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Posts Tagged ‘product placement’

Man Of Sears

June 20th, 2013 No comments

It’s odd to find myself being outflanked in defending Superman. While Man of Steel was not my vision of Superman, I did appreciate it as a well-made film. I was certain that the comics community would embrace its grimmer aspects, just as they’ve taken to their bosom Christopher Nolan’s movie trilogy, Batman: The Dark, Dark Knight Darkens. To my surprise, the prevailing attitude appears to be one which cherishes the ideal of Superman and finds it lacking here. If so, good; perhaps the next film will be advertised “You will believe that a Man of Steel can be fun.”

Some stray observations that didn’t make it into my initial review:

I enjoyed many of the scenes set on Krypton, which suggested more of a John Carter planetary romance than the sterile environment of the Donner films. Loved the moment when Jor-El, Action Scientist! leapt onto the back of a dragon and soared off. For one second, I thought that we might even see a Kryptonian Thought-Beast. Sadly, that proved delusional.

While the business with Zod’s revolt and the theft of the Codex initially struck me as needless complications to Superman’s origin story, I thought that they paid off well enough in terms of theme and character motivation that I was willing to forgive them. That said, I did feel that they robbed the film of one of the iconic images of the Superman mythology: Jor-El and Lara standing hand-in-hand as the rocket carrying their infant son lifts off.

One thing that I didn’t mind at all was the change to the Lois & Clark dynamic. (SPOILER) Having Lois track down the identity of this mysterious hero from the start established her credibility as a major journalist and dispensed with the usual complaints about her alleged inability to realize that Clark Kent is just Superman with glasses.* Lois Lane, Superman’s Confidante is something that the comics eventually got to; Man of Steel¬†simply skipped over the intermediate part. (END SPOILER)

I’m glad to see that the long history of Superman and product placement was honored. I now know that if I want to be thrown through a building by a villainous Kryptonian, Sears, 7-11 and IHOP are the places to go. In recognition of this legacy, please enjoy this .gif that I made of the classic Super-moment when Richard Pryor uncovered an inexplicable Kentucky Fried Chicken bag.

*Which is bullshit anyway. In the comics, Lois constantly suspected that Clark was Superman. It’s just that Superman always managed to trick her with contradictory evidence.

Donald Trump Sure Has (Meat)Balls

April 7th, 2005 No comments

Right now, I’m watching The Apprentice on NBC, and have just witnessed a jaw-dropping example of product placement.

If you’re not familiar with the show, many of the tasks that Donald Trump’s would-be apprentices face are designed to feature one of the series’ sponsors, and the product in question is typically introduced to the consuming public in a commercial airing within the episode. This week has to do with creating a “tech-friendly” clothing line for American Eagle, but I’m more interested in last week’s challenge: creating and marketing a meatball pizza for Domino’s.

A funny thing happened during last week’s broadcast. Halfway into the show, rival chain Papa John’s ran its own ad, featuring its own meatball pizza. (While not a national spot, it aired in 64 television markets.) There was no doubt that it was designed to blunt the Domino’s promotion, as it took place in a Trump-like boardroom and asked whether anyone wanted to eat a pizza designed by an apprentice.

An even funnier thing happened this week. Trump had called both teams into his presence to announce the American Eagle challenge, but just before they left, he said something odd, and I quote:

“And speaking of last week’s task, here’s something you didn’t know. Both teams invented meatball pizza, but if you’d done your market research like Domino’s did, you would have discovered that customers don’t want meatball pizza. What they want is cheeseburger pizza. The Lesson: Always pay attention to your customer.”

I thought it was odd that The Apprentice spent all last week showing Domino’s customers buying and enjoying meatball pizza, yet this week went well out of its way to declare that no one would want such a meal. Why would the Donald go off on such an irrelevant tangent? On a hunch, I ran to our TiVo-Like-Device (TM) and rewound the video.

Sure enough, during the entire anti-meatball, non-sequitur rant, Donald Trump was never pictured on-screen. Instead, we saw reaction shots of the teams, and an insert of Carolyn standing next to a gesticulating arm which we are to presume was Trump’s. The whole speech had been dubbed into the scene after the fact.

