kind of marker sent out by the broadcaster that would trigger the ad insertion on your local TV set or cable box.
Consumers on the other hand have plenty of reason to be worried about: The patent application touts the technology as an alternative to traditional advertising, which can be skipped by consumers using DVRs. Instead, it sees ad insertion as the next step for product placement, which up until now was really only an option for big brands that could strike expensive deals with content creators. “(Product placement) cannot be customized for smaller regions or from home to home,” the patent laments.
That obviously changes once you utilize CE devices to dynamically insert ad content into TV programming to deliver behavioral targeted advertising. One example described in the patent application changes a store name mentioned in a show to either Modell’s or Macy’s, depending on the interests of the viewer in question. “(T)he video of the broadcasted program would be replaced so the sign…on the storefront shows (Modell’s) and lips…of the character would also be altered so that it seems as if he/she is saying (Modell’s),” the application explains.
Still doubting that anyone would even think of changing the store names in an episode of Heroes or Flash Forward? Luckily, the patent spells it all out:
“(E)mbedding commercials into broadcasted programming provides marketers another method to get their message out to the public without program interruption and on a customized basis…By embedding commercials into the programs, marketers can ensure that their message is not skipped due to channel changing or the use of DVRs.”
There you have it. Soon, violent crimes depicted in Law and Order may just happen to be committed in your friendly neighborhood grocery store.