In praise of Product Placement: Why ‘The Superbowl for Women’ is a true reflection of the branded world in which we live

Sex_and_the_city so for one reason or another I found myself watching Sex and the City at the weekend.  the event was preceded on Friday lunchtime by colleagues warning me about the pervasive and excessive (their words) product placement in the movie.  I was bracing myself for the worst.

there was no need.  not only did I not find the product placement intrusive, but thought that it genuinely added to the movie (which for the record I didn't love and thought CB was intensely annoying throughout, but I'm using it as a vehicle for a post on product placement).

the internet seems to agree with my colleagues.  a post on Adrants notes that a panel for Brandchannel's Brandcameo (which conducts product placement in film studies so knows about these things) selected Sex and the City for their Film Whore award; awarded to the film that most "sold out" for product placement.

delightfully, Vanity Fair sent not one but two reporters to the movie.  they happily counted no less than 67 brands that appear in the movie, which you can explore here.  this is perhaps not surprising given that the same article reports how a New Line Cinema exec coined the movie the 'Super Bowl for women'.

I've never had a problem with product placement.  we live in a branded world, where the meanings, symbolism and trappings of brands pervade not only what we consume but why we consume them.  they in part define us and we in part define ourselves by them.  to quote John Kay:

"I am irresistible, I say, as I put on my designer fragrance.  I am a merchant banker, I say, as I climb out of my BMW.  I am a juvenile lout, I say, as I pour an extra strong lager.  I am handsome, I say, as I put on my Levi jeans."

what would be weird would be a movie without brands.  where the reality of brands was pasted out in favour of, what exactly? …editorial or cultural purity?  there is no such so-called purity to protect.  the 20th Century's walls that separated advertising and content are being pulled down.  not because we have to (although in many instances – PVRs etc – we do) but because a media and communications ecology in which brands are able to tell their stories by attaching and associating themselves to real stuff is better than one in which 30" stall after 25×4 after 30" stall is wheeled out to effective frequency us into submission.

Movies are better for having brands, where appropriate, in them.  those who argue that the appropriate level is zero should take a look around them, because that's not the world in which they live.

3 responses to “In praise of Product Placement: Why ‘The Superbowl for Women’ is a true reflection of the branded world in which we live

  1. I agree that if the brands are a good match for the film then it adds to the realism. Using FedEx in castaway rather than a made up delivery company definitely added something to the film.
    Though I think it needs to be seamlessly blended into the story and not be too blatant or out of place. If in the middle of pirates of the Caribbean Johhny depp had pulled out a bottle of coke to quench his thirst that would of ruined the make believe world and annoyed a lot of people. I’m sure movie execs wouldn’t be greedy enough to do something like that, well you’d hope so anyway.
    You have to wonder how effective the product placements are when you have so many brands in a film though. The sheer volume of brands could cause people to switch off from them. If you look at films like risky business, top gun and men in black that all featured the lead characters wearing ray-bans, you can see how that could have a real impact as was demonstrated by the increase in sales each time. Going back to when I saw the first transformers movie that had 60+ brands in it; the only brands I could remember afterwards were ebay and apple(maybe partly as they were integrated more into the story than some of the others). 2 out of 60+ dosn’t seem great, obviously different people would have remembered different ones but out of those 60+ there must have been some losers in terms of recall.
    It’s been said that product placement leads to better recall than adverts, that’s what they found in a study talked about in Buyology; but that was in a TV show with only 2 placed brands not 60+ which is a bit of a difference! It would be interesting to see a similar study but on a film with a large number of brands in it.
    oh and apparently a sylvester stallone film called ‘driven’ had 103 in it!

  2. I think you’re right in that product placement can actually give a fictional scene additional meaning and actually better reflect real life. The usual rules around relevance apply tho – the best product placement should be almost invisible. James Bond climbing out of a Ford jarred and to see Terminator 4’s John Connor using a Sony Viao in a post-armageddon war-zone was also rather odd!
    Tangential but vaguely related thought – why don’t the characters in Eastenders etc watch soaps?

  3. tangential good, awesome question…
    the reality is that if PP is inappropriate then it reflects badly on all parties. it’s in everyone’s interest to get it right. that doesn’t make it wrong in principle.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s