On November 24, the movie Faster will hit screens in North America. The film is an unremarkable revenge fink starring wrestler-turned-action stalwart Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson. What is remarkable about the film is the product placement and the huge opportunity missed by one of Detroit's Big 3.
Recently, auto lots have seen a return of model badges not seen in decades. Capitalizing on the affinity for classic stylings, Ford, Chevrolet and Dodge have released newly envisioned versions of old stalwart muscle cars including the Mustang, Camaro and Charger and Challenger. It's a segment that has seen huge sales gains too, with nostalgia driving up sales by over 7 percent.
Of the 1960s muscle cars to get the retro revival treatment, Chevrolet's Chevelle SS is not one. Yet, the Chevelle is being wasted in film roles that call for a "muscle car," roles that would better serve the marketing needs of reborn muscle car brands.
It is not a challenge to watch the trailer for Faster (below) and understand that the whole film is a far more effective ad for the Chevelle brand than any commercial could ever be.
Coincidentally, this beefy Chevelle SS is the same muscle model The Rock drove with Samuel Jackson in this year's earlier number one film, The Other Guys. (A film, interestingly, that also mocked the Toyota Prius.) The Chevelle can also be seen in a big role in early 2011's Drive Angry 3D, with Nicolas Cage behind the wheel (both below).
Yet, the Chevelle hasn't been available since 1977. So why isn't somebody at Ford, Dodge or Chevy working to get these muscle car roles filled with models that would reinforce current offerings?
Product placement is more than throwing a product onscreen and waiting for sales to increase. It can also be an effective branding tool, communicating the enduring character of a product. With Faster, the Chevelle muscle car informs us about what kind of hero we're dealing with. In return, its image as the kind of car a tough hero drives is reinforced. Indeed, the Mustang owes much of its reputation, even to this day, to Steve McQueen's attachment to the car in the film Bullitt.
The Chevelle has been getting these muscle car roles for some time. It was Matthew "Wooderson" McConaughey's sweet ride in Dazed and Confused, and also showed up in The Fast and the Furious.
Had Faster's Chevelle been replaced by a classic Camaro or Challenger or Charger, it would not change the film's character but would reinforce the character of automobiles currently available. These kinds of opportunities should be kept in mind for the auto industry's Hollywood-based product placement reps looking for ideal marriages of film property and Detroit product.
To be fair, a Charger will also be seen (maybe even more prominently than the Chevelle) in Drive Angry 3D, a role that is already making Charger fans giddy (below).