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UK.gov funds web video product placement venture

Taxpayer coughs for logos everywhere

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At a time when the wisdom of of pinning the UK's economic fate to the fortunes of the global financial sector is being questioned, it's good to know there are people in government concerned with how to encourage innovation - via the monetisation of thousands of hours of poor quality web video.

The government has given a £1.5m taxpayer grant to a London-based company called MirriAd (geddit?), it announced today. The Department for Business' technology strategy board (a tech industry bigwig quango) approved the cash "to develop VIDEOSENSE™, the world's first tool for intelligent automatic video analysis, and perfectly embedding brands (in context) into any online video".

That means digtally inserting logos in YouTube-type web clips, which shockingly enough (what brand doesn't want to be associated with videos of cats playing piano?) have proved difficult to profit from. Google has admitted YouTube currently only makes business sense as a loss leader to direct traffic to its search engine.

MirriAd CEO Mark Popkiewicz said: "MirriAd successfully takes the concept of product placement, the only advertising format that can't be skipped by the viewer, and delivers a scalable and adaptable advertising solution that can be applied to any content, at any time and in any market."

The system the company is developing hopes to replicate Google's AdSense trick in creating an automated method for placing relevant advertising. MirriAd already does post-production ad placement in movies and TV, but successfully building a machine to do it in volume for the web could open up a market on a different scale. "We will be offering advertisers space to insert their brand into video online that will then be played out over the web with their brand inserted as if it was part of the original," said head of imaging technology Dr Philip McLauchan.

If the technology takes off, people who surrendered their copyright to "user-generated" video sites can therefore look forward to corporate logos being daubed on their creations.

The hosting firm Telecity is developing a server cluster for MirriAd based on Nvidia's Tesla GPUs to handle the massive video data crunching required. Taxpayers' generosity in funding the wheeze will be enjoyed by MirriAd's private backers, who include London Seed Capital, Oxford Technology Management and Seraphim Capital. ®

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