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– Silver Screen Sales

There is an advertisement for Diet Coke being shown before a lot of movies these days, and in it a group of impossibly attractive young adults are roller skating on a beach while sparkling bubbles hop out of their cans and whiz about magically. At the time I thought, “Why hasn’t someone tried to make Coca-Cola: The Movie?” The idea isn’t totally absurd. Hollywood already took the first step with Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle, a movie completely revolved around a brand name. I’m telling you, if Coca-Cola put up the dough to hire some pretty people, put them in some dopey beach movie with roller skating and put it all to music they’d make millions.

Now I’m not saying the commercialization of the movie industry is a new issue. Product placement has been around for quite some time, growing more popular with the booming sales Reese’s Pieces saw when their candy appeared in Steven Spielberg’s E.T. and never stopping to take a breath since. Some product placement can be fun, as in the laughably gratuitous Mac & Me. This movie tried to shell so much crap it became a drinking game to see what would come next. Skittles, McDonald’s, Sears and even a billboard for a furniture outlet all somehow played into the film’s plot. And in Can’t Stop the Music a character states her plan to relax by buying a Baskin and Robbins ice cream cone.

Whereas these products used to be somehow incorporated into the events of their films, albeit however loosely, nowadays they’re shoved in front of the camera with all the subtlety of a bulldozer. I’ve mentioned Blade: Trinity in the past for its shameless behavior, as it was basically one big campaign for GMC Jeeps and iPods. Spider-Man 2 was also a big offender, with one of its opening scenes taking place in a business that’s not so much a pizza place so much as it is a Dr. Pepper sign manufacturing plant. Oh, and let’s not forget The Fantastic Four, which had Johnny Storm and The Thing fighting amongst a literal arena of brightly colored displays. “Mmm, now that I’m thinking about it, I sure could use a steamy Whopper from Burger King!”

The question in my mind concerns the benefits people see when these items are displayed in these movies. Does anyone truly think Burger King or 20th Century Fox saw more returns because of their Fantastic Four partnership? I don’t know about you readers, but I certainly don’t take a cue from celebrities when I see them eating, drinking, or using this merchandise. If anything, subliminal product placement would work better in yanking the money out of my wallet. Just notice the difference:

Traditional Product Placement: “Hey, anybody hungry for some Whoppers?”

Subliminal Product Placement: “Why (Whopper) you (Whopper) good for nothing (Whopper) whipper-(Fig-Newtons)snapper!”

I rest my case.

Now as for these blocks of commercials running before the coming attractions (or as I like to call them, The 15 Minute Hates), they need to be outlawed. I love my previews, but why must I endure the junk I purposely avoid by not watching television? Have you seen some of these ads? They’re not clever, excessively loud, and are often far too long for comfort. I swear, if I have to watch the one where the white guy with the afro invents the movie ticket Web site I might snap. It doesn’t help when I hear other, more impressionable folks being duped with this madness. “Tee-hee, he still has that afro!” I heard a woman say this, people.

So there you go, my take on this product placement craze. It’s humorous when looking back at the films of yesteryear, but at the time these pitches are insufferable. I highly suggest someone start regulating this pre-movie crap, because as annoying as it is to watch Jessica Biel ride around in a GMC Jeep it’s somehow much worse to watch the same Jeep in a minute-long ad set to blaring rock music.

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