My Advertising Sense is Tingling

Dylan Hintz
Media Criticism and Analysis
Dr. Moeder

My Advertising Sense is Tingling

Product placement has begun to run rampant in today’s media laced culture. It is no longer relegated to signs, fliers, or even radio or TV commercials— in some cases the programs meant to sell ad time have now become the commercials. Product placement is a way to get around channel flippers, or to expose a large number of audience members in a theater to a relatable product on a grander scale (such as soft drinks or popcorn).  Thanks to the efforts of Spielberg’s family classic, E.T. The Extraterrestrial and its ingenious placement of Reese’s Pieces, all summer blockbusters that don’t take place in some foreign land or the distant past are sure to be wrought with one form of product placement or another. One in particular is the first of the three Spider-Man movies. There are three major scenes of product placement within the Spider-Man film. One deals with Peter Parker testing his new powers, another is during a car chase, and the third an encounter with the main villain, The Green Goblin. As Polly Devaney states in her article “Tonight’s Main Feature- a Two Hour Cigarette Ad,” many believe that “much product placement is not about the marketing message but about reflecting brand-soaked life” (30). In Spider-Man, these sequences both seem to distract the viewer in some parts, but also just blend seamlessly into the action as stated by Devaney in the quote. It is of worth to analyze the difference between an obtrusive and a well-integrated product placement.

In the first sequence, Peter Parker, now knowledgeable of his many abilities as Spider Man, is testing out his web-shooters in his bedroom. His target is a can of Dr. Pepper soda. This product placement is actually somewhat obtrusive as it is the first shot to an entire training montage. The can fills the screen, and with its bright letters and recognizable logo, its placement actually feels like a commercial of some kind. Peter Parker goes on to play with it for a bit, and by the time he accidentally uses it in conjunction with his webshooters to break a lamp, the audience may have forgotten about the drink. In some ways the product placement is distracting- it is the brightest object in the set, and in many shots, the largest, with its logo obviously turned to face the audience. It also lends to the notion that maybe Peter Parker’s favorite beverage is Dr. Pepper, which is clearly part of the marketing goal. It is realistic for him to choose an item of such common use, as well as one that might be used by a child with a BB gun, as a training target, however it feels like the scene is tailored to the product placement, as it is almost of commercial length, and ends up in his hand in a victorious manner, while he goes about destroying the rest of the room. It’s a fun scene in any regard, so it only slightly distracts the audience if at all.

The next scene involves Peter Parker on his first crime-bust as Spider-Man. Spidey is chasing down a car full of robbers through the streets of Manhattan. In order to maintain a safe distance in his attempts to deter them, he jumps upon a truck with the logo for Carlsberg Beer on the front and side of it. Because the logo appears in two places it is in nearly every shot, and because it is bright white it also takes some prominence in the frame. However, the majority of the scene is based around a bombastic special effects and stunt sequence, with Peter Parker hopping over bridges and around cars. Overall, the product placement is rather unnecessary, especially because the beer in the ad is not something more popular such as Bud Light or even Natural. Therefore, it could feel more convenient and less obviously placed in the scene, but if there had been no logo at all the scene would have been fine anyways. It does feel like the scene is tailored to the product placement in some shots, which match the logo directly to the center of the frame no matter the perspective angle the camera has taken. This logo might actually help the audience have a familiar grounding in a very chaotic scene, and in that way provides a benefit to the viewer, but it is still advertisement nonetheless and might trigger some viewers to lose the “reality of the fantasy” that is occurring directly in front of them.

The final scene of product placement is actually represented by a multitude of ads in Times Square as Spider-Man fights his nemesis, The Green Goblin. This scene’s product placement is actually quite forgivable, as many of the shots are quick and shaky, not to mention focused more on the Goblin and his assault than enjoying a franchised beverage. As the Goblin flies through the air, many logos can be seen behind him. A giant Cingular logo is actually the first one apparent as the Goblin zooms into play from the background. This is realistic however, as Times Square in New York City is always lit up with advertisements and product placements all over the walls and windows of buildings. Because it is a sweeping and dramatic long shot, the logo is not the focus and is therefore not a threat to the viewers’ attention, and the same goes for any other logo seen in this sequence.

Based on the findings within this film regarding product placement, there can be some negative uses, some positive uses, and even some completely ineffectual uses of product placement in a film. The first scene was clearly a distraction, with the Dr. Pepper can taking a lot of the emphasis away from the rest of the mis-en-scene with overly bright colors and a perfectly angled logo. The second scene is actually helpful to the audience, because it grounds the image to a bright area in the shot to maintain a point of reference through a series of darker images. The final scene’s product placement is actually realistic the location, and in that way ineffectual— it simply adds to the scene without making a big deal of being present.

Product placement is something to be expected in this day and age by the viewer. If the viewer is strong willed enough to stay in the movie and recognize that brand-name items are all around us in reality, he or she should be able to focus on the picture. Sometimes product placement will have a beneficial use to maintain a reality or a relatable quality within a sequence of events. It is only when the product begins to take up a certain amount of the screen or appears at a key point in the editing that it becomes significant enough to negatively affect the viewer’s enjoyment of the film. In the end it is up to the viewer as to whether or not a few seconds of ad time is worth the extra couple of million a director was able to get to fund their project. If they decide to go too far with it, then the movie better be really, really good.

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My Advertising Sense is Tingling by Dylan Hintz is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 United States License.