Product placement works if it’s done properly
I saw a very silly film at the cinema last night: the Vince Vaughn vehicle Couples Retreat, based on the premise of four American couples who head off on a “dream” holiday that turns out to be not quite what it seems on the surface.
Silly it may have been, but it was also very entertaining – perfect mindless fare for a midweek evening when a bit of relaxation was called for.
The reason it caught my eye with my Media Week hat on was the blatant product placement within the storyline and as incidental furniture. A Guitar Hero video game segment and a strategically positioned pack of Budweiser beer particularly caught my eye. In fact, it made me and some of my fellow cinemagoers chuckle at the sheer chutzpah of the film-makers in being so blatant about it.
Did I notice it? Definitely. Did I remember the brands? Absolutely. Did it spoil my enjoyment of the film? No.
I can’t imagine product placement working in a Bergman-esque movie about the struggle between life, death and love, or a Mike Leigh social realism docu-drama. But, in its place, it is perfectly acceptable and legitimate – as long as it doesn’t make a mockery of or overshadow the plot.
For example, I can’t see a problem with beer brands appearing in the Rover’s Return on Coronation Street. If anything it would make the action more realistic. But it has to be done sensitively and subtly, especially on TV, which is a more intimate environment than a big screen at the cinema.