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  Preview to the 2008 Brandcameo Product Placement   Preview to the 2008 Brandcameo Product Placement  Abram Sauer  
         
 
Preview to the 2008 Brandcameo Product Placement Important Reader’s Note: The brandcameo Product Placement Awards will have a new format that will be featured in the August 18 issue of brandchannel. You, dear reader, are invited to name the winners by participating in the brandcameo Product Placement Awards Survey at the conclusion of this review.

Overview:

When brandchannel first published its annual brandcameo awards, the term "product placement" was mentioned in the Western press over 500 times in the month of January 2005 alone. Today, however, a single day can result in more than 700 news results. And considering that in 2007 the total value of onscreen product placement jumped to US $342 trillion, the practice appears poised for continued, if not exponential, growth. Okay, that figure is exaggerated, but the question remains: Is it worth it?

The truth is that without an agreed-upon valuation system there is no accurate number that measures the effectiveness of a product placement. Even now widely quoted valuation numbers have no real basis. Moreover, because the total value of a product's appearance in a scene will always depend on plot integration, time onscreen, and a number of other highly subjective circumstances, there may never be a true valuation system. For example, is a can of Coca-Cola sitting visibly on a desk for ten minutes in a huge blockbuster as valuable as a pack of M&Ms used memorably for ten seconds in an independent film? The answer depends on whom you ask. Keeping that question in mind, please enjoy a review of the last 18 months of product placements in films.

Recognition for Product Placement in an Oscar-Nominated Film: Juno and Tic-Tacs / Sunny-D

More than just placements, these two products were tied warmly into the plot and are thusly unforgettable. Juno’s message was heartwarming and the performances were witty and endearing. But where screenwriter Diablo Cody really got it right (if satirically so) was in the completely integrated way in which teens interact in a commercialized world, where even simple communication uses brand names as shorthand for ideas: “Look, I just drank my weight in Sunny-D and I gotta go pronto!” “I figured you could never have enough of your favorite one calorie breath mints.” “All you have in your stomach is Taco Bell.”

Recognition for Nearly-missed Opportunity: Sex and the City and “Love Letters of Great Men”

AbeBooks.com, an online seller that features used titles, disclosed that after the film’s release it received hundreds of queries about the book's existence. The book simply did not exist.

That, however, has recently changed. Now, the the book is real.

 
Recognition for “Not Thinking Different.” Or: Apple—Are you freaking kidding?!: Wild Hogs

Apple computers have appeared, often very prominently, in 30 percent of all number one films since 2001 (76 of 254). And that number is growing. From 2001 to 2004 Apple appeared in about 20 percent of all number one films. In 2005 and 2006 it was 35 percent. By the end of 2007 it was 38 percent. Of the 2008 number one films to date, Apple has appeared in 50 percent.

But even this number is deceptively low. When one adjusts these numbers to remove historical and fantasy-world films in which the brand could not conceivably appear (for example, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull), Apple has appeared in nearly 67 percent of 2008's number one films. This says nothing of the swarm of non-number one films in which Apple inevitably pops up. With Apple only in the last few years fighting its way to control, at best, 15 percent of the US computer marketplace, there is no greater disconnect between reality and product placement. Indeed, this summer’s monster hit Wall-E featured a very prominent Apple inside joke about the robots rebooting that maybe a quarter of the domestic US audience could conceivably understand.

This year no Apple computer placement was weirder than in Wild Hogs, where we see two Mac laptops early on and then a non-Mac used by a guy who has the rainbow Apple logo tattooed on his arm. Does. Not. Compute.

Recognition for Achievement in Reverse Product Placement: Idiocracy and Brawndo

Technically released in 2006, Idiocracy did not see any kind of an audience until its 2007 DVD release when it became the epitome of a “cult” film. Ingeniously capitalizing on the small but fervent following, Redux Beverages is now making what plants crave, available to all: The Thirst Mutilator: Brawndo. It’s got electrolytes!

Related: Al Copeland was so enamored with the hard-boiled detective hero of The French Connection, Popeye Doyle, that he named his fried food after him. Popeyes Mighty Good Fried Chicken is better known today as Popeyes Chicken. Sadly, Al passed away March 23, 2008.

“That’s So Meta” Recognition for Self-Reflexive Product Placement: Just Follow Law

Outdoing The Island's 2005 mind-bending Calvin Klein placement is Hong Kong’s Just Follow Law, which featured the real-world ads of not just one but two of its stars (Jack Neo and Fann Wong) within the fictional world of the film’s plot.

Recognition for Making an Impact: Sex and the City and Bag Borrow or Steal

Accountability and ROI are crucial to the growth (and acceptance) of product-placement. And yet the measurable, quantifiable impact of placements remains the most difficult aspect of the field. No film had a greater immediately measurable impact on a placed brand than Sex and the City did on the website Bag Borrow or Steal. While paying nothing for the opportunity to be integrated into the film’s plot, site spokespeople told brandcameo that following the film’s release, the website saw a membership increase of 217 percent with both site views and demand for “borrows” up 300 to 400 percent respectively.

Noteworthy on this subject: Mentioned in a key scene in the film Knocked Up, nude-actress-chronicler Mr. Skin reported a 35 percent jump in traffic in the months following the hit film’s release. And it was reported that sales of hamburger phones went up almost 750 percent in the month following Juno’s release. While that percentage increase probably represents a monthly total of 1,500 sales over the previous month’s of two, it is nonetheless a measurable impact.

The Coca-Cola Kid Recognition for Product Placement Title: What Happens in Vegas

The rest of the city’s famous tourism promo wasn’t even necessary for this film. That wasn’t the case when the now-iconic tourist tagline was launched in 2005. Next up: What Happens in Ashton Kutcher Development Meetings Stays in Ashton Kutcher Development Meetings.

