The Amazing Spider-Man vs. Bing: Microsoft's Missed Chance To Be A Hero

Posted by Abe Sauer on July 9, 2012 12:22 PM

HuffPost called it "when product placement goes wrong." Bloomberg called it "a curious cameo." Slashgear said it "makes us giggle." Another declared it Spider-Man fans' biggest gripe.

But more than anything, Bing's product placement in the new #1 movie at the box office, The Amazing Spider-Man, is turning out to be an amazing missed opportunity for Microsoft to defend itself and its search engine.

The core of complaints against Bing's placement in the Spider-Man reboot is that Peter Parker would never turn to Bing because he is a "science nerd." Not that many publications pointing out the impossibility of Parker's Bing use were specific about exactly what makes Bing such a laughable possibility.

Slashgear simply sneered, "There’s no way a skateboarding super-smart young adult scientist like Peter Parker would use Bing unless he had to." Why? They take it as a given. Meanwhile, over at movie blog The Coming Zombie Apocalypse: "Never in a million years will I accept the fact that anyone under the age of 35, much less a science nerd, would use Bing as a search engine." Again, no reason given. This ought to worry Microsoft.

Piling on, another reviewer over at Letterboxd exclaimed, "Peter Parker, a science-loving nerd, uses Bing as his default search engine? He's a nerd! Nerds don't use Bing. Nobody uses Bing!"

In fact, the only reason even suggested that Peter Parker would never use Bing is, it seems, is that nobody thinks Peter Parker — or any geek worth his or her pocket protector — would use Bing.

In April, Experian Hitwise reported that Bing claimed 30.01 percent of all searches (primarily through its Yahoo! partnership). Moreover, from March to April of 2012, searches increased 6 percent, which Google searches fell 3 percent.

Bing is certainly no Google, but Bing is taking a PR beating for its connection to Spider-Man when the brand should be using all that attention to correct misconceptions.

A comprehensive communication plan could respond to claims with specific reasons as to why, yes, an against-the-grain in-the-know superhero like Peter Parker might just use Bing. By engaging the criticism, Bing has the opportunity to highlight and turn the table, starting a discussion about the differing characteristics of its product, and compel writers, bloggers and journalists to "teach the controversy."

Really, what's the worst that could happen from Microsoft throwing itself into this debate and defending itself? That Bing would be mocked on the blogs that already mock it?

Instead, it seems Microsoft is willing to let its product placement be a punching bag for unsubstantiated free publicity and brand development for Google. In fact, their worst possible outcome is now coming true in that the criticism of Bing's placement has given Google invaluable amounts of free advertising as the brand Spider-Man should use. Ironically, Bing would actually have been better off if it never appeared in the movie at all.

Microsoft would be wise to re-examine its strategy in this regard if it is going to continue to wade deeper into product placement. In the upcoming remake of iconic sci-fi story Total Recall, Microsoft has already been identified as a major marketing partner. Maybe the reboot will afford the brand a chance to reboot its approach.

This Spidey's other branded product placement rankling viewers is the film's constant showcasing of Sony-branded devices (with nary an iPhone or other tech brand in sight). The Amazing Spider-Man is so rife with Sony products that it depicts a fantasy world that's more jarring to viewers than believing a man can sling webs, Bloomberg argues:

Throughout the film, which takes place in current day Manhattan, the protagonist uses a Sony Xperia smartphone, which runs Google Android, to make calls to his girlfriend, check voicemail, listen to a police-radio scanner and play a game shooting colored bubbles while lounging on a spider web. When Spider-Man hangs a thug from an overpass, a spectator records video with an Xperia phone. And when two students watch an online video of Spider-Man’s antics, they do so using a Sony Tablet S.

“Spider-Man” is one of the biggest examples of how Sony, which distributed the movie through a subsidiary, plans to use its media assets to promote its own electronics products. Even the bad guy uses a Sony Vaio laptop connected to a Sony monitor in his underground laboratory, while recording his experiments with a Sony Handycam camcorder.

“The real value for us is being able to reach an entire audience of entertainment enthusiasts who connect with these films, TV shows, music — whatever it may be — while ultimately bringing it back to the device,” Peter Farmer, a Sony Mobile marketing vice president, said in an e-mailed statement.

Sony’s phones stick out in the movie partly because of how nonexistent they are in the real world. Sony accounted for 0.7 percent of all mobile phones sold in the U.S. between March and May and 0.4 percent of smartphones, according to research firm ComScore.

Sony telegraphed this approach in its new Spider-Man-themed campaign (watch below) for the Sony Xperia smartphone, and is an old hand at sprinkling its tech products throughout its movies. But at what expense to the credibility of both?


The Amazing Spider-Man's Many Brand Partners

The Amazing Spider-Man: Spidey Still Loves New York But...

Sony Pitches Xperia Smartphone with Spider-Man


Sal United States says:

This is unbelievable. People are complaining about Bing being used as a search engine and not Google. This is marketing. Get over it. Apple has been placing its laptops and desktops on TV shows and movies for years, giving the impression that everyone uses apple computers. In reality only 5% of the people use Apple computers. How come people don't bend out of shape over that. Because it is marketing. Get a life, people.  

July 9, 2012 06:05 PM #

Mike E. Delta United States says:

How horrible is it that people are such "search snobs"!? It's not that big of a stretch for an unpopular kid to use an unpopular search engine. *I* am under 35 and *I* use Bing! The world can eat it if they don't like it...YOU would have been much better off if you hadn't said anything! It REALLY makes me angry... #NotSoAmazing >=(

July 9, 2012 06:43 PM #

Rakesh Singh United States says:

First of all How and Why TASM is the #1 movie at box office and secondly yes why would Peter Parker use Bing as his defalt Search Engine! Isn't that another reason why TASM shouldnt be #1?

July 10, 2012 09:16 AM #

Mike United States says:

I love it . . . the nerds are up in arms over Bing being the most unrealistic thing is Spider-man.  Not that a person turns into a human spider or human lizard.  Now that's hilarious!

July 10, 2012 10:25 AM #

Parb United States says:

I'm under 35 and I use bing. I find it superior to google in many ways.  You can bet that bing has more to gain by pouring TONS of money into R&D and innovation than google has.  And that is what's happening. Bing has lots of features that are better and more innovative than google.

July 10, 2012 04:13 PM #

Marcie Australia says:

I thought it was unrealistic, but I was a bit cheesed off at the movie in general. Bing sucks and the fact that they claim a super genius uses it is totally far-fetched. But Amazing Spiderman was anything BUT amazing, so that makes the usage of Bing tolerable.

July 11, 2012 07:28 AM #

Leon Kennedy United States says:

I think the science nerd thing stems from google scholar.  As a science major, I can say that google scholar is an invaluable tool for sourcing scientific articles.  You can search for specific articles based on author, subject matter, and publication source, and date.  As far as I know, Bing has no such functionality.  Therein lies the problem.  Peter Parker in the film is actively researching cross-species genetics in a professionally funded research project.  The best way to search peer-reviewed and published articles for free online is via google scholar.

July 12, 2012 12:56 PM #

Gunter Soydanbay Canada says:

Nice article to sum up the situation, but I have a different advice to Microsoft...

Carol Pearson, says: "One way to transform your life is by changing the way you name your experience." So, I believe this is a blessing in disguise for Microsoft. Obviously, Bing is not a hip brand and recent events create an opportunity for Bing to start a genuine conversation with its users to make the brand stronger. Through conversation, which means by listening the users, understanding their yearnings, the brand would become stronger. The "nerd" label is just stereotypical. Time for Microsoft to think archetypal.

July 16, 2012 09:51 AM #

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