“Product Placement” is distracting, annoying and uncool, right? “ET” would have been a better movie if Elliot had shared ubiquitous M&Ms or generic jelly beans with the little alien instead of Reese’s Pieces. But then, maybe I’m just saying that because I’m allergic to peanuts. I’ve quit caring about the make of car James Bond drives, and I never cared what brand of sunglasses Tom Cruise wore (unless they were endorsed by Scientology, in which case I’m staying far away from them).
On the other hand, “Namechecking” (not to be confused with Trainspotting), when the creative forces behind a movie, TV show, song, book, etc. use a brand name for a real creative purpose (even if the brand owner ends up paying them for it) is cool. The Kinks’ “Lola” was drinking Coca-Cola, sure. The Goodyear blimp was in the movie “Black Sunday” (but then, those days, Goodyear was the only people who had a blimp… why deny it?) It couldn’t have been “Harold and Kumar Go to Some Burger Joint”, now could it? And Paul Simon’s old hit song:
Momma don’t take my Kodachrome®?
Momma don’t take my Kodachrome®?
Momma don’t take my Kodachrome®? awa-a-ay
(Because you’re already over-developed…)
“Seinfeld” was incredible in its placement of real brands, real companies and real people into its ongoing tales of nothing in particular. (For the record, the show never really was about “nothing”, it was always about “whatever happened to be around”). Let’s see… Snapple, Bosco, Entenmann’s, Häagen-Dazs, H&H Bagels (yes it was real), Kenny Rogers’ Roasters, Frogger, Trivial Pursuit, the Today Contraceptive Sponge (which was already off the market), J. Peterman – the three-way relationship of the real J. Peterman catalog, the show and John O’Hurley is a show-biz legend that will last forever – the New York Yankees and George Steinbrenner, Oh Henry! (the candy bar heiress), Pez – lots of candy brands mentioned, including the most infamous – Junior Mints. Not where you’d expect a Junior Mint to end up, right? But brand names appeared only when they served the story – or the funny. Did you know Jerry’s computer was an Apple? It had to be the most inconspicuous Apple computer in Hollywood, because the writers never did anything with it.
The plot of the Tom Hanks movie “Cast Away” was very well-served by its association with Fed Ex – and no company wants to see its plane crash, that’s why the “Airport” series used fake airline names – in that it gave the character a way to end up marooned without killing off a lot of other passengers (always a downer), and who will ever forget his well-branded desert island companion “Wilson”? Voit would never have been right.
But the placement in the new Adam Sandler movie “Click” almost (I said almost) entices me to spend a few matinee-priced bucks to see it. I’ve shopped at Bed, Bath and Beyond. Some of their merchandise is good quality, some not, some a good bargain, some eye-rollingly-not-worth-it. It was the first retail place you could find OxiClean and other “as seen on tv” products and buy them without “shipping and handling charges” and see if they were any good (nothing was as good as the TV claims, but OxiClean and the Gopher reaching tool were good enough). But I have always considered the “Beyond” to be totally meaningless. “Bed Bath and Kitchen”: that’s truth in labelling. Alton Brown used to go to Bed Bath and Beyond on “Good Eats” and his “equipment expert” W. used to work there – that’s a non-obtrusive product placement. So, when Sandler acquires his really really universal remote control gadget from the “Beyond” department… sold to him by Poster-Boy-for-Creepiness Christopher Walken, that’s great Namechecking.
But there is one other possible brand placement that hasn’t been done, but would be cooler than Peterman, Wilson, Kodachrome or Beyond… if, in either “Smallville” or the “Superman Returns” movie, Lex Luthor drove a Lexus.
Lex’s Lexus, get it? Lex’s Lexus?
That was a helluva long way to go for that pun, wasn’t it?
Postscript: If “Smallville” did do a mention of that five years ago, I really don’t care… I don’t watch the show regularly, ok? Nitpicking about anything else is welcome.