Product Placement: Subtlety Increases Effectiveness
By stephendavis on Jan 02, 2007
Over the Christmas and New Year holiday, as a family we finally went to see Casino Royale, the new James Bond film at our local cinema. The film's producers seem to have largely managed to re-invent the James Bond on-screen franchise, that in recent films had become too cheesy, overly dependent on special effects and predictable one-liners, and had strayed ever further away from the original Ian Fleming novels.
As a film, Casino Royale abandoned several of the established Bond film cinematic clichés such as the opening chase / escape sequence, car chases through crowded streets (replaced by a chase on foot) and even the silhouettes of women used as background images during the opening titles. Even the familiar electric guitar-led Monty Norman theme tune was held back until the final scene in the film.
What was noticeable was the amount of blatant product placement scattered throughout the film. For example, the parking lot outside of the Casino Royale could have been a Ford luxury car showroom since it contained mainly Volvo; Jaguar and Range Rover models alongside Bond's own government provided Aston Martin (also owned by Ford). The convoy of three showroom clean Land Rover Defenders driving through the African jungle almost worked - but my children couldn't understand why James Bond was shown driving a Ford Focus.
Screen shoots of Sony Ericsson mobile handsets were also interspersed throughout and weaved into the plot - not surprising perhaps since Columbia Pictures is also a division of Sony Corp. Bond's preference for Omega watches ahead of Rolex was even included in the script.
In the same way that viewers can distinguish between editorial and paid-for advertising content in the Media, content producers need to ensure that all product placement is handled subtly. Otherwise paid-for product placement is in danger of becoming a cliché of itself.