I came across an article this weekend about technology that allows entertainment producers to go back and insert new ads into their content years after the original work was produced. The example in the story comes from “How I Met Your Mother.” Syndicated episodes now show updated ads in the background rather than ads that ran at the time that the original episode aired. For instance, recent reruns showed ads for that Cameron Diaz movie “Bad Teacher” in lieu of whatever movie was being advertised back when the episode was first created. SeamBI, which makes the technology, also has experimented with adding entirely new items to old episodes, such as placing a TV in a spot where there used to be empty space.
Personally I find this technology rather exciting. It keeps syndicated episodes fresh by erasing some of the evidence that the episode wasn’t new to begin with. The potential is also huge for advertisers to buy into “retroactive” advertising (though the advertiser who originally bought the space might be slightly perturbed to lose it). Since viewers often tune out commercials, advertisers can now catch their eyes during the actual episode. Syndication is already great for networks, since they can expect steady viewership and ad revenue from a product that is basically old (ROI, baby). And now the networks can get even more revenue by providing more opportunities for those coveted ad dollars. So overall I say bravo, SeamBI, way to figure out how to milk the system for more dinero.
Yet, it does make me wonder somewhat about the value of preserving pop culture as it was initially created. Unless you happen to be Weird Al Yankovich, you probably don’t rewrite lyrics to classic songs so that the tunes are more, well, in tune with the times. I don’t go to art galleries and paint over horses in the background on a farm to replace them with tractors. And we certainly don’t take our dear Grandma’s childhood photographs and change the posters in the background to advertise Snickers instead of the local brand of peanut chew. So I am curious to see if people do protest this method of altering cultural capital, as the article listed below suggests they might. TV may not come to everyone’s mind as a serious cultural output, but it does play a pretty big role in our society. What’s on TV reflects quite a bit on communities’ values and what is considered important.
It also makes me wonder if script rewrites are to follow. Switching around what is shown on the show could create a mismatch between what is said in the dialogue and what viewers see on the screen- they might be standing in front of a “Bad Teacher” poster, but the “culturally relevant” jokes will still be old news. What if someday you turn on an old “Seinfeld” episode and the voices have been dubbed over so the gang can joke about a man who is particular about selling his cupcakes, rather than particular about selling his soup? Food for thought.
Article about SeamBI here, originally accessed through Adweek: http://insidetv.ew.com/2011/07/07/how-i-met-your-mother-reruns-bad-teacher-zookeeper/