PRODUCT placement isn’t new to cinema. In fact, it dates back to the silent era. Yet it seems to play a much larger role in this day and age, particularly in commercial films with bigger budgets.
Two films leap to mind in the last few months that have featured irritating, in-your-face product placement; Sex Tape, which acted as a feature-length advert for Apple products; and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, out this weekend, which advertises Pizza Hut.
It’s a necessary evil, yes, but it doesn’t always have to be so brazen.
Hundreds of films advertise products from large companies on a yearly basis, most of which manage to do so in such a way that doesn’t impact on audiences’ enjoyment of the film.
The Great Gatsby, for example, proved to be brilliant exposure for high end jewellery brands like Tiffany & Co, placing the pieces within an already over-the-top environment.
It’s the films that shamelessly plug brands at the expense of narrative that ruin the cinema-going experience. Sex Tape was more or less built around Apple. Without their products, there was basically no film.
It’s difficult to see what can be done to avoid a scenario like that happening again. Brands are only ever going to invest in bigger budget films if they know their products will receive clear and forceful promotion, otherwise it won’t be worth their while.
Yet the more brazen product placement becomes, the less it becomes about the film itself and the more it becomes about the product the film is promoting.
If product placement within film is going to happen, then it needs to be subtle. Many films have done it right before, so there’s nothing to say that the issue we have nowadays can’t be rectified.
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