Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Product Placement For Fun and Profit

The other day, my brother mentioned a new energy drink he'd tried called NOS, which comes in a container that looks like the nitrous oxide tanks that souped up cars use to temporarily and chemically supercharge their engines.

Coincidentally, I noticed that Hugh Laurie's character Gregory House on the Fox medical drama House drank a bottle of it on this evening's episode. I called my brother to tell him about the coincidence, and he told me that it was from this episode (a rerun) that he had learned about it in the first place.

Only when I looked at the bottle House was carrying for a couple scenes, I noticed that it actually spelled "ONS". An entry on Wikipedia speculates that it may be due to copyright issues. Ironic then, that it actually served as an effective product placement anyway.

I mentioned my first memorable encounter with product placement yesterday (it was the movie E.T.). My favorite product placement was in the 1984 movie Repo Man, where most characters are named after beers -- Harry Dean Stanton plays "Bud," Tracey Walter plays "Miller," and Sy Richardson plays "Lite" -- and beer shows up in plain cans that say: "BEER." Most products that appear are completely generic (some food products are labelled "FOOD"), yet the character "Kevin" sings most of the 7-UP jingle in an early scene. Rumor has it the one sponsor of the movie was the company that makes evergreen tree-shaped air fresheners, which appear in every car and even a motorcycle.

The movie Children of Men starring Clive Owen and Michael Caine was notable for its extremely well-produced ads for non-existant products. All of it was created by Foreign Office, a British design and advertising firm that does work for film, television and marketing. The "Quietus" ads for the fictitious future suicide pill are eerily similar in style to today's pharmaceutical ads. Watch some of the fake ads from the movie below.

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