It could be said that this week's top film, The Grey, serves best as a tourism commercial for Alaska. The film perfectly appeals to that hard-to-target demographic of tourists looking to travel to a barren, majestic, unsullied landscapes… and die in them.
The Grey is also caused a bit of debate about wolves. Are they really the man-killing beasts the film makes them out to be?
With the gray wolf population delisted from the US endangered species list and wolf management practices leaving federal hands and going back to the states, there could not have been a better time for a movie about evil wolves attacking helpless oil field workers trapped in the woods. Ranchers in Wisconsin and Minnesota, eager to hunt wolves again, probably packed theaters to see Liam Neeson box wolves with broken minibar bottles taped to his knuckles.
As expected, the pro-wolf crowd is outraged at The Grey's depiction of wolves as aggressive, man-eaters. One group has even begun an petition to "Boycott The Grey." One of the petition's grievances:
"While preparing for their roles, Liam Neeson and other "The Grey" cast members crossed the line from fantasy into reality: as a form of method acting, they requested real frozen wolf meat to be flown in to their filming location in Alaska. Though the wolf was already dead prior to the actors' request, it is unclear why the animal was killed."
Not to be left out of a good chance for outrage, PETA posted a statement: "‘The Grey’ Has Us Seeing Red." Ah yes, PETA, fighting animal cruelty with puns.
Those upset by The Grey's depiction of wolves will create the kind of public fear Jaws did for sharks have good reason. As The Daily Beast points out, "Only two fatal wolf attacks have been documented in the history of North America."
But the wolf's plight is not all getting glassed in the face by Liam Neeson. A wolf in Oregon named "OR7" has even become a bit of a celebrity.
On the way toward its goal of undoing years of work by wolf conservationists, The Grey used a neat-o YouTube feature to create a "choose your own adventure" trailer. Using a series of clips from the film and embedding two "what do you do now" links within the video to other unlisted clips on YouTube.
It's a simple but effective way to engage audiences with promotional clips from the film.
Programming note: Brandchannel has published the annual Brandcameo Product Placement Awards since 2004. On February 13, we will announce the Product Placement Award winners for 2011. Please participate: take our short, annual reader survey on product placement (and stay tuned for the awards on Feb. 13):