And, you guessed it, the first ad in the next commercial pod was for a Domino’s cheeseburger pizza.

This Post Brought To You By Mennen Speed Stick

November 4th, 2004 No comments

Last night, I was watching Smallville, a WB TV show about the adventures of Superman when he was a whiner. Among the commercials was one for a new Old Spice deodorant named “Red Zone.” I presume that it’s intended to be extreme deodorant, perhaps one to be used when the terrorist threat level is raised to “puree.”

I wouldn’t have paid much attention to it, if it wasn’t for a scene in which young Clark Kent goes to his high school’s locker room. See, in the current season of Smallville, Clark is the star quarterback on the football team. This is despite protests by Pa Kent, who felt that Clark would use his superpowers to unfair advantage. However, Clark convinced him (whined enough) and now Pa cheers from the sidelines, even though it’s absolutely clear that his boy is using his superpowers to unfair advantage.

Anyhow, back to the locker room. Clark retrieves his clothes, but what’s that in Superboy’s locker? Why, it’s Old Spice Red Zone! Right there in front of the camera! The Teen of Steel uses Old Spice! Wow!

It may be hard to imagine now, but there was a time when product logos weren’t plastered all over TV shows and movies. And honestly, it used to bug me when characters would drink a generic “Beer” or wash with “Soap.” It took me out of the drama for a moment, because we all know that real life comes with a thick overlay of corporate identification. People drink Coca-Cola, not “Soda Pop.”

That changed as “product placement” was discovered by movie studios and TV producers who realized that companies would pay big money to have Billy Crystal wipe his ass with Charmin on screen. And again, a limited amount of this didn’t bother me, because it added to the realism of the setting. Of course James Bond would drive a BMW!

But there have been outrageously obvious examples that I’ve found even more distracting than old-fashioned “Beer.” For me, the poster child of inappropriate product placement was in Superman III (hmmm, Superman again?), a 1983 movie in which the Man of Tomorrow battled Richard Pryor.

Midway through the film, computer genius Pryor was pretending to be a janitor for reasons which currently escape me. The janitor’s closet door swung wide open, and…a large Kentucky Fried Chicken* bag came into view. Hanging on the back of the door. Right in the dead center of the screen. At that moment, I could no longer care about Richard Pryor’s hijinks or whether Superman could possibly defeat such a fiendishly clever hacker. All I could think was, “What the hell is that bag doing there?”

This sort of thing has become more prevalent on television in recent years as station breaks become ever more cluttered, and viewers use a wide array of devices to avoid watching the commercials which are the primary reason for the existence of their favorite shows. Advertising agencies want their messages to be unavoidable, and even better, associated with characters that people love. A 30 second spot about a douche is one thing, but if that selfsame douche appears in Lorelai Gilmore’s medicine cabinet…

So, we return to Smallville, and an exceedingly lame episode in which the Kryptonian Kid is pitted against a villain named for one of the comic book Superman’s arch-nemeses, the all-powerful, 5th-dimensional imp Mr. Mxyzptlk. Except that here, “Mikhail” Mxyzptlk is a quasi-European with a bad accent who uses his limited mind-control abilities to bet on high school football games. Wha?

As Clark heads off to play the big game, we can hear the field announcer over the loudspeakers: “Today’s game is brought to you by Luthorcorp, S.T.A.R. Labs, Boy Scout Troop 762, and…”

“Don’t say it,” I thought. “Please don’t say it.”

“…Old Spice Red Zone!

Aaaagh. Okay, we fucking get it. The citizens of Smallville use Red Zone to ward off the body odors caused by extensive exposure to Kryptonite. For the love of all that’s holy, why not just name the show The Old Spice Adventures of Superboy and be done with it?!?

Next week on Smallville, Lois Lane returns…with a mysterious candy bar! Wednesday at 8:00 pm on the WB!

*There was a time when KFC advertised that it fried its food.