In the US, advertising is everywhere. You can’t go anywhere without being urged to buy stuff. You see them when you are driving, they are there at the gas pump when pumping gas, they are there on the ATM screen when you are getting cash, you hear them when you are put on hold. You simply cannot avoid them.
People have developed ways to filter out some of this noise. When watching things on the web, I usually switch the window to something else while an ad plays, though of course I still can hear the sound. With DVRs and the like, people can zip through the commercials on TV programs. As a result, we now have more subtle pressure in the form of product placement in films and TV shows and I have also read of shows where the product is actually woven into the story line.
Of course, films and TV shows from the old days had not discovered the lucrative nature of product placement and so are free of such intrusions. But no longer! Thanks to the magic of CGI, it is now possible to alter those old shows to insert ads into them and a company called Mirriad does just that. So in an older film, in the original someone might be walking past a store window or a blank wall. That can now be altered so that the window displays an ad for a product or the wall becomes a billboard.
When old black and white films started to be colorized, there was a huge debate as to whether this was appropriate because it changed the director’s vision of the film. (I personally feel that the films should be left alone because I have never had any problem with black and white films. In fact, I often cannot remember whether an old film I watched was in color or not.)
There has not been a similar outcry at this new practice of ad insertion because at present the ads are being placed only in TV reruns. But if and when they begin do it to films (and you can be sure this will happen), be prepared for another huge debate about the propriety of altering a work of art.
Stephen Colbert discusses this new development.
(This clip aired on January 13, 2014. To get suggestions on how to view clips of The Daily Show and The Colbert Report outside the US, please see this earlier post. If the videos autoplay, please see here for a diagnosis and possible solutions.)