Have product placements in films become a necessary evil?

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 think the real issue at heart here is the fact that having Bond drinking a Heineken isn’t necessarily a stylistic choice. It’s a paid advertisement, and it once again brings up the issue of product placement in film making. Is product placement a necessary evil in the face of rising film costs, or is it merely a frustrating marketing ploy companies should think twice about using?

Product placement has become a pet peeve of many filmgoers. We’ve all seen bad product placements in movies and TV shows: a close-up of a company’s logo during a scene (such as an “Apple” logo on a laptop computer), when seeing that logo really has nothing to do with the plot, or a too-obvious slow pan shot of a particular product. Such product placements often are irritating to viewers; they’ve already paid for an expensive movie ticket, and they don’t want to feel as though they’re watching an advertisement instead of a film. Product placements can interrupt the plot and detract from a film’s narrative power.

However, some product placements may become unavoidable in the future. As budgets for major blockbusters head north of $200 million, companies have to scramble to make up that money with ticket sales. Product placements, though not popular with audiences, may help to supplement expensive budgets.

Heineken’s “Skyfall” product placement deal reportedly brought in $45 million to the Bond film franchise, and according to U.K. news organization “The Guardian,” Daniel Craig has stated the partnership was a necessary part of making the movie.

“We have relationships with a number of companies so that we can make this movie,” he said. “The simple fact is that, without them, we couldn’t do it. It’s unfortunate, but that’s how it is. This movie costs a lot of money to make, it costs nearly as much again, if not more, to promote, so we go where we can.”

Personally, I would rather not have product placements in films, but Craig does make a valid point. I would much rather have a Bond film with a product placement than no Bond film at all.

I think that if product placements must be done, they should at least be done as subtly as possible. Don’t linger too long on a product logo, and by no means should an actor ever utter dialogue that sounds too much like a voice-over on a commercial: “Wow, I love this brand-new Mustang convertible I just bought! Can you believe how much horsepower this car has? And it gets great gas mileage too!” (Sadly, I have heard of examples of dialogue that bad.) Or, I’d almost rather see a traditional 30-second commercial for a product tacked on to the beginning of a film after the regular previews, than see a product placement within the film itself.

What do you think about the product placement trend in Hollywood? Do you think it will become a necessary part of film making in order to supplement budgets, or should film companies find other ways to cut costs so they don’t have to make deals with advertisers?


7 thoughts on “Have product placements in films become a necessary evil?

  1. I don’t feel like films are usually as bad as TV shows. I mean I remember watching CSI at one point and the advertisement for GM vehicles being so blatant. Any time they pulled up somewhere, you’d get an unnecessary shot of the SUV and a brief pause on the front grill with GM center screen. To make it worse, the commercials in-between were basically for the same vehicles and used virtually the same shots.

    I don’t care about product placement if it isn’t blatant like that. So what if they show someone holding a certain beer or their computer has a little Apple logo on it. Most of the time it isn’t enough to bug me.

    I like watching movies that use less product placement though. It’s fun watching a film or show where characters are drinking beer and the production team has come up with some incredibly odd name and design for the beer. That or they just label it “Beer.”

    The Bond thing I’ll wait and see on. As far as classic Bond goes, him drinking a beer doesn’t really fit. He’s a snob. It’s more a matter of how they choose to handle it. As long as it isn’t the only thing he drinks and he doesn’t go up to the bar and ask for it like he does his martinis, I don’t think it will be that annoying.

    • Yeah, as long as they do the Bond product placement subtly, I don’t think it should be too bad. Maybe it will even be something like, he goes up to the bar and asks for a martini, but they don’t have it available, so he gets a Heineken instead.

  2. I’d say they have been for at least the last decade even much more powerfully prominent that ever before. But yes, do we need them to then have the huge mega budget movies we have seen such as the SPIDERMAN movies, TRANSFORMERS movies, and a load of others? Morgan Spulock produced a clever docu. movie out recently, THE GREATEST MOVIE EVER SOLD which focused on the very same area. It is sad and very frustrating when obvious production brand logos and imagery almost fill the screen at times, but now particularly perhaps it can barely be avoided, as with the unending western recession, movie comapanies and producers desperately need the help and money of large multinational brands and products in order to finance these mainstream mega blockbuster films.

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