“How much would it take for you to go see that Entourage movie?” That’s how Marketplace host Kai Ryssdal opened his June 1 radio show, perfectly framing the problem facing the brands that have made whoopee with the new feature film spinoff of the HBO series. Namely, what’s to be gained by a brand paying out for product placement in a franchise that so clearly derides them?
If the buzz about an upcoming film is as much about the product placement as it is about the film, then is it possible that the film can be a “new paragon of product placement?” That’s what Adweek calls Entourage in its May 31st article.
Scroll down for the complete list of brands (some co-owned by its producer and lead star) featured in the new Entourage movie, opening today — and first, a little food for thought.
Entourage is a satire about Hollywood, and satire and product placement do not mix. At best, a brand’s appearance in a satire might merit a watercooler mention. This is what Seinfeld achieved with its many brand mentions, from Junior Mints to Snickers. At worst, satire confuses and misrepresents the brand identity and thus the brand experience. In Entourage‘s case, this already happened with Johnnie Walker.
Adweek‘s story on Entourage‘s brand partners focuses largely on its product placement and branded entertainment short film tie-in with Cadillac.
But before GM debuted its Ari Gold is Back online short film last month promoting the Cadillac Ciel with Jeremy Piven’s Entourage character, Johnnie Walker launched its online campaign in April featuring Kevin Dillon’s Entourage character Johnny Drama, a partnership that was out of character for Johnnie.
Even Ari Gold’s assistant-turned-agent is getting in on the action, with Lloyd (aka actor Rex Lee) starring in a series of ads for Wix.com with Heidi Klum.
The irony is that Entourage the series mocked the very kind of product partnerships that are part of Entourage the movie. Season 2, episode 6 of the show featured a wonderfully satirical TV commercial for a Chinese energy drink that hired Adrian Grenier’s lead character, Vince Chase, for $500,000.
The series was brand-obsessed as bling was a sign that the boys from Queens had made it. There was the time that Eric (E) convinced Vinnie to buy a Rolls-Royce Phantom. Every episode featured the sneaker-loving Turtle in a recognizable streetwear brand, including Mark Ecko and Zoo York, when he wasn’t wearing a New York sports team logo on his t-shirt or baseball cap. He also led the boys on a memorable hunt for Nike Air Force 1 x Fukijama sneakers.
While Cadillac is Entourage‘s big movie tentpole partner, it’s not the the first auto brand partner for Entourage the series. That honor goes to Maserati, featured in the second episode of season 2: “My Maserati Does 185,” which involved a Beverly Hills Maserati dealer. It must kill Lincoln that the Cadillac Ciel seems like a nod to the Lincoln Continental that was for years a very prominent part of the HBO show’s opening credits.
Entourage‘s Cadillac placement is likely to stand out more for movie-goers than Johnnie Walker. But even here, Cadillac faces a problem. The car it means to show off in the film is not available yet. This strategy to create buzz runs the risk of creating disappointment.
Meanwhile, fans actually hoping to someday drive a Ciel can look other concept car product placements. Maybe the most successful concept car placement was Audi’s RSQ in I, Robot. That car closely resembled Audi’s (available) R8 sports car. (The R8 was later boosted by the role of Iron Man‘s car of choice.)
And then there’s the case of how Lexus leveraged its came in Steven Spielberg’s Minority Report. The automaker published its own report, Lexus 2054: What Came True, highlighting futuristic real-world innovations like “Voice-Activated Concierge Service,” “Memory Metal that Protects from Dents/Scratches” and “Sonar Parking Assist.” All cool, but not the Lexus features audiences swooned over when Tom Cruise was driving the car on-screen. At the bottom of this category is the Dodge Fantasticar and Fantastic Four.
The best automobile product placements are those that place an actual available automobile. The classic case is James Bond’s BMW Z3, followed by Dodge Charger’s embrace of the Fast and Furious franchise in concert with its relaunched Charger. In 2010, four years after after launch, the new Charger was Dodge’s fifth best-selling car. In February 2015, after Charger-heavy Fast 5 and on the cusp of the release of Dodge partner Fast and Furious 6, the Charger was its second best-seller.
GM’s other Entourage movie placements may fare better the Cadillac Ciel. The Cadillac Escalade is in the film, but the scene-stealer may be the new Corvette Stingray convertible, driven by red-hot MMA fighter Ronda Rousey (who, ironically, once lived in her car).
The Adweek story about Entourage creator Doug Ellin and his work with Cadillac, Johnnie Walker and Avion tequila doesn’t mention others like VanDutch yachts or how the inspiration for Chase—who’s also Entourage‘s executive producer—is marketing the film with brand tie-ins.
— Mark Wahlberg (@mark_wahlberg) June 2, 2015
For the last week, Entourage executive producer Mark Wahlberg (yes, that Mark Wahlberg) has been tweeting about his limited edition Entourage sneakers created by Nike’s Jordan Brand. The kicks feature Vinnie, Turtle, Ari, Johnny and E in gold silhouette on the tongue. Wahlberg has been teasing them (at top) to his 2.5 million Twitter followers ahead of their red carpet debut at the film’s premiere last night.
By the way, the Marketplace radio segment on Entourage covered the Go Fund Me campaign set up by Wendy Molyneux Drake that has raised $25,800 (and climbing) to force her to see the film multiple times. In an un-Entourage-like move, however, the money all goes to charity.
ENTOURAGE PRODUCT PLACEMENTS AND BRAND MENTIONS
And yet, try as they might have, the bro-tet could not hold a match to the HBO quartet to which they are often compared; 2008’s Sex and the City movie, which boasted 94 identifiable brands. (2001’s Stallone movie Driven remains the record-holder for any major film that reached the top of the box office with 102 identifiable products and brand names, or about one brand every 68 seconds of the film.)
Every brand (by product appearance or mention) in Entourage, in order of prominence and frequency (least to most):
Van Cleef & Arpels
The New York Islanders
San Francisco 49ers
Churchkey (co-owned in real life by Adrian Grenier)
The Hollywood Reporter
The Little Door
Usher yacht charters
New York Yankees
Marked (Mark Wahlberg’s body building supplements brand)
Aqua Hydrate (Producer Mark Wahlberg’s bottled water brand)
The Golden Globes
Editor’s note: Did we miss any brands in Entourage? Post a comment below. An earlier version of this story attributed Adweek’s Entourage story to Ad Age.