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  • Neil Mandt


Real estate owners should be very concerned about what is happening behind the scenes at Amazon Prime Video and NBC’s Peacock streaming platforms. Both companies have announced they will be using Augmented Reality technology to insert advertisements within their TV shows and movies as overlays in the content. So why should someone who owns real estate care? It should raise alarm bells because they will place advertisements on the façade of buildings and they have no intention of paying the property owner or obtaining permission.

We need to understand what Augmented Reality is and how it fits into television. The first significant AR content that was introduced to the public was the “yellow line,” which was added to professional football games back in 1998. While this is a graphic overlay on TV, it is different from in-game graphics, as it has the appearance of being imprinted on the field and not the screen. When the camera pans, the score pans with the image. The yellow line on the other hand remains persistently locked to the grass, thus augmenting the viewer’s reality of the game. In fact, some people who have only watched NFL games on TV may expect to somehow see the yellow line when they attend a game in person for the first time. Persistence is a critical component to AR, as it ensures the graphic appears to be attached to the real-world environment.

Here we are 24 years later, and the billion-dollar streamers are using this tech to add revenue to their bottom line at the expense of property owners. These new immersive advertising campaigns have already proven to be powerful in converting viewers into customers. Below is a screenshot of an M&M’s wall advertisement from a scene in an Amazon Prime Video TV show. The M&M’s sign did not exist on this wall in real life, it was attached to the side of a building by using Augmented Reality technology in post-production.

Photo Credit: Amazon Prime Video

Colleen Aubrey, senior vice president, Advertising Products & Tech at Amazon explained, “Working with content creators and using machine learning, we’re able to insert products and branded findings into a TV show or movie.” The data is in and Aubrey reported the M&M’s virtual product placement delivered a 6.9% increase in brand favorability and a 14.7% increase in purchase intent. Aubrey also noted that “Amazon ads are helping advertisers create long-term connections with customers in everyday interactions.”

What about the rights of the property owner? Shouldn’t they be able to control the messaging that appears on the side of their building? What if the information is contrary to the beliefs of the owner, or what if the media leaves the viewer with a negative view of an asset? Is this activity illegal? The Lanham Act protects property owners against false endorsement when commerce is involved. The M&M’s advertisement is a false endorsement, as they didn’t get permission from the building owner. The advertiser and the streamer boast about the fact that commerce was involved and that they will continue doing this, as they are generating more money.

What should a property owner do? Fight back and do it without delay. This is one of many examples where the media and tech industry have already begun using Augmented Reality advertising without affording property owners any consideration. If the real estate industry remains uneducated as to the many ways they are and will continue to be taken advantage of by way of AR false advertising, they may lose their ability to defend themselves. As time passes, courts and insurance companies may refuse to address violations and offer relief. Property owners should have no illusions, the media and tech companies do not respect them and will use their deep pockets and strong lobbying machine to litigate this issue until they manipulate the law in their favor. The real estate industry must defend their rights or they can expect to lose them.

The Metaverse Rights platform allows any property owner to record their property ownership on the blockchain as an NFT that they own. This is the first step in an owner’s process of risk mitigation. Recording and claiming their digital rights is a direct message to all businesses who intend to use AR technology to alter the appearance of their assets without permission will not be accepted. The Metaverse Rights platform also serves as an ethical marketplace where media companies, tech platforms and advertisers can connect with property owners who are interested in AR monetization opportunities.

If a recording of a song that plays in the background requires a license to use in a movie or TV show, why shouldn’t a real estate asset that is serving as a billboard in the foreground be given the same consideration? The public will not be able to understand that this commercial media has not gone through an approval process and will accept that it is a part of the real world and represents the views of the property owners. The result will be lost revenue and damaged reputations for some real-world assets, unless property owners act now with the Metaverse Rights platform.

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