Film: The Expendables 2
Brands/Products Spotted: 5
Standout Placement: Smart Car
Most Memorable Placement (positive): AA-12
Most Memorable Placement (negative): Smart Car
Overall Product Placement Integration Grade (1-10): 2
Comments: The stars, one-liners and action sequences aren't the only clichéd elements of The Expendables 2, which slaughtered the box office commotion for a second straight week. The product placement is just as imaginative and forward-thinking. That is, when it isn't blurred out.
With even less first world action than the first film, The Expendables 2 has little product placement. There is a Range Rover -- the go-to automobile of bad guys and henchmen -- and there are Panerai wristwatches. A favorite brand of Expendables producer Sylvester Stallone, Panerai popped up numerous times in Expendables 2.
Of the brands that do appear in Expendables 2, two perfectly define what the franchise is all about: Male overcompensation.
On one hand there is the brand that has become the official mascot of the Expendables series, the AA-12. No, not the 12 steps of alcoholics anonymous but the "Atchisson Assault 12," an automatic shotgun. The machine shotgun saw its major film breakout in 2010, when it appeared in three top action films, Predators, GI Joe: The Rise of Cobra and the first Expendables. Distinctive and ridiculously impractical, we thought the AA-12 just might be Hollywood's new Desert Eagle.
But since then, the AA-12 has appeared only in a few video games, with The Expendables 2 the gun's only major role since 2010. It's a peculiar absence, considering the weapon brand's popularity. For example, just two of the fan-made Youtube videos of the AA-12 in the first Expendables film have racked up nearly 500,000 views.
Is it any surprise that the new Expendables film puts the AA-12 in Schwarzenegger's hands?
On the other side of the product placement spectrum in The Expendables 2 is the Smart Car. It's not hard to guess which way the producers went with the brand.
The Expendables 2's Smart car joke (top) mirrors how the Toyota Prius has become filmmaking shorthand for weak and unmanly. "My shoe is bigger than this car," quips Schwarzenegger in the scene. (It's noteworthy that Hummer, the auto brand Schwarzenegger endorsed and is most associated with, failed spectacularly.)
Unlike the treatment of the brand in the film itself, the backstory of how The Expendables 2 came to use the Smart Car is quite interesting. The director had planned to use a Ferrari…
"…at the last minute he was told that the floor of the local airport where the scene was shot would only support a smaller car during the heavily trafficked scene full of all kinds of mayhem.
'I said if we have to have a small car, we should have the smallest car,' says [Director] West. "And I fell in love with it -- the idea of having Arnold and Bruce crammed into a Smart Car.'
He immediately ordered up two cars. Sometimes the best scenes are by happy accident. And Willis came around. 'Once he was in there he could see the fun of it and he started the ad-lib as well about how small the car was,' says West."
The Expendables is just the latest role for the little car, which has appeared in A Good Year, Garfield 2. The Da Vinci Code, and Grown Ups as well as in a smattering of TV shows.
Then there are the brands that very intentionally do not appear in The Expendables 2. Stallone may have sated the egos of a gaggle of aging action stars, but it appears the agreements he could not manage were for product clearances. In the black ops team's hangout of choice, Old Point Bar, not a single neon beer brand sign can be seen on the walls, almost unheard of in a Hollywood film. On the table, the team chugs unlabeled beers and a bottle of what is almost certainly Crown Royal has its label blurred and distorted.
For all of the brands in 2012's top films, visit Brandchannel's Brandcameo product placement database.