Ryff has raised $3.6 million for an advertising business where it places virtual objects in a scene of a movie, TV commercial, or TV show so that they seem like a natural part of the environment.
Hollywood-based Ryff hopes to use this technology that mixes the virtual and the real to turn the $23 billion product placement market upside down. Product placement is the advertising tactic of placing a branded object, like a bottle of Coca-Cola, in a scene in a movie or a TV show.
The funding comes from Tech Mahindra, an Indian tech consulting company with $4.9 billion in revenues and 121,000 employees.
Roy Taylor, CEO of Ryff, said in an interview with VentureBeat that Ryff will be able to take something like a virtual bottle of liquor and insert it into a poker table in the middle of a game at the World Poker Tour, which is a client of Ryff’s.
Taylor said that the animated objects have to be rendered realistically enough to be mistaken as part of a real scene. The company’s first product, called Placer, was dreamed up by cofounder Mark Turner. Placer uses computer vision and machine learning to identify places in videos where virtual objects can be placed. It identifies the brands that are already in the video, perhaps not intentionally. (That’s important for deleting objects that could bring on copyright lawsuits.) Then the company works with brand owners to fashion an object that can be placed in the video.
“The right level of detail is picture perfect,” Taylor said. “Anything less and it doesn’t work.”
Taylor said one of the company’s programs is dubbed Scales, where a customer designates how much they want to spend in a month and Ryff gives the customer guaranteed minimum rates of exposure.
Taylor said the investment values Ryff at $19 million and will help the company aggressively expand its sales and marketing efforts, as well as broaden and accelerate product development.
“As part of our TechMNxt charter, we are constantly looking to partner with companies that can help us expand our ecosystem and provide our customers with innovative next-gen technology solutions,” said Manish Vyas, president of the communications, media & entertainment business at Tech Mahindra, in a statement. “We believe in Ryff’s vision and together we can change the way companies think about advertising.”
The company has 17 employees. Ryff appointed digital content and marketing veterans from Warner Brothers, Dreamworks, Nvidia, and Technicolor to the company’s executive ranks, and its client roster includes Endemol Shine, Jukin Media, and Razer.
“Ryff’s offering is well-timed with the rapidly increasing demand for solutions that extend the reach of a brand’s content and drive business results,” said Uday Ghare, vice president for media and entertainment at Tech Mahindra, in a statement. “We believe the market will continue to see a shift of brand dollars to both content marketing and programmatic advertising as brands increase their reliance on content-centric programs and look to scale those efforts.”
Ryff’s platform transforms a brand’s portfolio of content to become programmatic and dynamic so that products can be integrated based on the viewer or DMA. Thus, content is distributed and retargeted to the right audience at the right time.