Gladys Santiago

Will Broadcasters Promote Shows on Competitor Networks?

Posted in Advertising, Television by Gladys Santiago on August 1, 2010

A recent Adweek article suggests that to combat time-shifted viewing, networks should consider promoting new shows on rival networks.  Granted this is all food for thought since most network execs are reluctant to air promos encouraging viewers to switch channels.  This kumbaya, teamwork approach isn’t plausible because the networks don’t what to play nice, it’ll never happen because they fail to realize that viewers have evolved and are fully versed in contemporary TV-watching literacy.  As the articles states, many of those in the industry, “believe viewers would be confused after decades of conditioning to look for a new show solely on the network where they saw it promoted.”

What?  Confused?  No!!  Television viewing now mimics web-surfing habits.  With DVRs and the detailed on-screen guides and menus that are customary with cable packages, people know how to search and find their programs. On that note, viewers are no longer confined to a handful or even a few dozen networks–they have HUNDREDS of channels and would probably opt to actively search for a program than to guess what network it’s on.  If the popularity of Google has taught us anything, when people want information or clarity, they search.  Those decades of conditioning have been undone.  Audiences aren’t loyal to specific networks; they’re free to roam and watch shows however they want.

via: Adweek

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Protected: Upfront Advertising Season

Posted in Advertising by Gladys Santiago on April 3, 2010

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Not Used as Intended: Product Displacement in ‘Nurse Jackie’

Posted in Media, Product Placements, Television by Gladys Santiago on February 7, 2010

Sweet'N All - Nurse Jackie - Sweet-N-All

Generally, companies do not want their products to be associated with drugs, violence and crime.  Mercedes-Benz, for example, demanded any appearance of its logo be removed from Slumdog Millionaire to avoid being associated with Mumbai poverty.  Danny Boyle was forced to resort to product displacement and digitally remove the logos from the film.  Post-production digital pixelation and physically covering up labels are the most common methods of unbranding a scene to omit any references to trademarked brands.  

The “Sweet-N-All” episode of Nurse Jackie provides a fascinating approach to product displacement because it features an establishing shot of sugar packets that instructs viewers to identify Sweet’N All as an artificial sweetener.  In this shot, packets of Domino Sugar, Equal, Sweet’N Low and Sweet’N All fall on the floor as Jackie shares an intimate moment with her husband before their daughters arrive for breakfast.  It’s important to note that Sweet’N Low and Sweet’N All packets were displayed together because it demonstrates that both brands exist within the Nurse Jackie world.  It can even be interpreted that the two pink-packaged sweeteners are rival brands.  Sweet’N All is essentially, not a fictionalized version of Sweet’N Low, but rather, it’s a separate, albeit fictional brand that was created to establish the industrious lengths Jackie goes through to fuel her addiction.

A few minutes into the episode, during a voice-over narration, Jackie, with a hint of triggered fondness states, “Sweet’N All. Sounds like Seconal. Remember Seconal?” and then goes on to tell viewers to “watch and learn” as she empties the content of a Sweet’N All packet.  She then methodically crushes a mortar full of Percocet, fills three Sweet’N All packets with the drug and seals them to use throughout her workday.  Jackie cautions that Percocet should not be chewed, crushed or snorted because, “it’ll hit your system like a bolt of lightning.”  With a complete disregard to the forewarned dangers of Percocet, Jackie nonchalantly places the packets in her sweater pocket.  Essentially, the Sweet’N All packaging is repurposed by Jackie as drug paraphernalia.  The production would have certainly faced legal action if it used Sweet’N Low in such a manner.

Diminishing Returns: When Product Placements Compete with Hulu’s Banner Ads

Posted in Advertising, Product Placements, Television by Gladys Santiago on January 17, 2010

Toyota vs. Chevrolet - Hulu

The above image features a scene from ABC’s Modern Family where Mitchell returns home with his adopted daughter, Lily.  Although, Modern Family, much like many other scripted ABC programs, relies heavily on product displacement, the Toyota logo on the back of Mitchell’s car lingers for a few seconds while a Chevy Malibu banner ad is displayed on screen. I don’t remember if a 30-second spot for Chevrolet ran as I watched the episode, but based on my Hulu experience, I’m pretty sure one did. I tend to watch shows in “fullscreen mode,” but naturally minimize my screen to the normal web view for a number of reasons. I would be interested in knowing what percentage of Hulu users watch shows in fullscreen or toggle between various views.

