Michael Bay, director of Transformers: Age of Extinction, espouses his movie as an “epic adventure between good and evil, freedom and enslavement.” Indeed, throughout the movie, the audience has the opportunity to appreciate a wide variety of eye-pleasing special effects, particularly CGI explosions. Obviously, CGIs require way more advanced filming technologies as well as post-production effects, which together incur high production costs for the movie. With a movie gearing toward extremely expensive filming techniques like Transformers, finding additional revenues to fund the venture is of utmost vitality. One of the most popular ways of raising revenues is product place. In this essay, I attempt to analyze how product placement may enhance or impair the persuasive appeals of Transformers by focusing on one scene when the film features Dr. Beats headphone.
In the short clip, the bad-guy Joshua Joyce (Stanley Tucci) is testing the function of “Tranformium” – a novel powerful substance that can transform into every thinkable object that is in the handler’s mind. Of course, out of all imaginable objects, Joyce immediately thinks of a Beats speaker. The angle of the scene is a full close-up shot in slow-motion. This scene immediately impairs logos, as the sudden and obvious introduction of the product is so ridiculous that boggles viewers’ mind. The Beats’ logo is unapologetically in higher resolution than anything or anyone else in the scene. The item just out of nowhere appears into the scene without any attempts of transitioning. Apparently, Michael Bay just minimally finds an excuse for placing the product; he doesn’t seem to mind compromising logos in this scene at all. The obvious advertisement confuses and angers many viewers who do not pay for the movie tickets just to watch advertisements. As a result of this poor product placement, the 2015 Brand Channel named Michael Bay’s Transformers 4 as the movie with the “Worst Product Placement."
This lack of logos has upset many viewers and thereafter created a lot of mixed emotions, such as confusion, frustration, and incomprehension. These emotions are the unintended results of the product placement. In this case, the scene inadvertently deprives the movie from the pathos appeal that the movie aims to build. These side-effects are detrimental for the movie since for an action movie like Transformers 4, pathos appeal plays a vital role in branding. Due to its genre, the movie’s box-office strategy is to awe the audience with the special effects, for example, the all-too-powerful explosions, surreal robotic transformations, or jaw-dropping action scenes. However, by introducing a speaker without much transitioning, Michael Bay leverages the impressive high-technical machinery to a speaker. Granted that the Beats speaker looks professional, the illogical materialization of the speaker out of thin air is highly anti-climactic. This effect in turn reduces the surreal impression of the audience, and as a result, reduces the movie’s sense of authenticity. Overall, this lack of logos jeopardizes pathos as well.
With respect to ethos, Apple seems to be successful in branding its product since from the angle of the shoot, the speaker comes across as visually appealing, advanced, and high-tech. However, Apple’s gain comes at the cost of Transformers’ ethos. Many fans expressed their distaste toward this advertising debacle, saying that “When he showed thosespeakers, I thought he was also [going to] say the price” and “One of the most desperate attempts at product placement in Hollywood." The fact that Transformers 4 won Worst Placement Award in a fan-based website and at the same time, that Apple topped the board in best product placement further testify that ethos appeal is beneficial for Apple, and not so for Transformers 4.
Throughout the movie, Michael Bay manages to pull in 55 more brands in an equally awkward manner, thereby rightfully earning the “2014 Award for Achievement in Product Placement in a Single Film.” This number easily shows that Bay is trying very hard to gather revenues at the expense of his movie, thus compromising the quality of the filming, plot, as well as character development. As such, I give this movie 2/5 stars. I didn’t think this movie’s product placement deserves 1 star despite its lack of logos, ethos, and pathos, because I have to give credits for creativity: Bay indeed finds a way to incorporate a plethora of unrelated items into one movie. The attempt itself is a feat. Transformers 4 massive box-office success of 1.1 billion despite many criticisms against the cringe-worthy product placement saves itself from scoring the lowest score possible.