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Of Dammiting Hydra and Engaging the Masses

Gillette Fusion: Hydra Cool
The latest from the insidious Hydra Product Placement Division.

Two big things happened this past week. One was quiet, but the other was very loud.

The quiet and more recent one was Marvel’s Epicly Smooth rollout of the Age Of Ultron Trailer–yes, smooth, even in the face of it being leaked. Pretty much instantaneously, they popped it on their main YouTube page and all commercials for the upcoming Agents Of SHIELD episode with which the trailer was supposed to premiere went from “world premiere” to “world BROADCAST premiere” like it was Nothing. As I’ve said before, there’s probably a “Leak Team” in most big studios these days, and if there isn’t, there SHOULD be.

[ad#longpost]The much more ballyhooed event, however, was the news that Nielsen is teaming up with Adobe to produce more granular results of the actual habits of those who engage visual media. If you agree to their new terms of service setup, they’re going to use Flash data–similar to the way in which they’ve already been collecting data on the users of their e-reader–to know what you’re watching online.

Cue porn jokes in 3… 2…. 1…

So with all this refitting of models, I figured I’d bring back both the above-linked piece and this piece on the death of Syfy’s Caprica

If you don’t feel like clicking through, it’s both a piece about the factors that led to the cancellation of a great show and a meditation on the ways in which advertisers and networks could be working together to make the marketing of their shows and products more enjoyable and less intrusive for the viewer. Which is all to say that, though Nielsen has taken a step into the 21st century, they’re still approaching these business models (advertising and, to a lesser degree, marketing in general) in ways which have not yet adapted to the new world.

These cautious phased rollouts are exactly the kinds of things that allowed for the rise in online streaming media, and the spread of those medias has progressed, pretty much exactly as predicted. Netflix, Playstation Home, Hulu, and Amazon are all creating and direct marketing their original content, paid for via subscription to a product Most Of These People Already Have Or Want. There’s no major need for them to have external advertisers, from a pure funding standpoint. They only need ads for profit.

You think Amazon needs your ad buy? They Are Their Own Ad Buy, and they are deeply hoping you’ll think of them, their streaming service, and their Original Content…and then, while you’re watching, you’ll remember that you had wanted to buy something (or was that several somethings?), eventually getting you lost far down that “Customers Also Bought/Viewed” rabbit hole.

And so advertisers have kind of caught on to this, selling themselves as profit generators for online media, but they’re still thinking in terms of commercial breaks and product placement. When it comes to the latter category, the fact of the matter is that people don’t simply want to see some character using a new piece of tech while talking about its Awesome Functionalityâ„¢ in that stilted way that both makes you pay attention and makes you resentful of being pulled out of the narrative to pay attention to a commercial. The framing of those shots, the tone of dialog, all of it rings so false to the story. Viewers want a world, and if that world happens to be populated with products they recognize, all the better for the sake of pulling that viewer into the story, and then caring about it.

In the sense of commercial breaks… Well I really got nothing there. Commercials belong to TV and Radio, and their implementation and cultivation is dependent on a certain programming structure, the existence of which is precisely what the internet as both a medium and a venue have been counter-cultivated to avoid. So you see what I mean when I say the Nielsen model isn’t really fitting here? It will depend on the interoperability of data between places like Facebook and Google/YouTube, and the correlation of watching, surfing, and buying habits through Amazon…in order to be at all useful to anyone. Considering that many of the above-named already have public problems concerning privacy and data utilization rollouts, they may not be too quick to jump in on a scheme that will highlight their past PR scrapes.

But who knows? Maybe all of these companies will soon figure out what it takes to make use of these new tools, and implement them in a way that doesn’t either annoy us or creep us out; but, for now, in terms of both medium and message (and absent companies like Denny’s), advertisers haven’t quite gotten the hang of making their internet presence fun, funny, and engaging.