Thursday, March 23, 2017

Great Scott! There's Nike Everywhere!

          Product placement is often times used in television and the cinema. It can be defined as manufacturers paying for their product to be shown in a movie or TV show to gain publicity and promote their product. Sometimes it is easy to overlook product placement. Some of the items look natural in the scene which they are shown and are easily overlooked. Other times, the brand is extremely obvious. This is the case for the movie I chose: Back to the Future Part II. The most obvious brand that Back to the Future Part II promotes is Nike. This movie includes popular brands, like Nike, to show the audience these brands will still be relevant in the future, the technology for their products is superior to everyone else’s, and a likable character, Marty McFly, using the product in hopes to boost sells.

          Nike saw a great opportunity in placing their brand in Back to the Future Part II. Back to the Future Part I (1985) was a huge success, raking in $381 million, so Nike could not pass up a chance to be included in the sequel. The audience first catches a glimpse of Nike products when Marty McFly, his girlfriend, and Doc Brown time travel to the future. In order to fit in, Doc tells Marty to put a pair of special Nike shoes on. The shoes look very futuristic and possess the ability to tie themselves. Back to the Future Part II was made in 1989, and this particular scene placed in the future takes place in the year 2015. Nike was a very popular brand at the time of the movie's release, so one of the goals for this scene is attempting to tell the audience that Nike is not an ordinary fashion fad. They want everyone to know their dominance in the shoe industry will reign far into the future.

         Nike’s decision to place their brand in Back to the Future Part II was also smart due to the fact that the main character wearing them, Marty McFly, is an extremely likable character. He is a funny All-American teenager who time travels in a DeLorean. How could anyone not want to be Marty McFly? Nike’s hope was that if the audience saw Marty wearing a pair of Nike shoes, they would be inclined to go purchase a pair of their own.

          The product placement of Nike in Back to the Future Part II was extremely successful. The specific pair of shoes in the movie, The Nike MAG, instantly became a hit amongst “sneaker heads” and fans of the movie. They are still relevant today in the sense that they are featured in recent award shows, and their technology is the inspiration for a new pair of shoes set to be released by Nike later this in 2017. It cannot go unnoticed that Nike’s profits grew 45% in 1990, the year after Back to the Future II was released. Sure, this might not all be due to a popular movie being released the year before, but the correlation is not mere coincidence.

          Product placement is controversial in film. This is due to the fact that some say it takes away from the plot because people are too focused on the brands being shown. Whether or not this is the case, more often than not, product placement benefits the brand being advertised. Of all the marketing ploys companies try to promote their brand, there might not be one better than having it shown on the big screen. Back to the Future Part II exemplifies this strategy extremely well, making it a very easy decision to give the movie five stars.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Toy Story: Pixar's Got a Friend in Product Placement

By: Lexi Frazier


Ads always find a way to follow us, stealthily inserting themselves into the very communication medium that commands our gaze. Much like taxes, dentist appointments, and crazy exes, we’re never able to escape ads. From billboards to TV and radio commercials to pop-up ads on the Internet, these relentless selling devices know no boundaries. Movies are no exception. Companies spend millions of dollars to feature even just a glimpse of their products on the big silver screen. Whether it’s your favorite character sipping a Coca Cola, driving off in a Ford Fusion, or shopping at Macy’s, movies are flooded with strategic product placement. Product placement is a practice in which companies gain exposure for their products by paying for them to be featured in movies and TV programs. Why do companies spend so much money on product placement? Because they serve as visual arguments that have proved effective and highly influential in shaping consumers’ buying habits. It’s just as Lunsford mentioned in her book, Everything’s An Argument, “We shape our tools and afterwards our tools shape us…multimedia arguments work us over completely.” (p. 332).

The Toy Story movie franchise takes product placement to the next level: instead of just featuring sellable products in select scenes, these products are the stars of the film! All of Toy Story’s main toy characters are available for purchase from Disney-Pixar, and you’d better believe kids are lining up to buy their heroes from their favorite movies. After all, what better way is there to sell toys than making a movie about toys? Additionally, the films include product placement for several name brand companies other than Disney-Pixar, such as Mattel, Fisher-Price, and Hasbro. As of 2014, the Toy Story franchise had generated over $2.4 billion in merchandise sales for Disney-Pixar, as kids were eager to bring Woody, Buzz Lightyear, and the gang home to create their own adventures with these beloved movie characters. Toy Story films also feature countless name brand products from other toy companies: Barbie dolls from Mattel, Etch-A-Sketch from The Ohio Art Company, Mr. Potato Head from Hasbro, the list goes on and on. In fact, according to the Hollywood Branded marketing entertainment blog, the manufacturers of the Slinky Dog, James Industries, had gone out of business and ceased making the toy ten years prior to the release of the first Toy Story movie. However, Toy Story’s booming success raked in over 20,000 new orders for the company and put them back in business. And here we see the great power of product placement.

