In this month’s Rogues Rant, the Rogues spout off about how product placement in movies.
I’m of a mixed opinion on this topic. I honestly don’t mind product placement in movies, as long as it’s not the reason for the movie! If I see Will Smith’s character in a movie drinking a Coke, it doesn’t ruin the movie for me, but if the whole point of the movie IS the product placement, then it can be a little distracting. So, product placement in movies, don’t care, really. Now, the commercials and prices…don’t get me started! I’m like an old guy who’s lawn you just stepped on, about this topic! I keep hearing reports about the movie industry being in trouble because no one’s going to the theatre any more. Well, I’m a pretty average guy, and before I go to the movie, I have to make sure that it’s a movie I really want to see. I’m not shelling out ten bucks for me and ten bucks for my wife and then buy snacks at about five bucks per snack to see some crappy movie that’s going to be on DVD in about a week! So, if the movies were better, I’d be more apt to see them. Then, I’m paying you about thirty bucks to see this movie with my wife, and before the movie, I get to watch about five commercials? If I’m paying that much for a night out, to enjoy myself and I have to watch commercials for cars and ipods and God knows what else, maybe I can save my money and just watch my TV? After all, with the quality of the movies that are coming out now, I’m perfectly willing to keep my money firmly in my pocket and wait for either the DVD or, in the case of alot of movies being released recently, just see them on HBO or whatever for free. If I owned a movie theatre right now, I think I would advertise that you’ll see no commercials before my movies and drop the price by a couple of dollars and, you know what? I’ll bet I could make up in volume what I lose in price!! Think about it.
I can understand a small movie needing to put in some product placements for money. However, the low-budget movies aren’t the ones papering their movies with lame product placements. The bigger movies are obsessed with product placement. Are the screenwriters given instructions to include so many cans of pop? Why do we need to see Peter Parker drinking an ice-cold refreshing Dr. Pepper? Why did Blade Trinity need the ultra-extended I-Pod commercial?
The trailers before the feature presentation at the theater are getting more and more annoying with running at least 3 car, diet pop, and deodorant commercials first. The idea of having at least 15 minutes of pseudo TV-ads before even getting to see the movie is aggravating to say the least. I enjoy having a number of movie trailers shown before the movie. Commercials shouldn’t have a place in the theater. The lame sports car ads haven’t ever compelled me to run right out and buy the new BMW.
I can’t really complain about movie ticket prices at least for matinees. I’d be more likely to complain about concession prices than the $5 for a matinee ticket. The idea of having to pay to watch a number of commercials before your movie leaves a bad taste in my mouth. People go to movies to get away from commercials. I’m sure it won’t be much longer before people really demonstrate how much they despise being forced to watch longer and longer ads before the movie. It will start to drive people from the theater and have them wait for the movie to hit DVD. The movie industry will find around people starting to get away from theaters. It won’t be long before major DVD releases have ads you can’t skip on DVDs.
There is an advertisement for Diet Coke being shown before a lot of movies these days, and in it a group of impossibly attractive young adults are roller skating on a beach while sparkling bubbles hop out of their cans and whiz about magically. At the time I thought, “Why hasn’t someone tried to make Coca-Cola: The Movie?” The idea isn’t totally absurd. Hollywood already took the first step with Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle, a movie completely revolved around a brand name. I’m telling you, if Coca-Cola put up the dough to hire some pretty people, put them in some dopey beach movie with roller skating and put it all to music they’d make millions.
Now I’m not saying the commercialization of the movie industry is a new issue. Product placement has been around for quite some time, growing more popular with the booming sales Reese’s Pieces saw when their candy appeared in Steven Spielberg’s E.T. and never stopping to take a breath since. Some product placement can be fun, as in the laughably gratuitous Mac & Me. This movie tried to shell so much crap it became a drinking game to see what would come next. Skittles, McDonald’s, Sears and even a billboard for a furniture outlet all somehow played into the film’s plot. And in Can’t Stop the Music a character states her plan to relax by buying a Baskin and Robbins ice cream cone.
