AND NOW A WORD (FROM OUR MOVIE)
As the summer movie season winds down, it’s time to take a look at how the big hits stack up – not in quality, of course, but in product placement. This summer’s movie screens were packed with more plugs than Axl Rose’s head, occasionally distracting viewers, but giving companies priceless opportunities to have their stuff blown up by giant robots.
Was this summer the most product-placed ever? You bet your Timex (now available at Wal-Mart and finer stores near you). Even the latest “Harry Potter” – which last we checked isn’t set in the real world – managed to sneak in a nod to Nike, dressing Dudley Dursley in a logo’d shirt.
“I think it’s inevitable, that’s there’s more product placement this summer, just given the amount of money that’s being poured into it,” says Abram Sauer, who writes about the topic for marketing site brandchannel.com. According to PQ Media, placements saw a jump of 44.5 percent last year, to more than $2 billion. Sauer estimates 2007 will see a similar increase.
But does it work? Do consumers really leave movies hungry to seek out items contained within? It depends. A Maserati featured in “Ocean’s 13” and “Entourage” has seen a sales increase of about 30 percent, and celebrity nudie site Mr. Skin saw a 35 percent jump in traffic after being featured in “Knocked Up.”
For other products, the correlation may not be so easy to determine.
Here’s an evaluation of some of the more prominent cameos in the season’s blockbusters.
Film: “The Bourne Ultimatum”
Context: The superspy drives a Touareg 2 in a car chase, busting it up violently and emerging unscathed.
Flagrance rating: Still has a ways to go to rival the tackiness of previous James Bond movie placements.
Cost: Part of a massive $40 million deal VW signed with NBC Universal in 2005.
Did it work? Seems not. Although VW is pleased with “Bourne,” the company is vocally dissatisfied with the partnership overall. “Until recently, the placements have been marginal. That weakness is a cause for our disappointment,” VW international entertainment marketing manager Martin Biswurm told the Hollywood Reporter.
Film: “Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer”
Context: Mr. Fantastic builds a flying car that inexplicably has a Dodge emblem on the front. The Human Torch takes time out from saving the world to ask if it has a Hemi.
Flagrance rating: “That’s a perfect illustration of how not to do something. You only estrange everybody,” Sauer says.
Cost: Dodge won’t say, but Sauer has heard rumors of $1 million to $3 million.
Did it work? Toss-up. Dodge spokesperson Carrie McElwee says, “It’s difficult to measure direct correlation, because this one doesn’t have an exact product that consumers can buy.”
Context: The Autobot heroes turn into a Solstice, Hummer and Topkick.
Flagrance rating: Well, guess the robots couldn’t very well transform into Kias.
Cost: Nada. Director Michael Bay approached GM – probably because he has directed commercials for the company in the past.
Did it work? Not really. GM spokesperson John M. McDonald says most people don’t make a decision to purchase a $50,000-plus vehicle because they saw it kick Decepticon butt. But the placement helped “awareness.”
Film: “Live Free or Die Hard”
Context: To establish that Bruce Willis and Justin Long are driving into West Virginia, the camera quickly cuts to the state’s welcome sign, which bears the slogan, “Open for business.” The sign wasn’t even shot in West Virginia, but was re-created by filmmakers on a lot in California.
Flagrance rating: Incorporated relatively seamlessly into the plot.
Cost: “We didn’t pay for it,” says a West Virginia spokesperson.
Did it work? According to Pam Haynes, director of the West Virginia Film Office, the mention has driven business to the state – but only one kind. Other productions have inquired about shooting there.
Context: Megan Fox’s phone morphs into an evil Decepticon.
Flagrance rating: About as subtle as Megatron whacking you over the head.
Cost: Nokia ain’t sayin’, but Sauer notes the company has paid about $1 million to have its products placed previously.
Did it work? The company wouldn’t confirm, but here are two clues: Nokia employs a person whose title is “head of product placement,” and the company plans to release a “Transformers” edition of the phone later this year.
Film: “Spider-Man 3”
Context: Director Sam Raimi is a fan and has put the drink in all three movies – always in the apartment of evil Harry Osborn.
Flagrance rating: Smooth as that third glass of whiskey.
Did it work? Chris Swonger, senior VP for corporate affairs, likes the publicity but perhaps wishes the bourbon wasn’t always swilled by evildoers. “Maker’s Mark is a good guy’s drink, so I don’t think the underlying message about villains enjoying it will determine who drinks it. We are looking for law-abiding, good people to drink it.”
AND NOW A WORD (FROM OUR MOVIE)