The Blob Factor: Ubiquity in Product Placement

Heineken, Smirnoff, BMW, Visa, and Ericsson: five different products marketed by five different companies interested in one goal- cashing in on the image of one of Hollywood’s sexiest characters- James Bond. Together the five spent $98 million worldwide in ads and promotions tied to the 1997 flick, 007:Tommorow Never Dies. While they were busy advertising their product in conjunction with the film’s release, the soon to be released film was sure to have each product showcased in the film.

Product placement becomes ubiquitous through cross-promotionalism- a carefully timed and contracted marketing scheme for both the studios and corporations. Most of the five companies in the bond flick made it a point to create particular ads using the likeness of Bond. By having these ads run close to the movie’s release the ads informs and excites viewers of the upcoming release. Series films, like Bond films, which have already familiarized the public with the character, have to work even less to have the audience to make the necessary connections between the product and the movie’s reputation. In an article, in the December 15, 1997 issue of Newsweek, “License to Shill: The New Bond Flick is an Ad Extravaganza, Joshua Hammer explains the power of cross-promotionalism “The partnership is a can’t miss proposition for both sides: the sponsors get to link their products to Bond’s sophistication, sexy image, while the film studio, which has been struggling in recent years, doubles its $40 million US marketing budget at no extra cost.” As well, many of these companies donate their product as a prop in order to gain exposure. With big movie budgets topping out over $100 million, savings in marketing and in props has become a given for many big film productions.

The studio receives, on top of the added publicity, some necessary props. For instance, in the Bond flick, there are several BMW getaway motorcycles and cars that Bond uses, as well as an Ericcson phone upgraded to a super sleuth tool. It’s hard to miss the constant Rolexes worn by Bond, from official meetings to midnight soirees with seductive women. The movie defines Bond as a character by the toys he owns and the drink he consumes. Therefore, BMW vehicles, Ericcson phones, Rolexes, and Heineken beer benefit from being connected with the sleek, wealthy, masculine image Bond embodies. Through commercial ties-ins the products become ubiquitous by gaining exposure in so many different media forms- from posters to store displays, from television ads to websites, its almost as difficult to miss the implicit advertising as it is not even recognize the placement as an ad."

Don’t forget the power of happy meals, either. Happy Meals are possibly the best example of successful cross-promotionalism, as the happy meal toys often are figurines of characters from soon to be released films. Happy Meal toys enable movies to advertise to a young audience that is often difficult to reach. While often McDonald’s is not placed in children’s animated films, it is often placed in films as the perennial fast food joint. For instance in the Adam Sandler film, Big Daddy, McDonald’s is cleverly written into the script, alongside its happy meals. Sandler, playing a stand in father, takes his charge into McDonald’s for breakfast. On finding out that breakfast is no longer being served, Sandler’s character becomes angry, upsetting the boy. In hopes of stifling the boy’s tantrum, Sandler’s character yells for a happy meal . Parents connect with Sandler’s frustration and connect appeasing their kids with happy meals. At the same time, one doesn't have to look to hard to see the hanging sign in the background advertising a McDonald’s website. By making an appearance in the film, McDonald’s reminds parents of their kid friendly restaurant and manages to pitch their website. In return, the movie has one less set location to worry about.

As cross-promotionalism expose consumers at different times and different ways, they familiarize and bolster product messages. As the product becomes ubiquitous, it creates an intertextuality and symbiotic relationship between the film and the product. The consumer may never consciously connect BMWs with Bond’s sex appeal, or Happy Meals with quieting kids, but the meanings that the associate with both products are partly due to the overwhelming amount of exposure.

Home | Product Placement: Doing the Deal | The Blob Factor: Ubiquity in Product Placement | Product as Character | Recooperation and Credibility: The Use of Irony|