Whereas these products used to be somehow incorporated into the events of their films, albeit however loosely, nowadays they’re shoved in front of the camera with all the subtlety of a bulldozer. I’ve mentioned Blade: Trinity in the past for its shameless behavior, as it was basically one big campaign for GMC Jeeps and iPods. Spider-Man 2 was also a big offender, with one of its opening scenes taking place in a business that’s not so much a pizza place so much as it is a Dr. Pepper sign manufacturing plant. Oh, and let’s not forget The Fantastic Four, which had Johnny Storm and The Thing fighting amongst a literal arena of brightly colored displays. “Mmm, now that I’m thinking about it, I sure could use a steamy Whopper from Burger King!”
The question in my mind concerns the benefits people see when these items are displayed in these movies. Does anyone truly think Burger King or 20th Century Fox saw more returns because of their Fantastic Four partnership? I don’t know about you readers, but I certainly don’t take a cue from celebrities when I see them eating, drinking, or using this merchandise. If anything, subliminal product placement would work better in yanking the money out of my wallet. Just notice the difference:
Traditional Product Placement: “Hey, anybody hungry for some Whoppers?”
Subliminal Product Placement: “Why (Whopper) you (Whopper) good for nothing (Whopper) whipper-(Fig-Newtons)snapper!”
I rest my case.
Now as for these blocks of commercials running before the coming attractions (or as I like to call them, The 15 Minute Hates), they need to be outlawed. I love my previews, but why must I endure the junk I purposely avoid by not watching television? Have you seen some of these ads? They’re not clever, excessively loud, and are often far too long for comfort. I swear, if I have to watch the one where the white guy with the afro invents the movie ticket Web site I might snap. It doesn’t help when I hear other, more impressionable folks being duped with this madness. “Tee-hee, he still has that afro!” I heard a woman say this, people.
So there you go, my take on this product placement craze. It’s humorous when looking back at the films of yesteryear, but at the time these pitches are insufferable. I highly suggest someone start regulating this pre-movie crap, because as annoying as it is to watch Jessica Biel ride around in a GMC Jeep it’s somehow much worse to watch the same Jeep in a minute-long ad set to blaring rock music.
Unlike previous Rogue Rants topics, when it comes to product placement in movies…. I’m pretty much indifferent . Sure it’s borderline subliminal advertising, but it doesn’t bother me much at all to tell you the truth. In fact, product placement, which at one time was so prevalent in films, is now nothing more than something of parody value. I think the last time I saw an all out assault of product placement in a movie, was in 1989’s "The Wizard." That film was basically an hour and a half commercial for the Nintendo Entertainment System, its large number of video games and accessories, and of course, the all new "Super Mario Bros. 3" game cartridge! WOWEE! Anyway, product placement in movies has since become such a staple of films that it’s almost unnoticeable, that is until someone sees a Coca Cola soda machine or a pair of Nike sneakers. Then the subliminal advertising kicks in, causing people who’ve just seen the latest Hollywood blockbuster to spend money on something they don’t really want! It’s a conspiracy I tell you! So what was my point? Ah yes! I don’t care about product placement in films, not in the least! Especially if it’s fully exploited as a running gag.
Way back in the day, product placement in movies seemed a little less blatant than it is now. For example, in the 1970s we may have watched a great chase scene involving a Chevy. You would see the car’s logo here and there as the car sped around turns and handled the road with ease. In today’s cinema, it isn’t uncommon to have the focus be the logo on the car while a driver literally explains the car’s handling capabilities to his passenger.
The whole movie industry from the sets to the theaters, can truly be a melting pot of evil. I can recall a time when I could purchase a movie ticket, watch the previews, and the flick would start. It was around less than five years ago when I saw the first commercial for a car company appear before the previews. I was literally sitting in aghast. The whole point of leaving the house for the theaters is to intake a commercial free show. Now we get the pleasure of having cell phones and soda image s forced down our throats on the big screen.
Now on top of that, we have a growing barrage of obvious ads within the movie. This ongoing trend is more than likely the result of having more and more theaters pop up in malls and shopping plazas. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out this is aimed at teenagers who have money burning a hole in their pockets. That way they can leave the theaters and blow their cash right away on a new digital music player or some other useless trinket. The powers that are behind these ad placements are not stupid and shouldn’t feel guilty. Why you may ask, well because people are still buying the products they see. If the world really wanted to make a difference, people could call for a humongous boycott of whatever product that appears in the movie. Until then everyone can complain all they want because the concept isn’t going anywhere.
