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1983-2015
tearing the rag off the bush again
THE SELLING OF THE AMERICANS, part one PDF E-mail

INSIDIOUS MOVIE PRODUCT PLACEMENT TRENDS

Television shows are sponsored by advertisers who really get bangs for their mega-bucks when the products promoted during commercial interruptions are also used as props in the show itself, or even more insidiously, written into the plot.

“Seinfeld”, brought to you by Snapple, created controversy by having its characters not only drink the beverage, but tell jokes about it. “Too fruity!” said the character Babu Bhatt in the episode, “The Visa.”

Another NBC hit, “30 Rock”, a television show about making a television show (it’s the updated Shakespearean concept) is also sponsored by Snapple.  The discussion among the show’s staff in the episode “Jack-Tor” about how “Diet Snapple tastes just as good as regular Snapple” was followed by an actual Snapple ad in the subsequent commercial break.

“Mad Men”, the AMC cable series about a 1960’s Madison Avenue advertising firm, Sterling Cooper, is sponsored by Heineken.  In the episode, “A Night to Remember”, Sterling Cooper takes on Heineken as a client.  Coincidentally, Betty Draper, one of the executives’ wives, serves Heineken at a dinner party, unaware that her own husband had just talked up the virtues of introducing suburban housewives to exotic foreign beers.  Betty’s menu causes much mirth among the dinner guests.  Cut to a real commercial break for…what else?  Heineken.

In Season Two of the F/X cable drama “Damages” starring Glenn Close, the show’s main sponsor was Cadillac, and a Cadillac Escalade became one of the most strategic “characters” in the plot.  This Escalade, present in a bit role for most of the series, eventually became its true star.  Glenn Close, cast as lawyer Patty Hewes, finally figured outthat the numbers on its dashboard held the key to unlocking a mystery and outsmarting her legal adversary. During commercial breaks, Close leaned suggestively against another Escalade, purring seductively like a pre-psychotic bunny-boiling Alex Forrest about what a superior car it was and promoting the accompanying F/X Cadillac Escalade sweepstakes.  One could win a trip to, for no specified reason, Costa Rica, if, after watching the show on F/X, they segued to the network’s website, where a photo of an Escalade held essential entry information.

I watch one sur (reality) t.v. show, “The Real Housewives of Orange County” , basically because I keep wondering when someone, perhaps the show’s director or producer, will realize that one of these “housewives”, Vicki, has a full-time job  and another, Gretchen, isn’t married.  Despite Gretchen’s chronic acne, which no amount of industrial-strength “foundation” seems to conceal, she has developed, not a regimen of skin care products, but generic eye-shadows.  Gretchen’s adventures creating, packaging and financing this enterprise is really pure advertisement, “disguised” as being part of the show’s “story.” During the commercial breaks, Gretchen seamlessly segues into appearing in a bona fide advertisement.  Specifically, she does her taxes with “Turbo Tax.”

 Not to be outdone is the magazine of pop culture--television, cable, music videos and major motion pictures-- “Entertainment Weekly.”  Its pages have diminished so drastically that it should properly be called a pamphlet.  Yet it has made room for a new feature, “Style Hunter” which brazenly pimps out items the stars wear onscreen. In the January 22, 2010 issue , a reader asked where she could buy the necklace Vera Farmiga sported in “Up in the Air.” Details on its exact make and model were provided and readers learned where to purchase it.

In my “Corpse” review of the movie “Precious,” I pointed out something no other critic seemed to have noticed (why not, for crissakes?)--rampant product placement and advertising actually written into the text of the script and also used in the set decorations.

“Precious” was produced by Tyler Perry and executive-produced by Oprah Winfrey.  Oprah Winfrey’s television show was a subject of discussion in the script, with the characters extolling Oprah’s virtues and then actively watched her show, inspiring the title character, Precious, to buy a postcard of Oprah to decorate her bedroom with.  Tyler Perry’s movie version of the 1976 stage play by Ntozake Shange, “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide, When the Rainbow is Enuf” (sic) is now in pre-production and will be released in 2011. Although “Precious” was set in 1987, Precious’s teacher had a poster from Shange’s play hanging on her livingroom wall.

Most critics buried “The Lovely Bones” in that special toxic waste dump reserved for D movies, but none noticed how blatantly Peter Jackson, its director, used his position to advertise his movie trilogy, “The Lord of the Rings.”  “Bones” is set in Morristown, PA, 1973, and, guess which literary box-set is advertised in the local mall's bookstore?  Huge posters in vivid hues for "The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (screenplay written, directed and produced by Peter Jackson in 2001)", "The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (ditto by Jackson in 2002)" and "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (Jackson again, 2003) “ are plastered all over its glass facade.

I did some double-checking, to see if any editions of any of these books were published in 1972-3, because if they were, it would be logical for bookstores in malls everywhere to be advertising them.

Here are the pub dates:
"The Lord of the Rings" was published in three volumes as "The Fellowship of the Ring", "The Two Towers" and "The Return of the King" in 1954, and then again in 1966, and finally, 1994.  Why, then, would a Morristown mall be promoting the LOTR trilogy?  Actually, it wouldn’t.
Since viewers have accepted the fact that the function of “art” is to promote capitalism, why should filmmakers and television show directors draw any lines whatsoever?  Why not just let every plot be related to the products advertised, and every item of art direction be a visual reminder of the producer/director’s…hey why not the D.P.’s…past and future projects?  To be totally pragmatic, we could eliminate any pretense of plot or story, making all creative content one long commercial!

Doesn’t it bother anyone else out there, no less almost everyone, that the 2008 Democratic National Convention was held in Denver’s Pepsi Center and that Obama and Biden accepted their nominations at Boulder’s Invesco Field?  It’s disillusioning enough watching Eric Clapton, aka Slowhand (forget the “God” nickname!) do T-Mobile commercials for quick cash (does he really need it?), but am I the only ex-hippie who experienced a bad acid flashback upon hearing that his long-awaited reunion gig with Stevie Winwood occurred on the stage of the Nokia Theatre?
 
 
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