Wayne's World Recognition for Product Placement Product Placement: Meet the Spartans and Subway (and Orbit and then some)

Well before its time, the film Wayne's World openly skewered product placement (YouTube it here). This recognizes achievements in winking at the entire enterprise. Subway sandwiches gets the bold-face mention here, but Meet the Spartans is full of what seem like wink-wink jokes about product placement but could just as easily be really poorly done intentional placements.

 
Repo Man Recognition for the Ugly Reality of Product Placement: Sex and the City

Named after 1984 cult hit Repo Man’s use of generic products, such as cans marked "beer" and "Food: Meat Flavored," this honor recognizes work in the field of creating a realistically branded world.

Sex and the City is so full of product names that Vanity Fair thought it necessary to make a (less than complete) list. It’s not short. Complaints about products in the film rolled in from the usual highfalutin suspects: “By all accounts, the film is one long product placement…” (The Sunday Times, June 1); “…if they had knocked out some of the gratuitous scenes in which we have to see one designer product after another.” (Huffington Post, June 3); “…the film… is so fixated on product placement that it isn't really about anything else.” (The Independent, June 1); “The product placement is way over the top, too.” (Fox News, May 12).

Maybe the falutin-ness of that last source isn’t so high. But Sex and the City, whose very opening statement admits to being about obsession with “the two Ls: Labels and love,” is far truer to the real world than almost any of its peers. Is it a secret that brands completely surround our daily lives? Here’s an experiment: Look around you right now and imagine you are being filmed; how many brands would appear to be blatantly placed in the scene? Or, compare Sex and the City’s 81 brands with a small experiment done by one woman who recorded her Day in Brands.

Aside: One of the few real brands in Repo Man was Little Trees® air fresheners. Check out our special profile of the iconic brand.

You Can’t Spell “Audience Favorite” Without Audi

Ford may have the quantity but when it comes to automakers onscreen, Audi is, both literally and figuratively, kicking much ass. Stealing its scenes in the recent hits Iron Man, The Bourne Ultimatum, Hitman and Baby Mama (“Your stupid space car locked me in!”), Audi is now the go-to car for sleek action. This role will become even more solidified upon the late-2008 release of the third in the series of Transporter films, which largely function as the best Audi ads imaginable.

“We hope you enjoyed the beer… Oh, like I mean the movie.”

To celebrate the “two-four” anniversary of the classic beer-soaked film Strange Brew, Brick Brewery released a special McKenzie Brothers Red Cap Beer. Dead mouse not included.

Explaining Branding More Clearly than Most Branding Books: American Gangster

Frank Lucas, American Gangster’s American gangster, explains: “Brand names. Brand names mean something. Blue Magic, that’s a brand name. Like Pepsi, that’s a brand name. I stand behind it. I guarantee it. They know that, even if they don’t know me anymore than they know the chairman of General Mills. …when you chop my dope down one, two, three, four, five percent and then call it Blue Magic… that is trademark infringement.”

Recognition for Lifetime Achievement in Product Placement: Magnum Desert Eagle .50

“…and the fact that I've got Desert_Eagle_point_five_oh written down the side of mine should precipitate your balls into shrinking, along with your presence. Now... F*ck off!”

Its unique, triangular barreled profile makes it perfect for highly stylized film violence. Its (maybe phallic?) appearance also makes it the favorite for heaving-bosoms-heaving-handgun roles. Demi Moore (Charlie’s Angels 2) and Pamela Anderson (Barb Wire) actually double-fisted DEs and Anne Parillaud and Elizabeth Hurley posed with theirs on film posters (La Femme Nikita and Austin Powers, respectively). Other examples of women being matched with the DE include One Night at McCool’s, Trouble Bound, Beverly Hills Cop 3, and the first Charlie’s Angels. Hong Kong’s Her Name is Cat and Black Cat 2 also both featured female characters with DEs.

The Desert Eagle is seen prominently in Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s hands in this summer’s blockbuster Get Smart. He even gave it some free promotion in an interview with Comingsoon.net: "I've got a Desert Eagle that's huge. It's amazing, it's outstanding. Steve has his shoe phone and I have my Desert Eagle." In a move that more or less encapsulates the gun’s position in Hollywood, the DE can be seen in other product placement tie-in ads for Get Smart, such as the ones for Vespa and Subway.

Having already having landed a huge role in the hands of Korean pop-god Rain in next year’s Ninja Assassin, there is no reason to believe that the Desert Eagle doesn’t have another 20+ years of stardom ahead of it.

In Conclusion

The most insane product placement scene of all time, courtesy of this year’s long-in-development animated bomb, Foodfight!

Thank you for reading this year’s review. Stay tuned to brandchannel throughout the year for some brandcameo-inspired special content. And please take the brandcameo Product Placement Awards Survey. The fourth annual awards results, based on your votes, will be published in two weeks.

Survey ran from July 25 through August 1, 2008. Thank you for voting!    

[28-Jul-2008]

 
  
  

Abram D. Sauer has written about brands and branding trends since 2001. Visit www.abesauer.com for more of his work on branding and product placement.

     
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Preview to the 2008 brandcameo Product Placement Awards
 
 Apple product placement in movies is rediculous. Their machines are in every single scene and it totally pulls the audience out of the realism in the film. The CIA with a bank of Macs?! Please! How can filmmakers, so famous for their claims of 'going for realism' continue to defend themselves when they so blatantly fill their films with impossible number of Macs. 
Sendey - July 30, 2008
 
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