STOP SELLING ME THINGS: Jarv takes an angry look at 10 of the most crass uses of Product Placement in movies
The modern world in many ways is a very depressing place. With the continuing and seemingly limitless chasing of profit over quality, almost everything we’re exposed on a daily basis represents nothing more to the whoremasters who work in marketing and advertising than another opportunity to push consumer products that we don’t need on the soft and flabby minds of today. I read recently that on average we’re exposed to up to 3,500 marketing messages (I wish I was joking about that) on a daily basis, and most of them don’t even register on a conscious level. Going to the cinema now is little more than exposing yourself to a plethora of hard sells, brand reinforcement and other such claptrap.
Picture this: I walk from work to the tube station. On the way to the tube, I walk past a billboard trying to sell me whatever soulless din Kasabian are currently inflicting on the world. A bus passes with a banner ad for Underworld 4 and every bus stop has a poster for a film attached. Once I’ve bought my ticket I stand on the escalator and stare blank eyed at 20-odd posters for shite like Lloyd Webber plays and local restaurants. Once on the train, I sit opposite a series of ads for vitamins, chick’s car insurance and so forth. In Leicester Square, I pass all manner of posters for films, wankers holding big signs with ads on them and so forth. I then spend £12 on the ticket to see my chosen film. The lights dim, the Curtain rises aaaaaaaand: I get 20 minutes of ads before the film starts (including trailers). This is why it becomes so insulting when the film, that I’ve paid to see, is little more than a two hour commercial for some shit that I’m never going to buy anyway, or already own.
Crass product placement can, for me, sink a film single handedly. I have paid to be entertained and diverted, not for some dirty cocksmoker to try to press tat on me for two hours. The 10 below are, In my mind, some of the worst instances ever put on the screen, and all worthy of nothing but derision.
I haven’t included Mac and Me, because I haven’t seen the whole film, but if I had, the clip I’ve seen would have merited a place
So, with no further ado, here we go:
Lifetime Achievement Award for sucking corporate cock:
I was originally going to include The Island in this for being little more than a glorified clothing commercial, but in retrospect almost all of Dark Overlord Bay’s movies are solely designed to cram as much product into them as possible. Particularly egregious are the Transformers atrocities, which to begin with only exist as 2 hour plus toy advertisements. As if that wasn’t insulting enough, they then waste not a minute of run time trying to push the likes of Mountain Dew, General Motors and so forth down our throats. There are countless other examples, from Will Smith going through the precise specifications of his Porsche before having it win in a drag race in Bad Boys, to the Hummer commercial that is the San Francisco scene in the rock, Bay’s motto is: “Pay me, and I’ll sell shit for you”.
Such dedication to whorishness is truly, truly commendable if you’re a minion of Satan, and given the quality of Bay’s films for the most part, I actually believe this paying back his part in the Saturnine deal by pushing this needless shite on us at every available opportunity.
10) The Italian Job (either). Offending Product: Mini Cooper
Let’s face it; this is the film that shifted more Minis than any other. Basically, both films are glorified heist movies, and the original has one of the most iconic car chases in history.
Our plucky group of gold thieves have a plan in Turin to outrun the cops using the redoubtable Mini Cooper. Now, given that they’ve emptied a vault of gold, and the Mini Cooper wasn’t renowned for being the heaviest of cars, this would, you would think, impact on performance a wee bit. Not here it doesn’t.
The plucky little motors lead the Italian rozzers on a merry old chase around Turin, rattling along through Piazza’s up and down stairs, up a stadium, along a ford, through a sewerage pipe and the Italian police never get closer than Milan.
It’s great fun, all in all, but it does make me wonder a little bit if this wasn’t one of the very first advertainments. However, annoyingly, it makes me actually want one of the damned things.
That it has become iconic is just a sign of us becoming number to advertising by the year.
9) Tomorrow Never Dies: Offending Product- BMW 7 Series.
Bond, to be fair, has been flogging crap at us from the moment Ian Fleming started writing specifically about what brand of cigarettes Bond smoked, and the type of Bentley Continental he drove. However, I honestly think that this hit its nadir with the car park scene in Tomorrow Never Dies.
Not only does Q lay out the exact specifications of the 7 series that will be Bond’s car, but he then drives it around with pinpoint precision by remote in a scene that looks as if it was shot to exact orders by BMW, the car’s sleek finish slashes around with a number of camera shots and angles straight out of Top Gear- it even shows off the ABS. This would be bad enough, were the exact same scene not repeated later on in a more dangerous context, which raises it up to the level of insulting. Although, to be honest, Tomorrow Never Dies is a crap film anyway, so I’m glad someone got something out of it.
To be fair, Aston Martin, Lotus, BMW and others pay bucket loads to get their cars in Bond movies, so it isn’t unreasonable for them to expect something back, but nevertheless, in the words of Moneypenny:
8) Cast Away. Offending Product: Federal Express and Wilson
Not only is this a fucking awful film, that basically exists as a showcase for fat and pompous Tom Hanks to try to snaffle another fucking unearned Oscar, but also the whole film is basically designed to try to push (firstly) Fed-Ex down our throats.
