Flash back to 1946 when a young boy in the classic film It’s a Wonderful Life holds up a copy of National Geographic in a scene where he declares his dream of becoming an explorer. Flash forward to 1982, when Reese’s Pieces lures ET the Extra Terrestrial from his hiding place, spiking an 80% sales increase for the Hershey’s chocolate snack.
Now flash to the present. Set for a May 30th release date, New Line Cinema’s Sex and the City: The Movie, is poised to take home the award for most product placements and plugs in movie history.
Ever hear of “an official spirits sponsor” for a movie? Now you have. Skyy vodka, manufactured by Gruppo Campari, is just one name on the long list of advertisers who have agreed to be promotional sponsors for the movie version of HBO’s hit series. The list also includes Mercedes Benz and Vitaminwater, in addition to stylish brands like Coty Fragrances jeweler H. Stern, and Bag Borrow or Steal, chosen because fans of the show (and those most likely to be in line on opening night) are typically fashionable and trendy women.
To their credit, New Line Cinema has done their Ad homework. They’ve studied the viewer makeup of Sex and The City, and rather than awkwardly inserting random brands into the movie based solely upon commercial consideration, they have teamed up with flashy brands that reflect Carrie and her clique’s chic lifestyle. Chris Carlisle, president of marketing at New Line Cinema, even termed Sex and the City: The Movie, “the Super Bowl for Women.”
We’ve all been witness to sponsorships in movies, from a subtle logo on a t-shirt to the satirical poke at product placement in a hilarious scene from Wayne’s World. Vantage Point features Sony TV’s and Ericsson cell phones. Jumper makes use of pricey Apple equipment and Meridian sound systems. And Semi Pro, the latest Will Ferrell installment, strategically uses period-appropriate sneaker brands Puma, Adidas, and Converse to drive home the time period.
In April 2006, Broadcasting & Cable reported that two thirds of advertisers employ product placement, with the majority (80%) in TV programming. The story added, “Reasons for using in-show plugs varied from ‘stronger emotional connection’ to better dovetailing with relevant content, to targeting a specific group.” That makes sense, but if I had to guess why advertisers would rather place their products in movies and on actual TV shows in favor of old fashioned 30 second commercials, I’d argue that they know that digital video recording (dvr) is the force that’s now shaping the ever-changing terrain of TV and movie marketing.
People can argue that product placement detracts from the escapism that movies are famous for providing. They can say it’s deceptive and misleading. Commercial Alert, a group dedicated to protecting communities from commercialism, says it exploits children and subverts values.
It can be annoying, distracting, and obtrusive, but the bottom line is that product placement in movies has been around for 75 years – and it aint’ goin anywhere.