Some product placement works so well that a movie would be diminished without it. Bond fans expect to see Daniel Craig driving a quite extraordinarily beautiful Aston Martin. But it wasn’t that long ago that Pierce Brosnan was made to ride the insultingly ugly BMW R1200C in Tomorrow Never Dies. Earlier still, we were treated to the horror of Bond being used to advertise 7 Up in Moonraker.
Product placement works if the product suits the character and the plot. There’s a corollary to this; a lack of believable products sticks out like a sore thumb. If you’ve ever watched Coronation Street you’ll have seen someone walk into the shop and ask for “a packet of my usual fags, please”, at which point the suspension of disbelief of an entire nation is destroyed. Nobody that’s ever smoked has ever uttered that sentence.
The prominence of the featured product can also affect the perception of the brand. Older Bond movies featured such clumsy efforts as a close-up of an opened drawer, which contained a packet of Marlboro cigarettes. On a cinema screen, the packet was perhaps 25 feet across – not very subtle. Outcry greeted the decision to pair Craig’s Bond with Heineken in Skyfall. The problems here are that the placement is just too obvious, and the product is wrong for the character.
Product placement in video games is a relatively new art, and one that capitalises on the cinematic feel of big budget console games. But doing it the other way round – advertising games and apps within movies, for example – is not as common as might be expected.
Some online casinos and gambling apps have made it into the cinema. Lucky You, a 2007 Drew Barrymore vehicle, included placements for MyBookie.com. The movie is set in Vegas, so the idea was sound, even though the film itself was not well received. Online casino Golden Palace struck a similar deal with the makers of 2008’s Rocky Balboa.
Technology firms, Apple in particular, have been getting their devices onto the big screen for years. Sony gizmos including Vaio laptops were all over 2006’s Casino Royale. Apps are less frequently placed, and the reason may be that the life cycle of the product is too short in relation to the production time of the movie. This is less likely to be the case with, say, a car, and even less so with a soft drink.
So the message for marketers is this; think about the product in relation to the character using it, and consider whether it’ll even be relevant by the time the movie is released. Good placement works – poor placement can damage a brand.