Tom works for Fed-Ex. He’s marooned after a crash from a Fed-Ex plane, and has nothing to help him survive aside from the contents contained in Fed-Ex packages. The amount of screen time devoted to repetition of the corporate logo and name is only beaten by its dedication to whorishly pushing Wilson.
Masquerading as a touching piece of whimsy, Tom makes friends with a ball, however, said ball is always placed with manufacturer’s logo towards camera, and eventually he even christens the ball “Wilson”. In a horrific example of reinforcement, he spends what feels like an eternity talking to Wilson, and repeating the brand name over and over again. Even to the point that when it’s lost in the seas he howls “WILSON” like a crazy person until the marketing whore that signed the check ejaculates in his pants at such a strong piece of commercial positioning.
Utterly terrible film and I’ve so far managed to resist the temptation to buy a fucking volleyball.
7) Blade Trinity. Offending Product: Apple
Apple are serial offenders here, coming up twice more later on in the list. However, this is one of the more staggeringly pointless bits of product placement out there, and is only in the film because someone paid for it and as a result they need this sequence to be there.
It’s not enough that Jessica Biel is hot and kicks undead ass. Nope, here we’ve got a scene where she’s preparing for combat to show that she’s properly equipped as well. As a result we get to see her downloading a new load of music from iTunes before plugging in her iPod to fight vampires.
Now, leaving aside the fact that I’d imagine hearing would be quite important to fight the undead, the music is, as befitting the film in general, crap anyway. Yet, Goyer in his infinite wisdom decided to include a blatant commercial aimed entirely at Blade Trinity’s target audience of mentally handicapped adolescents. The theory being that as Biel Is TEH HOTNESS, and she’s “cool” to boot, that she uses her iPod to help her fight means that were you to listen to an iPod then if you’re female you will instantly resemble La Jessica, and have her cache. On the other hand, if you’re male then you’ll have a chance with her, just so long as you’ve got Apple’s product to hand.
What a load of bollocks. A terrible piece of product placement in a true turd of a film, but it does beg the question: who’s more of a bloodsucker, the vampires or marketing execs?
6) Mission Impossible 2. Offending Product: Oakley
This is a film designed by marketing whores from the off, so it’s no real surprise that it’s massively stuffed full of product placement.
The film opens with Cruise being all “EXTREME” and shit, we get lots and lots of loving shots of him climbing up a rock face looking every inch the model of an xxxxtreeeeeeeme sportsman. He reaches the top, and Woo is kind enough to zoom in on the new pair glasses sent to him as his mission plays. Once done, he then throws them to the camera, so we’ve got a lovely shot of them from every angle.
Now, I understand that Oakley again paid a lot of money for their sunglasses to be used in the film, but it frankly becomes ridiculous. Almost every time you see Hunt in daylight, he’s sporting a pair of Oakley’s. It almost transcends parody towards the end of the film, and I wouldn’t be surprised if some sequences, such as the aforementioned rock climbing, ended up in an Oakley ad, because it seems to have been designed purely to fit in with their brand image.
I could have picked other examples from this film, such as Audi, or Triumph motorcycles, but I thought I’d keep it simple, as this is a scene in a movie conforming to a predetermined brand image, and therefore pretty god damned obnoxious.
5) Independence Day. Offending Product: Apple (again).
Motherfucker is this stupid and crass. Mind you, the whole film is stupid and crass, not to mention, dare I say it, terrible.
Armed only with a macbook of some description, Goldblum manages to take down a highly sophisticated alien culture capable of interstellar travel. Fuck me, where can I buy one?
4) Demolition Man. Offending Product: Taco Bell.
Yes, this is played for laughs, true. However, this is the premise and the scene, so judge for yourself.
In the dystopian future, after the franchise wars, one restaurant chain remains standing: Taco Bell. To make sure that we’ve got the message, Hawthorne offers to take Stallone to dinner there, Stallone, understandably confused, says to Bullock “Why TACO BELL, I mean I like Mexican food” (completely forgetting that what Taco Bell has in common with Mexican food, I have in common with Stallone- the only similarity is that we’re both human and I’m not so sure about him), which forces Bullock to explain that after the franchise wars TACO BELL was the only restaurant standing.
Now, anyone that’s eaten there, would not believe that, I haven’t, actually, but Mrs. Jarv tells me repeatedly that a)it’s not Mexican, and b)it’s horrible so I don’t believe it either.
Anyhow, the dinner scene arrives, so they all put on their finest threads and sit down in a fine dining establishment for a posh feed. This bears no resemblance to Taco Bell in reality, obviously, but the goal here is to reinforce in the consumer’s mind that eating in Taco Bell is akin to a fine dining experience. Lying fuckers. It would have been infinitely better if they’d queued for ages before a spotty quasi-human grunted unintelligibly at them and served them some faux-Mexican slop that later induced an attack of Montezuma’s Revenge. Well, not better, but more accurate.
