The ad man as one of the writers

We have commercials.  Then came product placement, in which commercials enter the storyline.  Now we have advertisers working with writers to make the product an intrinsic part of the plot.  From Harold Meyerson, <a href=”http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/04/06/AR2010040602662.html”>Moviemaking becomes commercial art</a>:

<blockquote>As the cost of filmmaking continues to rise, “product placement” has become a serious source of production funding. The more a product is shown or used in a movie, the Times reports, “the more a brand pays for the appearance, offering fees ranging from a few hundred thousand dollars to several million a film.”

But Yospe&apos;s niche — “brand integration,” as his law firm’s Web site nicely terms it — takes the concept further by starting the process earlier. Rather than have studio executives arbitrarily edit in a scene set, say, in an Exxon gas station as production is wrapping up, Yospe meets with filmmakers and writers while their pictures are still on the drawing boards to help the product placement become more integral to the narrative and thematic flow. And clinching deals for certain brands can affect the casting and other major aspects of a film.

The Times story begins with a script conference between Yospe and the writer of a thriller-to-be. Yospe suggests that at a certain point in the picture, the heroes might get hungry. “There’s no fast-food scene at all,” he points out, “but they have to eat.”

Golden Arches, here we come.</blockquote>

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • James T. Batchelor

    Product placement is the only way to go as more and more people watch T V on a delayed basis on their Digital Video Recorder. Advertising must either provide an image that catches someone’s attention at 16x or 60x speed or they must find a way to advertise during the program itself.

  • James T. Batchelor

    Product placement is the only way to go as more and more people watch T V on a delayed basis on their Digital Video Recorder. Advertising must either provide an image that catches someone’s attention at 16x or 60x speed or they must find a way to advertise during the program itself.

  • http://lutherama.blogspot.com Dr. Luther in 21st Century

    I am reminded of one of the most egregious product placements in movies. “Demolition Man” which featured Taco Bell as the winner of the fast-food wars.

  • http://lutherama.blogspot.com Dr. Luther in 21st Century

    I am reminded of one of the most egregious product placements in movies. “Demolition Man” which featured Taco Bell as the winner of the fast-food wars.

  • Dan Kempin

    Why does anyone find this offensive?

  • Dan Kempin

    Why does anyone find this offensive?

  • Rev. Alexander Ring

    In one way this is just the medium coming full circle. You might recall the scene in “A Christmas Story” when Ralphie finally gets his decoder pin, only to receive the secret message, “Drink More Ovaltine”. This was standard in the ’30s and ’40s, when you would have turned on your radio and heard “The Jell-o Program, staring Jack Benny”, and at least once a program the Jell-o product would play some part. When Lucky Strike became his sponsor in the ’50s, skits would often have Jack or another character stopping off “to get some Luckys”, and then extolling their virtues.

  • Rev. Alexander Ring

    In one way this is just the medium coming full circle. You might recall the scene in “A Christmas Story” when Ralphie finally gets his decoder pin, only to receive the secret message, “Drink More Ovaltine”. This was standard in the ’30s and ’40s, when you would have turned on your radio and heard “The Jell-o Program, staring Jack Benny”, and at least once a program the Jell-o product would play some part. When Lucky Strike became his sponsor in the ’50s, skits would often have Jack or another character stopping off “to get some Luckys”, and then extolling their virtues.

  • Joe

    I don’t find it offensive at all. But, it can be really funny:

  • Joe

    I don’t find it offensive at all. But, it can be really funny:

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    It’s not actually offensive, though the practice is almost certainly a sign of a terrible movie being made. But then, the same could be said of movies being written after disastrous screen tests. Or simply movies that pander to the lowest common denominator of whatever’s popular.

    Plenty of good movies get made every year. I don’t see the small, indie films going this route. Just the bloated big-league films. And, you know, if it works for them, it works. There are plenty of people out there who don’t care about quality and are more than happy to see a lousy ad-riddled film. But if this does upset you, it’s incumbent upon you to support those films that don’t do this, that try to maintain quality above all else.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    It’s not actually offensive, though the practice is almost certainly a sign of a terrible movie being made. But then, the same could be said of movies being written after disastrous screen tests. Or simply movies that pander to the lowest common denominator of whatever’s popular.

