Has product placement gone too far?

Waynes World still

To start this is not about bashing Power Rangers and I can’t state enough that I really enjoyed it. But the sad fact is I was distracted by the product placement, something that by and large should be unobtrusive.

The film itself is very good, better than I thought it would be in fact. The characters work well and they feel like real teenagers in much the same way as Tom Holland’s Spider-Man does. And even with the excessive exposure of a certain baked goods producing chain it still managed to incorporate some genuinely funny gags.

Also it is not the worst example. While the prevalence of Sony technology in the Amazing Spiderman films and the wide array of pluggery in Man of Steel that has to go to The Internship. Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughan play sales execs who lose their jobs and try to bluff their way into an internship with Google. It saddens me because I loved the Wedding Singer and both of these two on form are a joy to watch which is why this paint-by-numbers comedy (insert “programmed by algorithim” or equivalent joke here) was not a joy to watch. I never want to hear the term “Googlyness” EVER. AGAIN.

Can it be done effectively?

I don’t want you to think this is an anti-capitalist rant. The fact is films are multi-million dollar businesses and the money for them has to come from somewhere. Therefore if a Chinese investor puts money in you can’t be too shocked to see Shanghai as a location and provided it doesn’t feel too shoe-horned in that’s fine.

Equally certain films have plugs come with the territory. For those complaining about plugs in James Bond films it’s worth noting that in the original books the author Ian Fleming would wax lyrical about a range of items in order to highlight how stylish and sophisticated his protagonist was.

In the case of Back To The Future they deliberately chose Pepsi in order to have a company that changed logos over time, thus serving as a useful visual cue for the audience to differentiate between the different versions of Hill Valley. They also turned down money from California Raisins because they wanted to have a big bowl at the Enchantment Under The Sea dance (as the director Robert Zemeckis pointed out that would make it look like a load of dirt in a bowl).

It is also true that a smarter creative talent can subvert this. Wayne’s World and Fight Club are probably the two best examples but a surprising one is the in my opinion very under-rated Josie And The Pussycats.

So what’s the future?

There are a few ways this could go as it depends how films in the future are funded. With the rise of subscription services like Netflix it may be that we pay these subscriptions and therefore we become less dependent on product placement or at the very least it will be slightly less prominent. But in truth as studio budgets increase the product placement is likely to be here to stay.

Author: Rob Turner

I love films and I love talking about them, also writer/producer for online comic series Reynard City (www.reynardcity.com)

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