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Taken 2 marked a cinematic return of more than one kind. On one hand, it was a return to the role of retired CIA dad for Liam Neeson, the Cialis user's Jason Bourne — "When the time is right… to violently dispatch some swarthy foreigners..." But Taken 2 is also a return to form for Apple product placement. In a year that saw the iGiant forced to talk about its Hollywood placement secrets, Apple product placement in top movies has fallen off a cliff, hitting the lowest level in a decade.
"Some journalists have been surprised to see Olympic workers taping over the logos on their Dell and Apple computers, since neither company is bankrolling the games, and the U.S. women's soccer team has been told not to hand out its media guide because it has 12 small logos of its sponsors — which are not official Olympics 2012 backers." The absurd levels to which Olympic organizers are going to erase any and every possible non-sponsor brand name from peaking out came to its absurd apex on Saturday during the archery competition. On his way to the bronze medal, Chinese archer Xiaoxiang Dai was forced to put neon-yellow tape on his hat to cover its nearly invisible, black on black logo for… the Chicago Bears. It has become a common sight in London. Athletes with odd bits of tape on their clothing, gear bags, and even skin. The "brand police" appear to be taking their jobs deathly seriously.
The Dutch beer brewer Heineken created quite a stir recently after the announcement a deal had been made with the company for a product placement in the upcoming James Bond film “Skyfall.” The backlash from fans has been rather heated, and many do not seem very pleased about the switch from Bond’s traditional drink of choice: martinis “shaken, not stirred.” One could make the argument there’s nothing wrong with showing Bond drinking a beer. After all, even Bond probably wouldn’t drink only martinis all the time, and a bottle of Heineken might even make sense as a stylistic choice, fitting in well with Daniel Craig’s grittier Bond.
I’ve written in qualified defense of product placement in the past, arguing that when it’s used to subsidize repetitive competition shows or to prop up low-rated but quality programming where the audience is aware that product placement is ongoing, there’s no real damage to the creative integrity of a program. But switching up Bond’s martini for a Heineken in Skyfall , the next installment of the storied franchise, is going too far. First, it would be hard to make the case that adding a Heineken sponsorship is actually necessary to help the production cut costs or make some sort of margin. The Bond franchise may be the most reliable product in moviegoing history, resistant to downturns, odd plots, and dreadful names— Quantum of Solace made just $5 million less than the far superior Casino Royale .
A recent study of teen drinking patterns in Europe and the movies they watch, which was published in the British Medical Journal, suggests that the kids who watched more films with alcohol consumption were themselves more likely to both start drinking and abuse alcohol. To which we say, DERRRR . But will the findings, with CNN the latest to make hay with them, be enough to change Hollywood's long love affair with hooch? Hollywood already bans the product placement of tobacco.
As the line between product placements, reviews and write-ups gets thinner, it's important for brands to understand the context of their content as well as their audience's purchasing decision matrix. Setting up a placement or advertorial can be one piece of the puzzle, but it can’t be the only. Paid advertisements and purchased editorial content have existed for decades, but more than ever, that line has continued to blur. At the same time, consumers have become savvier in recognizing and accepting the distinction in product placements in everything from TV shows to blog reviews. With this recognition, the real question has become “how does an atmosphere of paid placements impact consumers and their perceptions?”
Hawaii Five-O On a recent episode of Hawaii Five-0 , the characters paused from chasing bad guys to discuss Subway's assortment of sandwich toppings. Some of the Modern Family clan was seen shopping at Target, while others have been seen driving a Prius (a car that has also popped up on Bones ). The Biggest Loser based a challenge around Progresso soup.
An Ad Age story this week on product placement in the hit ABC sitcom Modern Family finds that "producers turn down about 90% of requests" even though "advertisers are working furiously to get their goods into the hands of the characters." On its way to anointing the show as the trophy of product placement deals, Ad Age puts forth an outlandish claim about how product placement works. "While anyone who watches CBS's 'Hawaii Five-O' will see characters tearing up the road in sporty Chevrolets, few viewers will use the cars in the same manner. 'Modern Family,' on the other hand, puts name-brand goods in the hands of characters that incorporate them into their normal routine, in turn demonstrating exactly how most of the buying public might use them." The suggestion that consumers aren't attracted to products that are used onscreen in unrealistic ways turns product placement history on its head.
Texas Rep. Lamar Smith's now-pulled SOPA ( Stop Online Piracy Act ) bill ruled the week when it comes to Hollywood. Tinsel Town lobbyists pushed for a heavy-handed approach toward online copyright piracy, and the Internet heavyweights in Silicon Valley and beyond pushed back .
Advertisers provide the money that pays for our favorite TV shows. But DVRs have made it easy to skip right over them, so advertisers are getting progressively bolder in what they see as their only viable alternative—product placement. What used to be a lingering shot on a Coke can or a box of Pampers is now getting ridiculous .
In the age of the DVR and the ability to skip any commercial we want, corporations have been quick to go full force into something that’s been brewing for a while; product integration. We see it absolutely everywhere. And, as much as I hate it, I respect that this is just the world we now live in.