I quite fancy a burrito now. Just not one from Taco Bell.
3) Iron Man. Offending Product: Burger King.
Jesus suffering fuck this one annoyed me at the time. Tony Stark is a billionaire with more money than god. He’s just returned back from spending 6 months in a cave in Afghanistan, and his first request when he hits home soil is that he wants a “good American Beef burger”.
And what eating establishment would you, a billionaire, chose to purchase said burger from? Obviously, you’d get it from Burger King.
The only redeeming feature to this is that it isn’t McDonalds. That’s not great, to be honest. Nevertheless, the film is kind enough to give us several shots of him relishing the delicious whopper, and to show its versatility he even eats it on the move. It’s fast food, but fast food that even billionaire playboys eat, and not only that, they’re so delicious that he eats multiple of them. If you eat their burger, you COULD. BE. TONY. STARK.
Absolute fucking honk of the most mendacious kind, and there is absolutely no need for us to see Stark eating the fucking burgers other than that someone paid for it. So thanks for that, Burger King.
2) Scream 4. Offending Product: fucking Apple (again, again, again).
Are apple the worst company out there for this? I’m actually genuinely interested, because they come up time and time again when I was looking through films for this list. Dishonourable mention here to the latest Powerbook/ Macbook/ whatever the fuck it calls itself nowadays, which appears quite gratuitously logo positioned front and centre half way through.
Not content with in the past being the music system of choice for vampire killers or the computer sophisticated enough that it can halt an alien invasion, in Scream 4, the terrible most recent instalment of Craven’s postmodern slasher series, Apple must have had it written into the script that their products be on screen as much as possible.
In the Scream movies, the telephone is an important plot device. Being as this is 2011 when the film is set, every kid out there has a smart phone of some description. However, our main characters all have iPhones. So, every time the phone rings, the camera pans on to the front of the sleek telephone for a few seconds so we can marvel in the glory of its design and the clarity of its screen.
This happens many times during this film. However, the reason this is so notable, is that not every person has an iPhone in the film. Nope, that’s just totally unrealistic. So, instead, when a phone that isn’t one of Apple’s finest rings, the camera is placed way back from the character who answers it with the speed of Knowles elbowing his way to the front of a breakfast buffet, therefore denying the opportunity for the other manufacturer to share the limelight with apple.
As if that isn’t enough, in the finale, the douchebag killer holds up what he’s been using to film the murders and it’s, wait for it, a fucking iPhone.
Well, if I was going to film my victims, then I’d want something with a screen as clear as that one.
Incidentally, I have an iPhone, and the camera on its shit.
1) I, Robot. Offending Product: too many to pick, but I’m going for Converse.
“Converse, 2004 Vintage”
And with that simple line, my heart sank.
And with that simple line, I started to hate the film.
The scene(s) in question here are blatantly just advertisements. Will Smith, one of the world’s biggest stars and therefore most desirable endorsers gets his “new” shoe delivery. He’s very excited, because, you see, he’s managed to procure a pair of brand-spanking-new Converse from fucking eBay or somewhere. We’re treated while he lovingly laces them up, then he looks at them and nods approvingly. These trainers are clearly tha bomb, tha shiznit and YOU MUST FUCKING BUY A PAIR NOW. WILL SMITH WEARS THEM!!! BUY BUY BUY BUY!!!
And so forth.
This, were it by itself, would be bad enough to make the list. However, what cements I, Advertisement in the number 1 spot is the sequence later on where he meets his boss, who parts with the “nice shoes” closing shot. Will just nods sagely at this, because it’s good that someone else recognises quality footwear when they see it.
I, Robot is laced with crass product placement- Audi are also front and centre, but I can’t think of another attempt as blatant as this one to try to flog me shit in the middle of a film I’ve already fucking paid for. It’s hugely aggravating, because I, Commercial is actually a highly enjoyable film, a knuckleheaded sci-fi action movie that in theory I could get right on board with.
I’d love to see a fan edit of this film with all the egregious advertising cut out, I bet it’s awesome.
So, why does this matter? Well, firstly, I’ve paid to see the fucking film. My money has already been taken out. In no other walk of life do you expect to pay something as a pastime and then spend the next two hours having people attempt to sell you things. To be fair to product placement, it’s only really offensive when it crosses a line, when it moves from the background to the foreground, and it is this that gets on my nerves. As soon as you have characters discussing the minutiae of the product on screen, then it is no longer a film: it’s an advertisement, and as such I don’t want to pay to see ads.
I’m already saturated with marketing messages on a daily basis, but we don’t live in the world of They Live! We don’t wander around with messages flashing “Consume” at us from every angle, and I’d rather the world did not go too much further down that path.
At the end of the day, I am not a target market, so don’t treat me as one.
And now a word from our sponsors*
*Sadly, I don’t have any, but I’m a complete whore with the sense of shame of an alley cat, so if any corporation out there wants to send me free stuff, go right ahead. I promise to be nice about it.