The recent film The Internship, had some reviewers crying afoul due to the fact that the film used the Google company as the setting for much of the film. However, does that fact that Google did not pay anything for this film or provide money to the producers still make this product placement? I can see how if someone had a negative feeling about Google or product placement in general that might have affected their feelings about the film. Not that I would make it the centerpiece of my review of the film but to each their own.
This brouhaha about product placement caused me to start thinking about product placement in film and to do a bit of research on the subject. I recall being a bit taken aback when I heard James Bond was going to be selling Heineken in Skyfall. However, I found that bit of product placement was actually done pretty subtlety. After looking into it however it seems the Bond films have become notorious for their high end product placements for watches, shoes, suits and especially cars. Product placement has become big business and is closely intertwined with film and and television production. Heineken shelled out a reported 28 million for the product placement in Skyfall.
Whole advertising agencies exist that specialize in matching up film makers and companies that would like their products to be promoted in films. This is a big bucks business where a films producers can receive large sums of money and a company can gain large bumps in sales of products that are featured prominently in a film. Is this symbiotic relationship now necessary to pay for the soaring budgets of films? As costs to produce a film skyrocket into the hundreds of millions of dollars is this product placement an inevitable side effect that is required to defray costs? Or is product placement an unwanted distraction from the cinematic experience?
It is not as if product placement is a new phenomena in films. Fritz Lang’s M contains a 30 second shot that freezes on sign for Wrigley’s PK Chewing Gum. similarly, It’s a Wonderful Life that virtuous film from Frank Capra has an advertisement for National Geographic Magazine. A more recent example of product placement include Hershey’s reeses’s pieces in the film E.T. which caused a 65% increase in sales of the candy. An even more extreme example would be the recent Sex in the City film which contained an amazing 65 different paid product placements.
Check out this clip from documentary film maker Morgan Spurlock for his film The Greatest Movie Ever Sold. He made a film about film advertising that was completely paid for by film advertising.
So what is your take on advertising in film? Is it an unavoidable part of our modern culture, or something to be avoided in films? Or have we reached the point where we don’t even notice product placement and the fact that we are being sold things all the time?