Regardless of my curiosity, I find it interesting that two competing car companies would appear simultaneously on the same screen. I’m not sure if the Toyota occurrence was a paid-for placement, but regardless, the logo is visible and probably decreases brand recall and awareness of the Chevy Malibu ad. Typically, during TV ad purchases, advertisers and networks go through great lengths to ensure that ads do not air during programs that feature heavy integrations of a rival brand. For example, you’re never going to see a commercial for Pepsi during Fox’s Coca-Cola-inundated American Idol. Including ads for competing companies within the same, program, commercial pod, scene or frame cannibalizes viewer attention and blurs brand messages.

While Hulu is primarily a video content hub, the company should begin encoding its content with information that might prove useful to advertisers. Annotating or tagging segments/scenes that contain brand names or logos can help determine which “program moments” deliver better ad performance. Pairing a Chevy Malibu banner ad with a scene that features a Toyota vehicle used by principle characters is just a bad idea. To me, Hulu is rich in data. I absolutely love the Captions Search feature and know that the data it generates will likely make Hulu more appealing to advertisers. I see the annotating/pinpointing of product integrations working on a backend level and possibly even being provided by the content owners themselves (ABC, NBC, Fox…). If a brand is integrated into a television show, it makes sense for that same brand to be integrated into a viewer’s Hulu experience as they enjoy their content.

Hulu’s Captions Search has the Potential to Change Online Video Consumption

Posted in Media, Television by Gladys Santiago on December 26, 2009

Hulu recently introduced Captions Search, which, as implied, allows viewers to search for their favorite lines of any show that features closed-captioning. This latest addition to the streaming video site is a complete game-changer as it allows users to easily find very specific content and share it with others. As search results are pull up, a Heat Map is also displayed that visually distinguishes where the desired content is located and which parts of the video are most popular.

While Captions Search is still a work in progress, I envision the Heat Map developing into a sort of Google Trends feature that not only lists what shows are viewed most, but also what specific content struck a chord with viewers. Heat Map is not only a snapshot of what people are watching, it’s an insight into what they are engaged with. They are recalling certain words, lines or scenes and actively seeking to return to that content. The creation of Captions Search is proof that viewers are becoming more involved with programs. Hulu is encouraging analytical viewing and curiosity.

Captions Search may not be able to precisely answer why people find certain content memorable, but I think it provides the opportunity for social scientists and cultural researchers to make connections and create stories. Captions Search has only been available for a few days and already the discussion board lists a topic on utilizing the feature as a research tool for school reports. It’s only a matter of time before it evolves into a tool for advertisers to monitor campaigns or for brands to manage their reputation and public relations efforts. From what I can determine, Hulu’s Captions Search operates a lot like Critical Mention search platform, but it’s geared to the average viewer and emphasizes content spreadability.

Image via: Hulu

How Will Boxee and ITP’s ‘Qurious’ Influence the Future of Engagement

Posted in Media, Television by Gladys Santiago on December 9, 2009

In “When TV Became Art,” Emily Nussbaum correlates the popularity of programs containing non-linear plotlines and spastic chronology (Lost, Flashforward) to the growing penetration of DVRs.  In this sense, the narrative world of television adopted and mimicked the behavior that time-shifting devices encouraged.  As television-viewing rituals evolved, the structural and artistic elements of entertainment content followed suit.  This makes me wonder what the future of television and its related technologies will look like as programs become even more nuanced and demanding of audiences. 

Early this week, Boxee, a social, streaming media center, unveiled several television model-busting applications for its service.  The one that piqued my interest the most because it directly relates to product placements, was Qurious, (pronounced “curious”) an app that instantly pulls up information on the actors, songs, topics and products featured on screen.  Qurious was developed by students from NYU’s Interactive Telecommunications Program and brilliantly demonstrates a reconceptualized form of viewer interactivity.  Watching television will turn into a more involved experience which emphasizes a structure of engagement that goes far beyond the oft-used recall metrics. 