Advertising is everywhere in our world and it really is to bad that we have to deal with it in our movies. Do you have to like it; absolutely not. However product placement is something that we will never escape. Whether it be in the movies, tv, or right across the street from you on a billboard it will be there. Why, well because these are the folks paying for production fees and many actor’s overpriced salaries. Just do what I do and blame Tom Cruise for all of this. It will make you feel much better.
Duane L. Martin:
Honestly I don’t have a problem with product placement in movies as long as it’s not obnoxiously done. What I DO have a problem with is the fact that we’re still paying outrageous ticket prices to watch movies full of advertisements. If the movie companies are making money off of these product placements, then I want the damn ticket prices lowered to reflect that. Why should we be subjected to advertising when we get absolutely nothing out of it? As Mark said, advertising is everywhere in this world, and I am absolutely sick of it. If I don’t get any benefit from it, then keep your damn ads to yourself. People are already going to the theaters less and less because of the outrageous ticket prices. Who wants to pay ten bucks to see a 90 minute commercial when we can see that from 2am to 6am on practically any channel on television for free? Jerks!
Charles E. Pratt Jr.:
Nothing’s ever exactly what it appears to be, is it? Take the movies for instance. Most people consider a movie to be a simple entertainment. It is, and so much more.
It’s been said that people like television but love the movies.
Movies are a communication tool that reaches the world over and brings with it a variety of messages that are run the gamut from completely obvious to sublime and subtle. Movies have affected our opinions of sex, politics and religion. Movies have also shaped our ideas of what’s cool, what’s normal, and what’s to be desired via “product placement”. That’s a commercial to everyday Joes like you and I. Well, I don’t know about you, but I’m sick of being assaulted with them. When I go to the show and plunk my seven bucks on the counter I want to watch a damn movie, not an infomercial. Unfortunately, cinema’s progression from entertainment to infomercial isn’t about to stop anytime soon. If anything it’ll continue to get worse as the cost of movie production escalates.
Most people think that product placement began with E.T. (1982) and Reece’s Pieces but it can be traced back to at least the thirties when producers were paid to have Venetian blinds placed strategically in shop windows and offices. Some experts say it goes even farther back than that.
A few things have happened since the thirties. Foremost being that the audience has simply grown more sophisticated and knowledgeable over the years. Commercials in television programming have primed us over the years to know advertising when we see it. At the same time the movie industry has become more brazen with its product placement, completely ignoring one of its own cardinal rules that advertising shouldn’t break the flow of the scene in which it’s in (Blade III being an example of how product placement can go wild and interfere with the flow). Incredibly, Back in 1980 when Superman II debuted (primarily for a kids and teen audience) it had so many Marlboro advertisements in it that it became fundamental in creating the fervor to eliminate tobacco advertising in movies. Movies aren’t just sprinkled with advertisements, they’re deluged in it. We’re not just talking passing billboards and what’s on a character’s kitchen table anymore. Products are becoming secondary plot devices. (Demolition Man, anyone? Remember how prominently Taco Bell was shoved down our gullets? There were even several conversations about it within the movie.) These days every scene looks like a carefully constructed showcase for cars, computers, electronics, cell phones, sunglasses, clothes, beer, soda, potato chips and what have you. As the entertainment juggernauts of the world slowly eat each other we’re also given a healthy dose of advertisements for other media like music and cable television shows. The advertising just never stops!
Hey, and what about movies like Star Wars? Is it a movie or is it an advertisement for the vast Lucas Arts toy and game company? Then there’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. What do you want to bet that stores across America are lining the shelves with Wonka Bars and other fictional made real candy as a cross promotion.
Another form of advertising I’m currently loathing is the studios idea of making a film based on some la
e tv property they own just so they can pump up their sales of whatever show it is. The Dukes of Hazzard immediately springs to mind. Bewitched. Brady Bunch. Starsky and Hutch. The Honeymooners. Knight Rider (coming soon!). Some of those shows I enjoy but isn’t there something original floating around out there that we might be able to see instead? I mean, c’mon!
Anyways, like I said, it’s not about to stop or even slow down so I’m thankful that I can at least rant about it with the rogues. I did a little checking around and just as an fyi thing I found out that the top 5 things pushed on movie going audiences from 2002-2005 are Ford Motor Company, Apple Computers, Mercedes, Pepsi and Coca-Cola, according to brandchannel.com.