The product placements in Men in Black 3 have not gone unnoticed. From Ford to Dunkin' Donuts to cheesy tabloids, the franchise cashed in with brands looking to associate with the men in black (and the fans who love them).
One product placement that is causing some confusion, however, is the Men in Black's trademark sunglasses. No, not Sony's battle over who is to pay for the audience's 3D glasses, but the sunglasses worn by Agents J and K and, well, younger K (pre-K?)
It's one of the more bizarre cases in product placement recently that results in an officially licensed product being a knock-off of a product featured on-screen and long associated with the movie franchise.
"Black suit with the black Ray-Bans on / Walk in shadow, move in silence / Guard against extra-terrestrial violence"
That's the line from the original 1997 Men in Black theme song, "The Men in Black," sung by star Will Smith.
"Black tie with the black attitude / New style, black Ray-Bans, I'm stunnin', man"
That's from the theme song—also sung by Smith—"Black Suits Coming" for 2002's Men in Black 2.
"Black suits, white shirts, black glasses with a matching tie…"
And that's the line from the Men in Black 3 theme song, "Back in Time," sung this time by Pitbull.
Obviously, one of these things is not like the other.
In the original Men in Black, the "men in black" wore Ray-Ban's Predator model sunglasses. In the trailer for the 1997 original, Tommy Lee Jones' character quips, "That's why they call them Ray-Bans." (The line was not, however, included in the final theatrical version of the film.) The Ray-Bans brand ran ads on MTV and other TV channels, as well as supported the film with large scale in-store promotions.
In a December 1997 interview with Promo Magazine, Ray-Ban brand manager Jon Gieselman said the brand was seeing "four-to fivefold increase in sales of the $100 Predators" with an added "bump for the entire Ray-Ban line" thanks to the Men in Black bump. All of this despite a special coating placed on the lenses to limit reflection "that meant taking the Ray-Ban logo off."
Jump ahead 15 years (10 after the sequel) and the only mentions you will find of Ray-Ban and Men in Black are by film critics operating on old knowledge when they make passing mention of "Ray-Bans" in their reviews.
Because, folks, now the officially-licensed sunglasses of Men in Black 3 are the "Officially Licensed MIB3 Sunglasses."
The "official" MIB3 sunglasses are being sold as standalone merchandise, but also as part of a Sony Pictures promotion for the film. The sunglasses cost $38 (cheaper than the $170 Ray-Ban Predator shades) and are available online at MeninBlack3sunglasses.com, Amazon and elsewhere with a "certificate of authenticity." The shades were also packaged with movie tickets purchased via Amazon Local deals.
A spokesperson for the makers of the MIB3 sunglasses, Premium Surge Promotions, told brandchannel it began speaking with Sony last year about producing official sunglasses for the film's expected merchandising bonanza. The glasses, we were told, are of a "high quality" and sales are going "very well."
So are these the glasses worn on-screen by the Men in Black in their third outing? Not a chance. Premium Surge told us that Sony sent them production photos of the sunglasses worn by Will Smith, Tommy Lee Jones and Josh Brolin in MIB3, and so they duly "designed ours based on theirs." To be clear, "theirs" meaning the characters' Ray-Ban sunglasses.
A Ray-Ban or Sony representative did not return a request for comment (although we'll be happy to add if one is forthcoming) about why the officially licensed MIB3 sunglasses are copies of Ray-Bans, a brand that's in the movie and long associated with the franchise.
We just hope they don't answer — and then ask us to look this way...