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I love Morgan Spurlock! Not because he’s always right (though I often think he is) but because he likes to make me think. I like to think.
Morgan’s newest documentary is Pom Wonderful Presents The Greatest Movie Ever Sold (Greatest Movie). This documentary examines product placement in films, something of great interest to brand protectors like myself. The Greatest Movie is an eye-opening and entertaining look at the subtleties (which are not always so subtle) of product placement in modern day motion pictures. As its tagline boasts, “He’s Not Selling Out, He’s Buying In.”
I got to see the Greatest Movie at the post-TED weekend gathering in Palm Springs earlier this year. Having been waylaid by the flu for the prior 3 days of the conference, I did not make it to to the bar after the screening for what Morgan called an “informal Q&A.” Oh, how I wish I’d been healthy! Ironically, knowing nothing of Morgan’s film, I e-mailed filmmaker (and Flash Mob coordinator extraordinaire) Kenneth Hughes before attending TEDActive to ask if he’d make time during the conference to chat with me about product placement, which he did. Together we pondered the viability of transparent “green” product placement, agreeing that there would be heaps of challenges in the pursuit of such a model.
But back to Morgan’s film. The Greatest Movie documents Spurlock’s quest to fund a film about product placement through product placement within the film. Genius! Or Insane! Probably a little bit of both. After more than his fair share of rejection and struggle, Morgan ultimately manages to line up properties that aren’t exactly small potatoes; there’s Hyatt, Jet Blue, and, of course, Pom Wonderful, among others. What I liked most about the Greatest Movie is that the product placement within it isn’t sneaky, under the radar, hoping you don’t consciously notice, like most product placement is. In fact, not once during the Greatest Movie did I feel deceived knowing that a brand owner paid for its product to be there. The product placement in the Greatest Movie is over the top and in your face; almost every scene contains blatant encouragement for you to purchase the products that funded the movie. You know what? It works!
When crafting your marketing plan consider not just how many “impressions” your brand will receive, but also the type of impression it will make. Product placement in entertainment properties irks me. I avoid products that I believe are surreptitiously placed to garner my favor. The brands in The Greatest Movie Ever Sold shed light on product placement, while poking fun at themselves, through which they’ve earned my business, just as intended.