Practically any given scene in the Toy Story franchise contains some form of product placement, but I’d like to shine the spotlight on three in particular. First, there is the scene from Toy Story 2 where we first meet Barbie. Andy’s toys are cruising through a toy store and stumble upon a Barbie paradise, complete with psychedelic tunes, tiki lights, a beach backdrop, and an epic Barbie pool party. In an instant we are bombarded by so many Barbie dolls and accessory products that the little girl inside of us wants to run to the nearest store, buy up as many Barbie items as she can carry and imitate this mind-blowing party at home! We see many different styles of Barbie dolls and clothes as well as other accessories like a swimming pool with a waterslide, umbrellas and floaties, and even an outdoor grill. When Andy’s toys ask where they can find Al from Al’s Toy Barn, Tour Guide Barbie slip and slides into action to guide them on their way. While the film pokes fun at Barbie Career dolls by featuring such a silly, eccentric Tour Guide Barbie, it does serve to advertise this particular doll and other related Career dolls.

Mattel, the owner of the Barbie brand, benefits from product placement in this scene because it showcases many of its products and because it associates the brand with an attractive, fun, and girly ethos. All the Barbie dolls are dancing, doing the limbo, water sliding, and shouting with glee, giving off a carefree, cool, and fun party vibe that will appeal to young girls who look up to Barbie and want a life like hers one day. Also, the gang of Andy’s toys that encounters these dolls (all of whom are males) are dazzled by this congregation of beautiful dolls, their jaws immediately hitting the floor. Mr. Potato Head even has to remind himself repeatedly that he’s a married spud when Tour Guide Barbie hops in their car because these stunning dolls are just so appealing. Additionally, the scene demonstrates that Barbie dolls not only love to party and have fun, but they’re also gorgeous and practically irresistible to men, another trait young girls will want to imitate and that makes the product more desirable to them. In this way, this scene establishes the brand’s particular ethos and makes appeals to young girls that are both emotional (a desire for fun) and logical (if you strive to be like Barbie, boys will like you). In Everything’s An Argument, Lunsford makes a good point that images create a sense of who someone is, what they value, and how they wish to be perceived (p.335). Such visual arguments can fashion a brand’s unique image, and that is exactly what this scene does for Mattel and Barbie.

During another scene in Toy Story 2, we see yet another instance of product placement when the Andy’s toys are in his bedroomtrying to recreate the scene of Woody’s kidnapping with various toys and use anEtch-A-Sketch to draw the man who stole their friend. Buzz is then is able to identify the criminal as Al from Al’s Toy Barn, a man they recognize from commercials where he dresses as a chicken. In this short scene, there are several examples of product placement: a Troll Doll from The Dam Things Co., Clue and Guess Who board games from Hasbro, Legos from the Lego Group, a Mr. Spell toy from Texas Instruments Co., and obviously the Etch-A-Sketch. In fact, the Hollywood Branded blog argues that Toy Story “made” Etch-A-Sketch such a success, increasing its sales by 4000%. Also, these products are placed in a positive light because they are on the team we’re rooting for, the team of Andy’s toys. The Legos help to replicate the crime scene, the Etch-A-Sketch produces flawless depictions of the criminal, and the Mr. Spell toy is used as a computer to search for feathery kidnapper’s identity. Thus, these toys appear noble and heroic, a boost in ethos for any toy brand. One could even argue that this product placement is making a logos argument that these toys are also incredibly useful for accomplishing tasks, since they are able to help solve the case of Woody’s disappearance.