    Plenty of good movies get made every year. I don’t see the small, indie films going this route. Just the bloated big-league films. And, you know, if it works for them, it works. There are plenty of people out there who don’t care about quality and are more than happy to see a lousy ad-riddled film. But if this does upset you, it’s incumbent upon you to support those films that don’t do this, that try to maintain quality above all else.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    That should have been (@6) “movies being rewritten after disastrous screen tests.”

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    That should have been (@6) “movies being rewritten after disastrous screen tests.”

  • Michael Schutz

    Hi from a guy who recently dicsovered the blog and has been reading with great interest (first time commenter, though :) ).

    I only find this offensive if the movies/TV shows would still purport to be “art” while at the same time working like this. (Is “commercial art” even a viable concept?) But honestly, I’d much rather it be worked in from the ground floor than thrown in later, because at least then they’re being honest about the fact that their intent is to advertise, and that the movie’s really not about telling a good story, but about how much money they can make, using any means necessary. (I use the term “necessary” very loosely.)

    From the article quote: “as the cost of filmmaking continues to rise…” – I think there’s the rub right there. It’s a pretty flimsy foundation for this argument, when the rising costs are controllable by those who make the films. We’ve created the monster of $20 million dollar paydays for stars and now point to “rising costs” as the reason we need to supplement box-office sales with “brand integration”. Nothing like a good circular argument to bring in more money! :)

    At the same time, I do see this as a desperate attempt to hold on to an old model of advertising, where measuring success depends on the number of eyeballs we can get and how many interruptions we can make. Though I’m not an ad-man by any stretch (I’m a DPS in LCC – Lutheran Church-Canada – DPS is the Canadian version of DCE/DCO/DPM), I’m sensitive to how we “get the message out”, and on a larger scale than just in the church.

    Obviously, the church (at its best) has never been about how much money we can bring in. The Gospel is free (for us – it obviously came at tremendous cost to Jesus), and it is simply our job to speak it. But what I find fascinating is that people like Seth Godin and Chris Anderson seem to be understanding this well from a non-church perspective too – marketing is changing, and marketers need to listen to Godin’s concepts of “tribes” and Anderson’s concepts of “the long tail” and “free” if they hope to survive in the “new world” of post-interruption advertising models. (And in some ways, the church would certainly do well to understand these concepts too.)

    So I’d say it’s not offensive, just distasteful. Same with TV. We already pay a monthly subscription for the programming and for the “right” to DVR it. So ads exist…why? Because apparently we don’t pay them enough already. And so, because we’re somehow depriving people of their right to make large amounts of money by skipping commercials, they have the right to use product placement.

    Personally, I find the phrase “commercial art” to be an oxymoron. Certainly, the worker deserves his wages, but we’ve completely obliterated the concept of reasonable wages. I think Mr. Meyerson hits the nail on the head: “It’s not all about the product anymore; it’s about the deal. Every system has its own logic, but none of those systems…has a logic that’s ultimately compatible with that of the artist.” Though I would ask, was it really ever about the product? (Speaking in generalities, of course.)

    Same with the music industry. As a church musician, I find this side of it especially distasteful, since music is supposedly more about “art” than “commercial”. There is very little “art” in music, if you define “art” as creating something beautiful for the encouragement and benefit of others. (I guess that would be my definition of art over against a “commercial” purpose of music.) Even in the church. In many cases, we are even asked to pay royalties to sing worship music to our God. Really?

    (Sorry, stepping off the soapbox now. :) )

    Anyway, thanks for another thought-provoking post, Dr. Veith. I enjoy reading your posts and will hopefully make time to get involved more in the coversations surrounding them.

  • Michael Schutz

    Hi from a guy who recently dicsovered the blog and has been reading with great interest (first time commenter, though :) ).

    I only find this offensive if the movies/TV shows would still purport to be “art” while at the same time working like this. (Is “commercial art” even a viable concept?) But honestly, I’d much rather it be worked in from the ground floor than thrown in later, because at least then they’re being honest about the fact that their intent is to advertise, and that the movie’s really not about telling a good story, but about how much money they can make, using any means necessary. (I use the term “necessary” very loosely.)

