"Now, having Campbell's Soup or Chrysler associated with your project can be nearly as important to your pitch as signing Tom Cruise."

That's an unfortunate quote from a New York Times article about branding deals for film productions. Specific focus is given to the development of product placement for The 28th Amendment, a conspiracy thriller that interestingly enough once had Cruise attached to star. Currently there are no actors signed on, but that doesn't appear to be a concern so much as getting the brands cast. In a meeting between screenwriter/producer Roberto Orci and a lawyer specializing in this sort of in-film advertising, ideas were brought up to add a scene in a fast food restaurant, to change what kind of car the main character drives and to make a significant prop in the film include an alcohol company's logo for the benefit of cross-marketing.

Product placement is nothing new, of course, but Times reporter Stephanie Clifford claims that integral marketing in movies is only going to grow, slowly but surely. "The devil is going to wear a lot more Prada," she writes. But were you bothered by one of last year's most branded films, Up in the Air? The Oscar-nominated film was partially a feature-length ad for both American Airlines and Hilton. Or do you think it helped the film have a greater sense of realism by involving familiar, everyday brands? Would you have seen a movie called Harold and Kumar Go to Burger Town, or some other generic-destination title? Then again, would National Lampoon's Vacation have been as memorable had Disneyland or Six Flags/Great Adventure been the theme park used rather than the made up Wally World?
I don't typically mind product placement if it's done subtly, though subtlety isn't what advertisers want. It won't help them to have their car driven by the protagonist if the audience isn't given a gratuitous shot of the name of the make and model. Still, planning for product placements in scripts and altering or adding scenes specifically for the purpose of advertising is pretty sickening. The thing is, though, most of us wouldn't know when or how much this goes on. Not every film's branding deal meeting is going to be covered by the New York Times (nor will all be as obvious as the E-Trade Baby movie). Because of the article, I am now less inclined to ever see The 28th Amendment. I'm very disappointed that it has to come down to this kind of thing, too, as I otherwise look forward to these government conspiracy movies and would have been especially interested if director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck (The Lives of Others) is still on board.

I'd like to finish with a quote from producer Ted Hope, who made Adventureland, a great comedy that could have been branded like crazy and would likely have had to change its tone in the process (no popular theme park would want to be associated with the one portrayed in the film). In linking to the article, he tweeted, "Their movies aren't movies any more: they are ad-delivery mechanisms."

So, who wants to pay $12 to watch a bunch of pre-show ads and then a feature-length ad-delivery mechanism?

[via Eric Kohn]
categories Cinematical