The last scene I’ll examine is from Toy Story 3. It’s a touching scene that shows a montage of home videos in which Andy is playing with and growing up alongside his beloved toys. We hear Toy Story’s highly signature song, “You’ve Got a Friend in Me,” which serves to set a very sweet and sentimental mood. As Giannetti so eloquently puts it in Understanding Movies, a film’s music is critical for generating an emotional response and establishing mood (p.22). Also during the scene, the home videos depict how the toys provide Andy with not only endless enjoyable playtime, they also help him bond with his little sister. Additionally, they are there for the big moments like birthday celebrations, as well as the everyday moments like watching a movie. The film implies that these toys literally grew up with Andy by showing he and his toys measuring their heights on the wall. The Toy Story toys inspire his creativity and allow him to express himself through spirited, fun-filled play. This scene humanizes the toys so that they appear to be more than objects made of plastic; they are also some of Andy’s oldest and dearest friends. Such a touching, sentimental montage accompanied by this heartwarming song makes the Toy Story toys in particular seem to have priceless value as incomparable playmates and fundamental pieces of a kid’s childhood.

This emotional, tender scene is obviously appealing to potential customers’ sense of pathos. The video montage manipulates viewers’ emotions to make the Toy Story toys ridiculously attractive to young viewers, and it may even tug at the heartstrings of adult audience members. Children see this and desire toys like Woody, Buzz Lightyear, Jess, Mr. Potato Head, Hamm, Rex, and the whole gang to be their lifelong, treasured friends so they can embark on their own adventures with them. AND it just so happens Disney-Pixar can offer kids just that…in exchange for money in its pockets! This is pathos in advertising at its finest. Want to make a killing selling toys? Make audiences everywhere fall in love with them. This scene also manages to cram in every last product it can, from Hot Wheels tracks to Tinker Toys to Candyland, spreading the love so that outside toy companies like Hasbro will be saying, “Cha-Ching!” as well.

These three scenes are just small snapshots of the monumental role product placement plays in Toy Story movies. Product placement boosts the ethos of Disney Pixar as well as big toy companies like Hasbro and Mattel because it implies that their toys are worthy of star in their own movie and sharing in the Toy Story’s astounding success. Toy Story’s product placement is loaded with pathos appeals to potential customers, exploiting young girls’ insecurities with Barbie dolls, making you root for the heroic protagonist toys like Woody and Buzz, and eliciting sentiment for magical, meaningful friends that toys can be for kids. Logical appeals are a bit sparser, but are still present to argue that toys are worth being role models, toys can be resourceful and handy, and toys can be loyal companions and unparalleled playmates. In terms of successful product placement, Toy Story has earned every bite of its 5 chip rate. Overall, the idea of making sellable kids products the stars of one of the most successful animated film franchises in history is simply brilliant, and it is money right into Disney-Pixar’s whimsical, talking Piggy Bank.

Dallas Buyers Club Ain't Sellin' Much

By Logan Schurr

Instead of commercial breaks, films use a unique type of advertising. By placing specific products in the camera’s view, the film serves that brand. Whether it be good or bad depends on how the film uses the product.

Dallas Buyers Club takes place in Dallas, Texas in the year 1985. This movie is about HIV/AIDS so a lot of the product placement had to do with the medicine and organizations involved in the struggle to control the disease. Though not always positive advertisement, the film commits to the brand name and uses it as a tool in Dallas Buyers Club. The movie chiefly features brands such as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Zidovudine (AZT), and Ray-Bans.

This film is unique in its product placement because it doesn’t really advertise most of the products in it in a positive way. Because it is based on a true story, it puts the FDA, FBI, and the HIV medicine, AZT, in a bad light. The FDA is portrayed as oblivious, prejudiced, and rude due to the way Ron Woodruff, the protagonist, is depicted a hero. As the FDA keeps increasing requirements to sell drugs and changes the rules about how to do it, the organization creates more obstacles for our protagonist to do his job and to survive. The businessman who sells the AZT trial to the Dallas Mercy Hospital is portrayed as a greedy, ignorant, cruel businessman, ignoring the harmful effects that the drug may potentially cause patients. Therefore, the act of using the real FDA creates a negative view of the organization.

Furthermore, the FBI is the one who mercilessly enforces the new FDA rules and laws. Each time the FBI comes knocking on Rayon and Ron’s door, they are portrayed as villains, confiscating the drugs/products for the Dallas Buyers Club. Again, because Ron is the protagonist, when he fights the FBI it compels the audience to side with Ron; inherently standing against the FBI. 