    From the article quote: “as the cost of filmmaking continues to rise…” – I think there’s the rub right there. It’s a pretty flimsy foundation for this argument, when the rising costs are controllable by those who make the films. We’ve created the monster of $20 million dollar paydays for stars and now point to “rising costs” as the reason we need to supplement box-office sales with “brand integration”. Nothing like a good circular argument to bring in more money! :)

    At the same time, I do see this as a desperate attempt to hold on to an old model of advertising, where measuring success depends on the number of eyeballs we can get and how many interruptions we can make. Though I’m not an ad-man by any stretch (I’m a DPS in LCC – Lutheran Church-Canada – DPS is the Canadian version of DCE/DCO/DPM), I’m sensitive to how we “get the message out”, and on a larger scale than just in the church.

    Obviously, the church (at its best) has never been about how much money we can bring in. The Gospel is free (for us – it obviously came at tremendous cost to Jesus), and it is simply our job to speak it. But what I find fascinating is that people like Seth Godin and Chris Anderson seem to be understanding this well from a non-church perspective too – marketing is changing, and marketers need to listen to Godin’s concepts of “tribes” and Anderson’s concepts of “the long tail” and “free” if they hope to survive in the “new world” of post-interruption advertising models. (And in some ways, the church would certainly do well to understand these concepts too.)

    So I’d say it’s not offensive, just distasteful. Same with TV. We already pay a monthly subscription for the programming and for the “right” to DVR it. So ads exist…why? Because apparently we don’t pay them enough already. And so, because we’re somehow depriving people of their right to make large amounts of money by skipping commercials, they have the right to use product placement.

    Personally, I find the phrase “commercial art” to be an oxymoron. Certainly, the worker deserves his wages, but we’ve completely obliterated the concept of reasonable wages. I think Mr. Meyerson hits the nail on the head: “It’s not all about the product anymore; it’s about the deal. Every system has its own logic, but none of those systems…has a logic that’s ultimately compatible with that of the artist.” Though I would ask, was it really ever about the product? (Speaking in generalities, of course.)

    Same with the music industry. As a church musician, I find this side of it especially distasteful, since music is supposedly more about “art” than “commercial”. There is very little “art” in music, if you define “art” as creating something beautiful for the encouragement and benefit of others. (I guess that would be my definition of art over against a “commercial” purpose of music.) Even in the church. In many cases, we are even asked to pay royalties to sing worship music to our God. Really?

    (Sorry, stepping off the soapbox now. :) )

    Anyway, thanks for another thought-provoking post, Dr. Veith. I enjoy reading your posts and will hopefully make time to get involved more in the coversations surrounding them.

  • http://RoseFremer@yahoo.com Rose

    Michael, I enjoyed your post. Welcome to the blog.

  • http://RoseFremer@yahoo.com Rose

    Michael, I enjoyed your post. Welcome to the blog.

  • Carl Vehse

    Doc@2, The Terminal with Tom Hanks and Catherine Zeta-Jones would be another top contender for product placement, in which product signs or ads lingered in the foreground or background (in focus) in scene after scene featuring one of both of the main characters.

  • Carl Vehse

    Doc@2, The Terminal with Tom Hanks and Catherine Zeta-Jones would be another top contender for product placement, in which product signs or ads lingered in the foreground or background (in focus) in scene after scene featuring one of both of the main characters.

  • Don

    Actually a simple form of product placement goes back even to the Renaissance. One of my favorite artists, Albrecht Durer , frequntly advertised his AD logo on his works. He would insert the innocuous logo within the work to advertise and promote his art.

  • Don

    Actually a simple form of product placement goes back even to the Renaissance. One of my favorite artists, Albrecht Durer , frequntly advertised his AD logo on his works. He would insert the innocuous logo within the work to advertise and promote his art.

  • Michael Schutz

    Hi Rose, and thanks. The quality of thought and discussion here is inspiring. I’ve learned a lot already! :)

  • Michael Schutz

    Hi Rose, and thanks. The quality of thought and discussion here is inspiring. I’ve learned a lot already! :)


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