Back in the year 2006, when I just stepped into the Dhaka University campus and started enjoying marketing lectures, I watched an ‘action and chasing’ type movie in the HBO channel late night that was such thrilling that I couldn’t but sit easily for a single scene during the movie time. The movie starred Kim Bessinger, Jason Statham and Chris Evans – all but Chris are famous artists but got not much rating from the critics and viewers. It was a story of a kidnapped women (Kim Bessinger) trying to reach outside world over a broken telephone and got connected with a young man Ryan’s cellular (Chris Evans) who helped her flee away from the kidnappers led by Ethan (Jason Statham). Ryan used his latest cell phone “Nokia 6600” around the movie and I wished to have a phone like that. Years later when I became a film student and started reading online, I discovered, the phone Nokia 6600 was used for nothing but promotion and five years later, now I can assure you can’t go without studying ‘Cellular’ to learn effective product placement in the films.
Product placement, as in Wikipedia, is a promotional tactic of using real life commercial products in fictional or non-fictional media for economic exchange. The cellphones that James Bond uses to talk, the cars he drives to get into the enemy territory, the laptops he uses to explore information, the wrist watches he uses to to detonate explosives, the pistols he uses to shoot the culprit, the hotels he stays in, the banks he visits – all are nothing but a conscious placement of products. It is said that Steven Spilbergh in his film E.T. The extra-terrestrial (1982) first used product placement technique. Elliot, that little friend of E.T. made a trail of candies to lure the alien from the jungle to his closet. It was Reese’s Pieces candy, a newly launched candy. Interestingly, the production company approached to Mars.Inc about using M&Ms in the film but the company refused and thus provided Hershay to become a part of the history of product placement. How much sales do increase due to the product placement in that film? almost 80%. And how many products did it place? A total of 29 including Chevrolet, Coca Cola, Heinz, Audi, Skippy, Del Monte etc.
However, scholar Alex Walton in his article titled “The evolution of product placement in film” argued that the history of product placement is as old as the media. Based on some previous works he mentioned some examples of the placement of products in the early cinemas although they aren’t fit to the modern definition of product placement but obviously those films did the groundwork for what we call product placement today. Prior to the term product placement, exploitation, tie-ups, tie-ins, plugs, and trade outs etc are practiced for the use of real products in the cinema. (Newell, Salmon, & Chang, 2006). An article published in the New York Times in 1929 said, “Automobile manufacturers graciously offer the free use of high-priced cars to studios. Expensive furnishings for a set are willingly supplied by the makers, and even donated as permanent studio property” that indicates conscious placement of products in the films began century ago. However, as the films of studio age weren’t off much budget, the need of advertisements were low and with the growth of cinema industry, the need rises.
Last year (2010), product placement spending amounts around $3.8 billion last year in Hollywood films. Brandchannel, a New York based branded resources reports Apple is appeared maximum times in the blockbuster movies of 2010 followed by Nike, Ford and Chevrolet combined. They listed 33 number one films of 2011 and found Apple appeared in 10 films which is 30% while the Nike, Ford and Chevrolet combined appeared 24%. Although Apple positioned top, it is in the declining situation. In the year 2009, Apple appeared 19 out of 44 films (around 44%) and in 2008, it appeared 20 out of 41 films (around 50%). Analysts found that HP, Sony and some other brands are grabbing the position of Apple in the films. You will be pleased if firearms thrill you hearing that Glock, the pistol Angelina Jolie used in ‘Salt’, appeared in 15% of the number one movies. Its been found that the average number of brand product placements per number one film was 17.9 in the year 2010. The astonishing news was published in The Australian that next James Bond film ‘Bond 23’ is sponsored of $45 million which is one third of the total budget of the film and going to break records of all time.
Our neighboring country India which is in a boom situation in the film industry producing around 800 films per year understands the opportunity of earning through product placement decades ago. It is estimated that $45 million is earned from product placement in the year 2010. Tallywood film industry is also following the path shown by bollywood. Almost all movies produced in Kolkata earns an amount from the placement of product. The movie ‘Antaheen’ directed by Aniruddho Roy Chowdhury in 2009 who is a renowned ad-filmmaker is a visible example of product placement. Compared to these Bangladesh isn’t that much professional yet. Its not like that Dhaka-films don’t place real life products in the films rather lack of professionalism drives this situation. This situation when a product is not a part of economic exchange is called product plug. Perhaps ‘Cast Away’, a film starred by Tom Hanks based on a Fed-ex story is the best example of this.
Development of a film industry like ours needs a professional attitude and the practice of product placement in films will contribute much for the development indeed.