“And the Oscar goes to…”

“…Steven Spielberg for his placement of a Snickers bar in Terminal!”*

What am I talking about? Grant McCracken has an interesting post up today about how an unbranded soda can distracted him while watching an episode of “Columbo.” Normally it’s the obvious brand placement in cheap TV shows or movies that shatters our suspension of disbelief and reminds us that we’re watching a commercial scene. But as Grant points out, a fictional world full of unbranded items is equally contrived. His solution:

I donít object to the presence of brands on TV or at the movies. After all, the real world is thoroughly branded, and an imaginary world should follow suit. What I do object to is the presence of a brand: one brand, a sudden can of Coke that looks less like naturalism than a Martian landing.

Hollywood, repeat after me:

Many brands. Good. One brand. Bad.

Alice, may I have your full attention:

Many brands. Good. No brand. Bad.

He has a good point. It’s not the mere presence of brands that’s annoying, but rather their unsubtle placement; the shot of a product that lasts just a moment too long or a brand’s unnatural ubiquity throughout a film is what jars us.

So given that placing brands in movies often makes sense both financially and aesthetically, why don’t we stop denigrating the practice and embrace it as part of the modern filmmaker’s art? Why not give an Academy Award to the director who can most subtly and logically weave brands into a film?

Would that be too crass? Perhaps. But directors who are above the practice wouldn’t care about such a minor prize anyway, and for those who do incorporate branding it would provide a reward for doing it well. Besides, if the Atlas Shrugged epic movie ever gets made this would give it an appropriately capitalist Oscar to aspire to.

On the other hand, I only see 2-3 movies a year so I’m hardly the best judge of the matter.

*I have no idea if a Snickers bar actually appears in this movie, but it would be my candy bar of choice were I forced to live in an airport terminal.

Comments

  1. Ben Stark says:

    Strangely enough, avid movie watcher that I am, I never notice product placements. I mean, I’m sure they’re there…but it’s likely I’d only notice them if I’m not paying attention to the story. So what is bad is BAD movies with product placements.

  2. Mike says:

    Some product placements are blatantly obvious though. I can’t think of a good example right now, but trust me.

    On the other hand, I remember thinking as I was reading “Atlas Shrugged” how awesome a movie it would make. A talented director-screenwriter team could interweave the suspense, romance, drama, and action in the story seamlessly into pure entertainment, thus rendering the second most influential book of all time into popcorn fare. I’m all for it. (And if they still need someone to play the brilliant, devilishly handsome John Galt, I’m available.)

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