'How I Met Your Mother': Your Face Here
by Stephanie Earp, posted Jul 12th 2011 3:00PM
Mad props to the investigatory reporters over at Entertainment Weekly who chased down the source of some wacky ads that were popping up in reruns of 'How I Met Your Mother.' I give big-ups to them not only for breaking some fascinating news but also for admitting that, like the rest of us, they watch reruns of 'HIMYM.'
The news is this: thanks to groundbreaking technology, it is now possible to sell ads in old episodes of TV shows by digitally inserting things like TV screens in bar scenes or billboards on sidewalk scenes, and having those digital screens carry timely ads, for example, as EW noted, for the release of 'Bad Teacher' in an episode that was shot in 2009.
Apparently, the same company has been doing this in old episodes of 'My Name is Earl' for ages, but no one noticed (insert rimshot about longevity of 'Earl' here). Comments in the original article center on a few themes, mainly whether this form of advertising is gross or not (consensus: gross) and whether this disrupts the viewing experience or not (consensus: it does, because 'HIMYM' is based on a fairly strict, if highly improbable, timeline) and whether or not this is all George Lucas' fault (consensus: it is).
Of course, product placement as an alternative to advertising is nothing new, and the rise of the DVR has pushed advertisers ever closer to a 'Truman Show'-like model, where characters are practically pulling a Laura Linney and turning to the camera to display the brand of their mobile phone. Not that the brand will matter much if this trend continues; the brand could be digitally altered depending on the market. How pissed will the initial product advertiser be when they realize that the ad they bought wasn't permanent? In the future, DVD sets of 'American Idol' could have the crew drinking ginormous cups of Pepsi, for all we know. What kind of mad world is this, where future generations might think Simon Cowell drank the opposite cola to the one he actually drank?! ZOMG.
But seriously, I can't stop thinking about where this could all lead. Sure, we could see the product placement on shows tailored for the market they are shown in, with Bollywood films replacing Hollywood films in India, and ads for 'Men With Brooms' turning up on Canadian reruns. But that's just the tip of the iceberg. Why couldn't whole backdrops be replaced? Instead of meeting up with Lily, Marshall and the gang at MacLaren's, Ontario audiences might be treated to seeing them at a Philthy McNasty's chain. Of course, this kind of advertising is prohibitively expensive -- for now.
But all technology eventually gets cheaper, and it's only a matter of time before the local mattress mart manages to scrape together enough money for a a few weeks of ads. And some enterprising sales rep will find all the episodes in which Robin, Ted or anyone else lies down in bed, and that's when you'll realize that -- although you never noticed it before -- there's still a sticker on the mattress, and lo and behold, it came from the bargain spot on the edge of your town.
Once we get down to that level, it's bound to occur to some jerk with more money than brains that the best possible birthday present for his buddy who is "exactly like Barney, I mean, for real man, he's like... your clone" would be a small alteration to an episode of the 'HIMYM' airing on his buddy's birthday. Is it really going to bother anyone if, for one episode, Neil Patrick Harris' body is topped by the face of an anonymous local womanizer?
And then, what's to stop a group of friends from pooling their resources and buying up a whole season of a show and replacing all the characters with their own smiling faces? Maybe they'll auction off important guest roles to co-workers for charity. They'll order DVD sets for family as Christmas gifts. This is my dystopian vision of the future, my friends. A world where TV is reduced to a moving version of Glamor Shots. And it's all George Lucas' fault.