The AZT drug, which is an antiretroviral, is given in a controlled study at the hospital in Dallas Buyers Club. A doctor mentions at the beginning of the film that the doses were too strong for people to take, even to the point of toxicity. After Ron’s poor reaction to the drug, he, and many of the other infected characters refer to AZT as “toxic” and Ron even rips out his IV in a later scene to demonstrate his protest. Ron repeatedly demands his clients to stop taking the medication because it will “kill them quicker.” By giving the AZT drug a negative connotation, it creates an anti-American, government conspiracy (Washington Post, par. 8). It suggests that the government intentionally distributed a dangerously high dose of the drug.

One of the only legit products advertised positively in this film is Ray-Ban sunglasses. The second scene of the film shows Ron’s Ray-Ban glasses. The recognizable logo appears on the top right corner of the glasses. As these are first seen and worn most often at the beginning of the film, it shows how cool the brand is. Ron is considered the “cool guy” in town at the beginning of the film. He knows everyone, he is friends with everyone, he gets all the ladies, and he is a smart resource at work. By wearing these Ray-Ban glasses, he represents the ideal life a consumer could have if they invested in a pair of glasses.

Most films either gain permission from or are paid by the specific company to advertise their product. In Dallas Buyer’s Club, it is quite clear very little permission was given because of the mostly negative light the film sheds on several of the brands shown. Ray-Ban sunglasses are positively advertised, but the FDA, FBI, and the AZT drug are all forms of negative product placement in Dallas Buyers Club.

I am giving this film a 3 nacho rating because of the lack of product placement. There was so littler advertisement it was difficult for the film to market anything. However, the things that it did advertise, the FDA, FBI, and AZT, though negatively branded, the film did so very convincingly. The argument against these organizations and drugs was strong within the film. 

Works cited
Matthews, Dylan. "What ‘Dallas Buyers Club’ Got Wrong about the AIDS Crisis." The Washington
Post. WP Company, 10 Dec. 2013. Web. 20 Mar. 2017.

Italian Job Well Done

Italian Job Well Done

Is it possible for one movie to completely change the way you look at a product?  In the case of The Italian Job (2003) and Mini Coopers, it most definitely is.  Before watching the film a few years back, I believed the cars to be driven solely by Brits and women in their mid-twenties.  However, after seeing these shifty cars outmaneuver and ultimately escape typical muscle cars and a HELICOPTER, my opinion was forever changed. Mini Coopers had been used in the original film (1969), and were an integral part for the remake. The extent of their presence, however, is what links the movie and the car in every viewers’ mind; they even make an appearance on one of the film's movie posters (see above).  Kendis Gibson, a writer for CNN, ensures her readers that it is totally acceptable if they “confused the movie with a commercial for BMW’s Mini Coopers” (Gibson).  For the amount of time they spent on screen, I would have expected them to be listed in the credits.  Even the director, F. Gary Gray, called the cars “part of the cast.”  The use of actors such as Mark Wahlberg and Jason Statham give Mini Cooper’s a more edgy image and appeal to a completely different audience than before.  The two aforementioned actors are known for their roles as the quintessential badass guy.  As a guy, I can confirm that before the movie I would never have even thought of buying of those “girly” cars, but now I could totally see myself behind the wheels of one of those amazing driving machines.  The ethos of a certain actor, or group of actors, can go a long way in the advertising world.  On the other end, Charlize Theron presents a convincing argument for women in their mid-twenties to continue to buy these cars.  Her character is a no-nonsense safecracker who speedily, yet nimbly, drives her Mini Cooper through traffic to and from work. 
It is crucial for the product that is placed in a film to not only be displayed prominently, but in a good light.  When talking about presentation, Lunsford argues that arrangement is important, but it is imperative to also “deliver a good show” (Lunsford 346).  The director and editors did a phenomenal job of putting on a fantastic show, with Mini Coopers at center stage.  Below is a gif that features on of the many iconic scenes involving the upgraded cars performing borderline unrealistic stunts.

To make the stunts they perform appear more logical, the characters install higher quality engines and other bells and whistles to the tiny road warriors (logos).  Even with a chopper, antagonist Steve (Edward Norton) could not stop the tricked out Mini Coopers.  Other companies made smaller appearances throughout the film, Napster being the second most mentioned, and Pepsi being another memorable brand.  However, it was BMW’s Mini Coopers that stole the show and ultimately turned the film into an hour and fifty-one-minute commercial.  For those who have not seen this film, I highly recommend it as a top-notch heist film and an excellent example of product placement.
            Overall, it would be hard to give the film and the company’s product anything other than five stars, when it was the very first film to pop into my head once the topic was introduced.

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