To maintain this level of interactivity and engagement, program content will have to become increasingly multifaceted, transcendent and subtle.  Blatant, spoon-fed information and marketing messages will flounder in this television environment because with knowledge-generating technology, audiences will want to seek out information and deconstruct their entertainment.  Curiosity is a form of engagement.  I can picture the wealth of real-time data that an application like Qurious can provide advertisers as viewers perform search queries.  The contemporary television-watching experience does not start and end with the television itself as it now extends to an anytime, anywhere activity.

Ghost Whisperer’s Alt World 2: A Case Study on Product Displacement and Engagement

Posted in Media, Product Placements, Television by Gladys Santiago on August 22, 2009

The above image is one of the most viewed pictures in my Flickr photostream. The majority of viewers find the image by conducting keyword searches for “Alt World 2,” a fictionalized interpretation of the virtual world application, Second Life. In the “Ghost in the Machine” episode of Ghost Whisperer, Melinda is shown how to create an avatar and navigate through a virtual environment in order to catch a child predator. The Alt World 2 interface and its function closely resembles Second Life’s, but since the plot addressed the dangers of online worlds, it’s only natural that Second Life would want to avoid being mentioned or featured in the episode.

A behind-the-scenes clip, previously available on CBS.com, detailed Alt World 2’s creation process and featured the director and designers discussing their inspiration for the animation and graphics. What I find particularly interesting, are the viewer inquiries as to whether or not the Alt World 2 game exists in real life. Here, a Ghost Whisperer viewer identifies Second Life as an Alt World 2 substitute and reminds another fan about the dangers discussed on the show. At MIT’s Futures of Entertainment 3 conference, Ghost Whisperer Executive Producer, Kim Moses, touted the show’s transmedia storytelling ability as successfully connecting viewers to its content. Through the use of webisodes, books, message boards and fan fiction, Moses has laid the foundation to engage audiences. When I refer to engagement, I am referring to the resulting audience behavior, recall and participation after watching the program. It’s understandable for viewers to wonder if Alt World 2 is a real game given Ghost Whisperer’s presence across various media forms. Seeking out information regarding Alt World 2 is a form of engagement because it illustrates an interest in the show’s content that extends beyond the initial television airing.

I’m sure some Ghost Whisperer viewers are familiar with Second Life, but given all the outlets fans have to discuss the show, it’s completely plausible for them to believe that the Alt World 2 exits. Although an actual Alt World 2 gaming platform never came to a fruition, audience reaction to it demonstrates that product displacement can engage viewers and pique their curiosity. Fans that searched for Alt World 2 probably viewed it as another medium to connect with the Ghost Whisperer world. The episode featuring Alt World 2 originally aired October 2008, but searches for it appear on my Flickr stats almost everyday. Alt World 2 is a great example of a product displacement that really resonated with viewers. It’s a shame the game wasn’t developed into an actual social networking platform. I’m pretty sure Second Life was never approached to be included in the episode, but Alt World 2 presents the company with an opportunity to create virtual environments specifically for television shows.

Televisual Function of Antennas After the DTV Transition

Posted in Media, Television by Gladys Santiago on June 13, 2009

As households across the country say goodbye to the antennas protruding from their television sets, and replace them with digital converter boxes, we theoretically end an era in which those metal rabbit-ears aided in establishing characters’ identities. In February, when the transition was originally scheduled to occur, 5.1% of households were unprepared. When the DTV transition deadline arrived on June 12, 2009, only an estimated 2.5% of the 114.5 million television households in the U.S. were completely unready for the signal switch from analog to digital. Since the transition was first announced viewers have purchased converter boxes en masse. With that said, the DTV transition was a shared cultural experience–one that is likely to be memorable given all the on-screen reminders and converter installation demonstrations broadcasted by local network affiliates.

For decades, antennas were synonymous with television and fuzzy reception was commonplace. But as cable subscriptions increased during the 1980s and even more so in the 1990s, the depiction of antennas in network programming came to symbolize the lack of cable television. When in the past, a scene in which a character adjusts an antenna was unmemorable and merely included for verisimilar purposes, contemporary shows utilize antennas as a visual cue to establish the socioeconomic status of characters. The screenshot above, which prominently displays antennas in the foreground, is from My Name is Earl, a sitcom featuring a former small-time thief and his trailer park-living ex-wife that’s set in the redneck town of Camden.

