A few weeks ago, my wife and I went to the movies (not as easy as it sounds with three pre-school children at home). We saw “The Island” – a fairly good futuristic thriller about cloning (although it bugs me that future visions of disaster always outdo future visions of happiness).
What really irritated me was the number of not so subtle product placements in the movie. Supposed to be set in the future, we were nevertheless very obviously exposed to at least the following: Nokia (phones), Maxim (magazines), MSN (search engine), Puma (shoes), Mack (trucks), Aquafina (bottled water), Jack (drink), ck (deo), amtrak (trains). There were a few more – these are the ones I could remember (I wrote them down after the movie).
I understand the need for advertising and promotions. What prompted this post was me watching yesterday’s Brazilian F1 and Brands Hatch A1 Grands Prix. The drivers and cars and circuits are covered from top to bottom in promotions. Even one of the teams “lollipops” (the stop/go sign for drivers in the pits) was sponsored by Panasonic cameras (quite a clever use of the equipment, shaping it like a digital camera).

But the difference is this: I didn’t pay to watch the Grands Prix. Thanks to advertising, I was able to watch it free (except for the TV license and monthly satellite subscription, I suppose) – essentially free. But when I pay to go to watch a movie – and pay through my nose at some movie theatres – I don’t expect to watch a protracted advert. I realise they have to pay these actors, who work so hard and are so super qualified, a fortune just to say their lines right. I realise that there are a thousand supporting crew, including 2 hairdressers, 3 wardrobe assistants, 1 sushi chef and a personal trainer for each of these highly starred actors. I realise that because the last seven movies the production house made were all reruns of old scripts (because no-one seems to have a new idea in Hollywood these days), that the Dreamworks, Warner Bros and Parkes/macDonald (yes, THREE production houses were needed for this movie) teams needed to make REALLY big money on this movie to survive to Christmas. I realise all of that.
But I still don’t feel like paying to sit and watch a series of commercials cleverly (and not so cleverly) rolled into a feature length movie.
I would, however, be prepared to sit through this movie, if they paid me for the privilege of advertising to me. That’s one very possible scenario for the future, given TIVO-type technologies that can skip adverts when recording. I’m guessing the ad industry thinks movie placements are clever, and a new channel for their work. Think again!

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