Film: Madagascar 3 (DreamWorks Animation)
Total Products Spotted: 8
Standout Placement: Cirque du Soleil (by implication)
Most Memorable Placement (positive): Ducati
Most Memorable Placement (negative): HP
Other Product Placements: Airbus, Central Park Zoo, Duane Reade, Ferrari, New York Knicks, Central Park Zoo
Overall Product Placement Integration Grade (1-10): 4
Comments: There are some odd observations to be made about the products and brand names found in Madagascar 3. Most odd is that the most obvious brandcameo (Cirque du Soleil), while explicitly hinted at, is never mentioned by name — even though knowledge of that name is assumed of the audience.
"Show-Stopping" is how the press release described Dreamwork's the list of "Promotional Partners & Licensing Support" for Madagascar 3, which doesn't refer to the brands appearing in the movie but the cross-promotional partnerships and licensing partners for the movie, including Citi, General Mills, Kraft (JELL-O), L'Oreal, Lowe's, McDonald's, Sun-Maid, Hallmark stores have party materials, Toys"R"Us has the toys, while social game king Zynga is on board (not for FarmVille but for its Draw Something app) amongst others. Games are coming to Nintendo DS, Nintendo Wii and Xbox 360
Even Claritin is part of the M3 team, wooing parents of allergy-prone kids with the movie's characters.
Ice-cream maker Blue Bunny has created a Bomb Pop popsicle tie-in to the penguins:
How McDonald's golden arches are supporting the movie:
House Foods is featuring the movie characters on 14 different tofu product packages. Yes, tofu. It's not the first such partnership for House Foods; it arranged a similar tie-in with last year's Kung Fu Panda 2.
But only one of the film's many official cross-promotional partners makes it into the film and on-screen.
While the smart money would be one of the partners like Dole fruit, Hallmark or General Mills, the film instead shoehorned in a mention (by an Italian policeman no less) about "my HP printer." The mention came seconds after a character was shown looking up information on the fictional search engine "SearchStuff™."
The specific HP name-checking was a thank you note to the technology company for its part (along with Intel) in making the film. As HP's press release notes, "More than 120,000 individual computer-generated frames were used to create the film, powered by HP technology. If those were sheets of paper, the pile would be as tall as two large giraffes standing on top of each other!" Dreamworks also arranged a pre-release private screening of Madagascar 3 for HP employees.
It's an interesting new working relationship for Dreamworks, one that echoes Pixar's friendship with Apple. Indeed, the only brand mention in Madagascar 2 was for an iPod. How things have changed.
But most interesting of all is the brand name that overwhelms Madagascar 3 yet is never mentioned on-screen. At a turning point in the film's plot, the lion character gives an inspirational speech about remaking the circus, about how a bunch of Canadians recreated the whole circus concept and now have shows in Las Vegas and around the world. Including, the lion notes, there's even "one in the nude."
Of course, the Canadian circus revolutionaries the lion references is Quebec phenom Cirque du Soleil, the global circus brand, while the "one in the nude" is Cirque's "Zumanity" spectacle that set jaws dropping by featuring nudity.
After the lion's speech, the film's characters then go on to put on an elaborate glow in the dark, rock-n-roll gymnastic circus 3D fantasia. The acrobatics, neon body painting, music and choreography are an obvious homage to Cirque du Soleil, yet it's never mentioned by name.
But why, when Madagascar 3 goes well out of its way to make specific brand mentions of Ducati, Airbus and HP, does it take pains to avoid mentioning "Cirque du Soleil" even though it expects at least adult moviegoers to understand what the lion is talking about? Clearly the film's producers and Cirque couldn't reach a formal deal, but Cirque's brand managers agreed to let the producers go ahead and reference it obliquely — a wasted opportunity, perhaps, but the show must go on.
For more on the product placements in this week's #1 movie and previous #1 movies, check out the Brandcameo section.