Married with Children frequently used the antenna to identify the Bundys as lower-middle class, but also used it to comment on Fox’s weak signal strength and position among the other three established networks. It became an on-going joke on the show where Al Bundy would instruct his family to “assume to Fox Network viewing positions,” and they each would contort themselves while holding antennas and aluminum foil in the air. (Click HERE, HERE, HERE and HERE for examples.)

Now that the DTV transition has literally turned the television antenna into a relic with no function or purpose, how will it be featured on future shows? While antennas are far from reaching the depth of obscurity and uselessness equated with rotary phones, any visual presence of rabbit-ears in a show set during present-day, would likely incite discussion about anachronism. Granted, television shows take liberties in storytelling, but for the millions of people that actually had to spend money on a converter and wait for their $40 government rebate, an use of an antenna may seem completely implausible.

DTV transition data [via: Nielsen]

Industrial Purposes of Unbranded Product Displacements

Posted in Advertising, Branding, Product Placements, Television by Gladys Santiago on May 25, 2009

The 2008/2009 season was marked with a great deal of uncertainty as automotive spending, the largest ad category for network television, steadily decreased. However, desperately needing to reach customers more than ever, the Big Three (Ford, Chrysler and GM) actively sought pricey brand integration deals. General Motors invested heavily in NBC’s quickly cancelled spy series, My Own Worst Enemy. As Brian Stelter notes in his New York Times article, integration deals are very risky and when a show is cancelled, a brand’s exposure from its product placements is as well.

In addition to being a primary sponsor of NBC’s reality show America’s Toughest Jobs, Chrysler signed an elaborate partnership with Fox’s Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles that included heavy in-program integrations of its Dodge Ram truck. The package also promoted Dodge Ram’s “Never Back Down From a Challenge” vehicle giveaway and featured blatant Dodge branding on all Sarah Connor websites and promotional materials. Dodge Ram was a very good fit for an action-packed show like Sarah Connor and even ranked second in a list of most-recalled hybrid ads (via: Nielsen).

Since Chrysler, was the exclusive automotive sponsor of the show, Sarah Connor provides great examples of techniques used to cover up competitor logos and brand names. I refer to this process as unbranding. It’s more likely for audience members to recall product occurrences In this scene, the “Chev” in Chevrolet were blackened as Cameron walks by a van. This image shows the unbranded grill of a Chevy Suburban that was digitally altered in post production. I was able to identify the SUV during a brief shot in which the Suburban brand name was (probably accidentally) visible. These examples of demonstrate how unbranding serves as a technique to enhance the advertising effectiveness of Chrysler vehicles by eliminating any presence of competitors.

In early December, as the magnitude of the automotive industry crisis was becoming even more apparent, Chrysler announced that it may not survive after 2009 and would probably file for bankruptcy. It was during this period that Chrysler product placements in began to deviate from the established norm. The “Earthlings Welcome Here” episode of Sarah Connor Chronicles, which aired December 15, 2008, signaled what I can only speculate was the end of Chrysler’s integration deal with the show. The episode does not contain any Dodge Ram occurrences, but does feature Sarah Connor driving a Jeep Liberty. The majority of shots where the Jeep brand name and logo were visible, occurred in a split second and would probably not be noticed by a casual viewer.

As I’ve noted above, unbranding is used by networks and studios to eliminate the presence of rival companies and increase brand recall. Essentially, unbranding helps eliminate the clutter and influence of brands that are not primary advertisers of a show. Viewers are more likely to remember and engage with a brand/product if it’s presented by itself. “Earthlings Welcome Here” demonstrates another industrial function of unbranding, which is to prevent giving advertisers free publicity. While Chrysler make have initially paid for a season long integration package, it’s quite possible that the company pulled out given its dismal financial state. Many of the Jeep Liberty scenes in “Earthlings Welcome Here” feature Sarah Connor driving down long, windy, empty desert roads. These are the types of images you would expect to see in a car commercial.

