Is James Bond’s social status diminished by product placement?

Product placement is rampant in Hollywood films and here is a look at what products James Bond is now selling:

Never mind the other products basking in the superspy’s aura, such as Sony mobile phones and Vaio laptop computers, Macallan single-malt Scotch, Honda cycles, Bollinger Champagne, Globe-Trotter suitcases, Crockett & Jones footwear, Walther guns, Aston Martin cars, Swarovski jewelry, Omega watches, OPI nail polish, Land Rovers and Range Rovers and all the rest.Some pay for the privilege, some make other arrangements. Some, like the new James Bond fragrance hawked by Procter & Gamble, aren’t in the film. But all told, sponsorship and other ancillary deals for “Skyfall” are said to have brought in $45 million, about a third of what it cost to produce the film, one of the best in the Bond series…

Today’s sophisticated media consumer expects to see brands in TV shows, movies and even video games, according to Tom Weeks, senior vice president at LiquidThread (formerly known as Starcom Entertainment), the branded entertainment and content development operation within Chicago’s Starcom MediaVest Group. But proper context — proper casting — is a must…

Caterpillar, which first tied up with 007 in 1999’s “The World is Not Enough,” hopes the “Skyfall” connection boosts brand awareness, particularly in emerging markets like China, which seems a manageable goal.

Perhaps this kind of brand integration is inevitable: brands are always looking for subtle and not-so-subtle ways to associate their products with being “cool.” And what could be better than Bond, an international spy who doesn’t have stuff at home but instead uses all sorts of gadgets all around the world?

But, I’m reminded of Naomi Klein’s arguments in No Logo about the increasing branding of our world. If Bond is so cool, why does he need to be so connected to brands? Isn’t Bond, like the rock ‘n’ roll stars of the 1960s who built their initial popularity on rebelling and not selling out, just selling out? If Bond has to shill for products, what hope is there for the rest of society? Something doesn’t connect here: Bond’s status is tied to the idea that he isn’t beholden to the trappings of life that hold back average people yet the newer movies are now suggesting he too is just another part of the capitalistic world. Thus, Bond is just another commodity who needs other commodities to be successful. His status is now less dependent on his character or his unique actions, but, like other commodities, is tied to the fate of other commodities.

Altoona, PA to become “POM Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold”

It is not just businesses that don’t mind being part of a film that negatively portrays product placement. Tomorrow, the city of Altoona, Pennsylvania will get a new name: POM Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold. Why Altoona? Sheetz is a key sponsor of the film (paying at least $100,000 to Spurlock) and the company is based in Altoona:

Sheetz said it was Spurlock’s idea to have a secondary premiere, hopefully in a town that would name itself after the movie. Sheetz helped sell the idea in Altoona, and the locals seem enthused by the concept…The locals needn’t worry too much. The name change is ceremonial — meaning people won’t have to address mail using the movie’s title. The film was in the can before the naming rights deal was approved earlier this month by city council, on which Bruce Kelley serves as vice mayor. The money is going to the police department.

[Vice mayor Bruce] Kelley said he’ll leave it to marketing experts to debate how much advertising is too much, but said the city is solvent and doesn’t sell the naming rights to anything other than trees people can pay to have planted in someone’s honor.

“So we’re all going along with the gag. We’ve become part of the shtick,” Kelley said.

“But you’re not going to see ‘POM Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold’ on the side of our fire trucks.”

So, at least there are some boundaries! Seriously though, the city is getting $25,000 to be renamed for a short period of time and the money seems to be going to a good place.

But there are some larger issues that this article could or should address:

1. Aren’t there other communities that have done similar things in the past? Truth or Consequences, New Mexico (Wikipedia explanation) is a classic example.

2. The vice mayor says Altoona is solvent but I wonder what their budget status really is. Many communities are experiencing budget issues and I wonder how many might go through with something like this to get some quick cash. The CTA seemed to indicate that it is interested in such efforts.

3. This vice mayor suggests “marketing experts” should figure out how far is too far in the selling of commercial advertising. Perhaps we need a national survey on this: when Americans are presented options about how the Federal government or more local governments should raise money (or cut spending), why not include a questions regarding the option of selling advertising rights? While we have some commentators who seem up in arms about this practice (including Spurlock), what is public opinion on this issue? For example, Apple sponsoring a Chicago El stop drew some initial attention but I haven’t heard anything since.

Companies still willing to pay for product placement, even in a film criticizing product placement

Watch television or movies and it is not hard to find examples of product placement (some more obvious than others). But even with the negative attention this draws, companies are still willing to pay for it even when their placement is in a film criticizing product placement:

Though the film takes an all-out jab at this advertising trend, advertisers are on board. Morgan Spurlock’s “POM Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold,” opens Friday, and it’s the real deal.

Among the companies that participated, Chicago-based Hyatt Hotels Corp. paid $700,000 to “sponsor” the film, knowing it was buying into a documentary devoted to how stupid and awkward product placement can be. (Nearly every interview in the movie takes place at a Sheetz gas station where every beverage other than POM Wonderful is blurred.)…

“There are more and more attempts to avoid the commercial break,” said James Pokrywczynski, associate professor at the Diederich College of Communication at Marquette University in Milwaukee. “We use the remote control to change channels, we DVR shows or edit out the commercials or fast-forward through them.”

As a result, spending for product placements in TV, film, Internet and video games more than tripled between 2004 and 2009, from $1.1 billion to $3.6 billion, according to Stamford, Conn.-based media research firm PQ Media.

In the long run, the companies will take the negative attention as long as a media outlet puts their product in front of people. This seems to go along with the idea that “all publicity is good publicity.” And with more organizations looking for money, like Chicago being willing to have corporate sponsors for CTA stops, even this new film won’t be able to stop the trend.

Just out of curiosity, I would be interested in knowing the sales figures of the new Kindle with a cheaper price due to “special offers.”