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Product Placement in Movies

This post is going to be a little like my last one, namely a little discussion and my opinion on a topic, this time product placement in movies.

I think we’ve all seen it. A character opens their Sony Vaio, or Dell Inspiron, to look something up. They reach into the fridge for a can of Fanta. They chuck some Tesco beef horsemeat into a pan and make a nice chili con carne. They zip up their North Face jacket and go outside to drive around in their Prius. They make a call on their iPhone. That’s product placement, and it’s quite an interesting topic. Is it right to include such blatant advertising which could disrupt the tension and excitement of a movie? Is there a way to get companies to fund your movie in ways that don’t involve product placement? Is it even that big a deal?

There are a few reasons why product placement is bad. When you’re watching a movie, it is completely obvious when you see the character’s fridge filled with strategically placed food items to they show the logo, screaming right in your face. That alone can ruin any tension that’s been built up in the scene. You notice the brands and the scene then becomes less urgent, exciting and riveting. It takes you out of the zone (you know, when you’re really into a movie, you enter *that* world like you’re actually in it) and it’s disruptive. And it’s simply because you saw all these branded products. It’s so plain to see that they’re trying to advertise their product to you, and it seems really intrusive to include something in the actual film, rather than the MILLIONS OF YEARS few minutes of adverts before the movie. It’s not a TV show, so why should there be such visible logos shouting at you “BUY ME, BUY ME!”?

On the other hand, it can be a good thing. It can make the movie seem more realistic. A scene where, for example, a character is robbing a house would seem a bit incomplete without the occasional glimpse of a branded product. For example, the over-the-top-of-the-computer shot used in many movies usually shows a glimpse of the top or all of the computer’s logo, the two most notable ones being Sony Vaio and Macbook (well, they seem to be the most popular to me). That is a good shot and you can’t help including the logo unless you want the shot to look like the character isn’t on a computer. A world with no brands would be a very odd and unrealistic movie world. And also, since they actually FUND the movie, there shouldn’t be a problem with the product placement. Would you rather have your movie spattered with a few logos or not been made at all?

My opinion is that product placement is fine as long as it’s done fairly discreetly. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief, but there is some very un-subtle product placement in there: when he is fighting Medusa, he uses the back of his iPod Touch in order to see her (acting like a mirror), and we see a shot of the back of the iPod with the logo right slap bang in the middle. That is totally in-your-face product placement and I don’t think that’s good. The moviemakers shouldn’t have to go out of their way to include a logo of branded product, ruining the flow of the scene. If it is subtle, like a shot of someone driving where you see the car’s make in the corner of the screen, then it’s fine. I’d rather have a well-funded movie with product placement than an unmade and unfunded movie that couldn’t be made because of the lack of product placement.

But this is all to do with movies set in the modern day. What about historical movies? There isn’t a way to include product placement in there (except perhaps if it’s a movie about the Industrial Revolution, where there could be the old logo/shop of a company started back then, like Sainsbury’s or something. That would be some really discreet product placement). How are they funded? I think the lack of product placement is probably why historical movies aren’t as widely made. There are a few, but it seems like they are set in the 20th century or a time when there were brands that still exist today, that could fund them and throw in some of their retro products for them to use. This could all be wrong, I’m just speculating here. But I am still curious as to how historical movies get funded, because I think product placement is one of the biggest ways movies are funded (again, could be wrong, please correct me). So there’s a question for you to answer in the comments section!

So overall, I think a little well-done product placement isn’t a bad thing, but too much of it just spoils the movie. What do you think and do you have any interesting things to say about this topic? Comment 🙂

Your movie-ish blogger, Jaz

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