The trailers for the new “Transformers” movie have been showing up online, in theaters, and between commercial breaks since last summer. Now that the film is finally out, unlike most evolved trailers which give viewers a better understanding of the story and more scenes to lure them into the film, so far, the film looks more like a feature-length car commercial than a special effects movie.

Products and businesses are featuring the Transformers in their commercials, and a lot of hype is being made about a movie that nobody knows anything about. Those who go to see the film are likely to see tons of product placement within the film itself. This is almost a given for director Michael Bay who often does unashamedly plug products throughout his movies.

Product placement is not necessarily an evil practice. In fact, it can be both enjoyable for fans as well as profitable for all of the industries involved when done with subtlety. In 1982 when E.T. came out, after being denied the right use M&M’s as the candy that is used to lure the alien into the house, Hershey’s granted Steven Spielberg to use their Reese’s Pieces which caused sales of the previously inferior candy to skyrocket. Children wanted to eat the same candy that E.T. likes, and Reese’s Pieces made a ton of money.

Tom Hanks is another actor who has been associated with product placement. In “Big” he helped advertise FAO-Schwarz in the famous piano scene. In “You’ve Got Mail,” he helped launch America Online. In the film “Cast Away,” he both played an Fed Ex employee and later in total seclusion, created a best friend out of a Wilson volleyball.

Despite being advertising schemes, these examples were included in part of the story, not just advertisements hanging around in the background of a movie or a meaningless, out-of-the-blue reference to a product. Sometimes product placement can be created out of the popularity of a film.

In the 1950’s, coonskin caps were popular. With the release of the Disney film “Davy Crockett, Indian Fighter,” the title character who wears a coonskin cap, Disney made $100 million by selling coonskin caps to Davy Crockett fans. Disney is the most successful in making money from products inspired by their popular movies.

With children being the easiest group to market to and with so many potential products to create, there is no end to how much money a children’s movie can make in merchandising. The same applies to large franchises with collectible toys such as “Star Wars” merchandise.

Car placements are also widely used in action films especially. Films like I, Robot, Minority Report, and the James Bond films have been quick to feature the latest models of luxury cars in their films. However, they too can contribute to the plot since the films heroes need something to drive in their climactic chase scenes.

However, where these product placements fail is in recognizing that the average movie-goer cannot afford to even lease a luxury car like the ones in the film. With such a small number of potential buyers, audiences can only admire and not even think about purchasing such items.

The most unappealing product placements are those that are so blunt and obvious that they become annoying. Examples of these include 1997’s “Tomorrow Never Dies” when James Bond mentions and displays specific products in his dialogue including Smirnoff Vodka, Visa credit cards, Omega watches, and Heineken beer.

Another obvious plug is in Terminator 3 with a truck advertising a weight loss product on it throughout a chase scene. What used to just be glimpses of billboards advertising Coke and Pepsi are now a blatant mess of products being pushed upon audiences.

While they add a touch of reality to films, they can also hurt a film if too prevalent and meaningless to the story. Comedies have jumped at the chance to use overly obvious product placements in their film as a joke within the film. After all, companies don’t take audiences seriously enough to trust in their recognizing products in films anymore, making the business of product placement a joke in itself.

For related articles visit http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/19568020/page/2/  and http://advertisingindustrynewswire.com/2006/04/03/13_005916.php .

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