CHANNEL SEVEN will use new technology to creep parts of its programs into ad breaks, and creep ads into programs.
The network will use two techniques from next year to encourage people to pay attention to ads and attempt to avoid the statistic that makes advertisers nervous: 86 per cent of those who watch recorded programs fast-forward the ads, according to YouGov research in Britain last year.
To get people watching right through, Seven will interrupt a few ad breaks a week with slices of programming highlights, out-takes or extra scenes called ''break engagers''. They aim to increase what advertisers call ''engagement'' - keeping people's attention on the screen.
Seven's chief sales and digital officer, Kurt Burnette, said testing showed some people were more engaged with mid-break programming than the program itself. ''It's not extending the ad break, it's just creating another source of entertainment,'' he said.
Expect also to see more subtle advertising in Seven's programs. At its season launch this week, Seven promoted digitally inserting ads into programs, like putting cereal boxes in the kitchen scenes of Packed to the Rafters.
Technology bought under an exclusive deal with British company MirriAd can also superimpose billboards onto a street a character walks down, or a computer playing a commercial during an indoor scene. When the women on Winners & Losers went to the races, a car ad was superimposed onto the track-side rail.
A US group, Commercial Alert, founded by former presidential candidate Ralph Nader, calls product placements an ''affront to basic honesty''. Britain requires a logo to be shown warning the program contains them.
The Australian Communications and Media Authority said it had not investigated the issue, but any complaint would be dealt with under the commercial TV code and depend on the context. The code requires a commercial to be ''readily distinguishable'' from a program and paid-for placements to be disclosed - but only in ''factual'' programs.