While I’m sure when this episode was filmed, it’s fairly clear that Chrysler’s Jeep brand was supposed to be heavily promoted, as evidenced by the title character’s (Sarah Connor) repeated use of the SUV. In addition, the Jeep Liberty was given a lot of screen-time, that was however, negated by it’s logo being digitally removed. I have include two images in my Product Placement Flickr set I believe illustrate an intended lingering visual duration of the Jeep Liberty. In this image, the Jeep is moving directly towards the camera, but there is no trace of the Jeep brand name. Several seconds later, just as Sarah Connor is visible behind the wheel, it becomes obvious that the Jeep brand name and logo were deliberately blurred out. This scene consisted of one continuous shot and would have surely generated high recall from viewers if Jeep was not displaced by the show’s unbranding efforts.

Product Displacements Explained: Part 1

Posted in Media, Product Placements, Television, Uncategorized by Gladys Santiago on April 16, 2009

Product displacement typically occurs when a studio or broadcaster want to avoid giving a product/brand free publicity. Displacement is also used when companies refuse to allow their brands and logos from being shown, especially in scenes and story-lines that portray their products in a negative way.

There are TWO types of product displacements I have identified:
1) Fictionalized and 2) Unbranded

Fictionalized
I use the term fictionalized rather than fictional because it’s a verb and implies/emphasizes that action was deliberately taken to “greek” an actual product or brand. There are many fictional brands used in scripted shows such as, Dunder Mifflin in The Office, Krusty-Os and Duff Beer in The Simpsons, Dharma Initiative in Lost, and of course, Acme in Looney Tunes.

Fictionalized brands differ in that they reference actual companies. For example, the characters in Scrubs frequently gather at a coffee shop called Coffee Bucks. The name, decor, menu and logo of Coffee Bucks are obviously modeled after the Starbucks franchise. Fictionalized product displacements are created by referencing recognizable characteristics of real brands. (See TitTat Bar example from My Name is Earl).

Unbranded
Unbranded product displacements use real products in scenes, but the brand names and logos are deliberately and strategically covered up.

There are two ways to unbrand a product:

1) A product can be unbranded digitally in post-production when traces of its logo or brand name are pixelated, blurred or erased. This is considered “digital alteration.” Pixelated brand names and logos are very obvious in music videos and reality shows, but less so in scripted programs. (See Jeep example in Sarah Connor.)

2) When a product is unbranded during on-set filming, it is physically “obscured.” The process of obscuring often times utilizes objects (ex: gaffer’s tape) to displace products. (See Dell example1 and example2 from NCIS).

To unbrand an automobile, the manufacturer’s emblem on the grill or hood of the car is usually popped out and removed. Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles has great examples of this practice since it had a brand integration deal with Dodge, but utilized a lot of Chevrolet vehicles during chase scenes. (See Chevrolet example1 and example2 in Sarah Connor).

Product Displacements Explained: Part 2 will address product displacements in a more cultural and societal context. Much of the discussion will focus on the use of parody and satire in fictionalized displacements.

Please take a look at my essay “Product Displacements as Catalysts to Engagement.” Also, check out the Product Displacement tumblr for more examples. I have also created a Product Placement Flickr set with a comprehensive selection of screenshots.

During Economic Crunch, Viewers Cancel Cable

Posted in Advertising, Media, Television, Uncategorized by Gladys Santiago on June 28, 2008

Click here to view Mediaedge:cia’s CEO, Lee Doyle discuss the growing trend of consumers canceling their cable service due to hard financial times.  During his presentation at the ARF conference, Doyle notes that “economically challenged” viewers are turning to online video entertainment and no longer consider cable television as a necessity.  He goes on to state that a whopping 40% of commercials are not being fast-forwarded by consumers with DVRs and attributes this to Americans’ “conditioning” to advertisments. 

Doyle pretty much described my television viewing habits to a T.  I watch a lot of television and have subscribed to digital cable and DVR service for years.  Recently, however, I cancelled my Showtime and Starz! subscriptions to save money.  I found that between watching videos online and catching up with my recorded programs, I just didn’t need the extra channels and expense.  Also, skipping ads gets to be kind of annoying and often times I even forget that I’m not watching live TV.  I guess I’m one of those “passive” viewers that Doyle described.

