NEW YORK: Changing patterns of media consumption lie behind the decision of a one-time image licensing business to reposition itself as a facilitator of product placements in films, TV and video programming.

Corbis, which sold off its picture library earlier this year, has changed its name to Branded Entertainment Network, or BEN, and relocated to the heart of US film and TV production in Los Angeles.

"Entertainment is advertising's next frontier," Gary Shenk, BEN chief executive, told the Financial Times.

"Viewers are tuning out of ad-supported formats," he said. "Most advertising never gets watched, so being embedded in the content is absolutely critical. We want to turn premium entertainment into advertising and do it in a scalable way."

Product placement is emerging as one response to the various challenges that beset the advertising industry, as consumers deploy ad blockers online and subscribe to ad-free streaming services.

And while this currently accounts for less than 2% of the global ad market, it is an area than Shenk expects to grow rapidly and one in which BEN is bringing something different to the table as it shuns the old model, whereby brands paid product placement companies a retainer for representation, in favour of an electronic marketplace.

This connects brands and agencies handling their media buying with a wide range of inventory; an algorithm sets prices based on the quality of a show or film and the time – and how prominently – a product appears on screen.

There have been several high-profile instances of product placement in recent years, such as the entire episode of Modern Family devoted to the purchase of an Apple iPad. But rather less attention has been paid to whether product placement is actually worthwhile from an economic standpoint.

In the latest issue of the International Journal of Market Research, Genevieve Begy of theLondon School of Economics and Vishal Talwar of the JRE School of Management report research demonstrating that "product placement in prime-time television shows, as in movies, is positively and significantly associated with movement in stock prices".

Further, the authors contend that placement in a season premiere has significantly higher mean returns than in a non-pivotal episode, irrespective of whether the firm places the product in both episodes.

Data sourced from Financial Times; additional content by Warc staff