(via: 3 Minute Ad Age: June 27, 2008)

FCC to Monitor Product Placements

Posted in Advertising, Product Placements, Television by Gladys Santiago on June 24, 2008

The Federal Communications Commission may begin taking steps to regulate the growing use of product placements on television shows.  According to a World Advertising Recesearch Center report, the FCC wants broadcasters to make it easier for viewers to know when they are being marketed to.  The number of “embedded advertisments” increased 13% in 2007 (via: Reuters) and are commonly seen as a way to reach elusive viewers in a TiVo-filled world.  Currently, programs are only required to disclose sponsors at the end of show, to which commisioner Jonathan Adelstein states: 

  “You shouldn’t need a magnifying glass to know who’s pitching you. A crawl at the end of the show shrunk down so small the human eye can’t read it isn’t really in the spirit of the law.”  (via: WARC’s “FCC TO REVIEW PRODUCT PLACEMENT RULES“)

A strick ruling from the FCC could require programs to post notices before or after a product placement occurance.  Its unclear how this will be done without disrupting show content or if it will even be welcomed by viewers.  It’s no secret that most marketers have taken to product integrations to improve brand awareness and receptivity.  While the inclusion of real products/brands adds to a program’s verisimilitude, certain tactics can be rather deceptive.  

Product placements are real hot-button issue and marketers and studios have come under fire from not only the FCC and watchdog groups, but the Writer’s Guild of America as well.  For years, the WGA has asked the FCC to regulate the use product placements because it views the weaving of ads into storylines as unethical and impedes on the creative process. 

I worked for a company that monitored engagement with product placements in prime-time shows and have written extensively about the topic in the past.  I can’t wait to see how this develops.          

TBS Promo Invades Your Space

Posted in Advertising, Product Placements, Television by Gladys Santiago on June 21, 2008

During a recent episode of Family Guy on TBS, Bill Engvall appeared on screen with a remote control and paused the show.  Engvall then proceeds to promote the new season of his show as Family Guy remains frozen in the background.  What the audience didn’t know was that when Engvall appeared, the show had begun a commercial break.  In the past, TBS has wonderfully and seamlessly integrated commercial content into its programming, (the “Very Funny” ad campaigns, for instance) but this time the cable network sought to be deliberately intrusive. 

In his Ad Agearticle, Brian Steinberg states:

TV networks have gotten extremely aggressive with the bottom corners of the screen. Some cable outlets even let pieces of promotional flotsam, known in the industry as “snipes,” rise from the corners and take up the bottom third of the TV screen. More recently, however, these animated promos have become decidedly more intrusive, blocking action as it unfurls on the screen or even competing with spoken dialogue.

Giving the spastic nature of Family Guy, the promo may not annoy people as much as it would if had aired on a show such as Lost, which commands a significant amount of audience attention.  I think viewers will be seeing a lot more aggressive snipes in the future, especially on syndicated shows in reruns where broadcasters may assume that they are already familiar with the content and plot.  The sneaky TBS tactic has already generated quite a bit of discussion, but too bad the effort was wasn’t on such a sub-par show as Bill Engvall.    

Project Apollo Fails to Take Off

Posted in Marketing, Measurement, Television by Gladys Santiago on February 25, 2008

feeling-blue.jpg

 

I’m sure the above title will be overly used and isn’t that original, but I couldn’t resist.  Despite having invested $45 million in a single-source measurement attempt, Nielsen and Arbitron have decided to end their Project Apollo program.  The endeavor (another cheesy space reference) began in 2005 with a $20 million investment by Proctor & Gamble and was slated to track 50,000 households.  However after supposed “infighting, politicking, brink-teetering and corporate footdragging,” the January 2006 pilot only covered 5,000 homes.  Project Apollo was slated to be the first national research service to track media consumption both in and out of the home.  Although the information the program could have provided would please any marketer looking to create more effective campaigns, Project Apollo failed to secure enough clients. 

It goes without saying that as the media environment continues to become even more complex, cross-platform data will, as Linda Dupree (Arbitron’s Executive Vice President, Portable People Meter, New Product Development) stated, “bridge the divide of marketing strategy and media planning.”  The media industry is drastically changing and although Project Apollo was positioned to provide the marketplace with the much coveted single-source data, perhaps the concept was lightyears (sorry, another space reference) ahead of its time.  Audience measurement has turned into an extremely competative business, and with the likes of TiVo, DirecTV and Google throwing their hats into the ring, marketers may feel safer investing in the specialized data these companies offer. 

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