Harold and Kumar Go To Del Taco
So a friend of mine was chatting with an agent the other day, and the agent told him that there is a new emphasis on finding/developing scripts with corporate tie-ins plugging products, to help not only finance the film but for some advertising synergy as well.
Recent examples include the Harrison Ford film "Firewall", in which most of the TV commercials seemed to be plugging the idea that the car was the co-star, rather than Paul Bettany or Virginia Madson.
(To show how ineffective it was, I have no idea what model of car it actually was).
On deck is "The Benchwarmers", which apparently is partly financed by Pizza Hut. So in the movie, the guys hang out at Pizza Hut. A lot. Happily.
This is really nothing new. For a long time, opportunities for product placement in movies have gone out to the highest bidder.
But it's one thing if you are taking something that is in the script anyway, and taking the opportunity to take a little cash for making it a specific item. It's when the script is in the design stage, and you are trying to work in corporate tie-ins, that it all starts feeling really, really dicey.
On TV, it's getting horrible. I mean, shows like "The Price Is Right" have been shilling stuff during the show forever. But now top-rated shows like "American Idol" have the judges constantly drinking beverages out of cups marked Coke (whether they are actually drinking Coke is doubtful) while the contestants regularly have in-show music videos that are really just commercials for Ford.
"The Apprentice" has become a joke, in the way that every single episode hypes some corporate product. Last episode, the teams were even writing commercial jingles.
Of course, TV is dealing with the shake-out about Tivo and fast-forwarding through commercials, so some of this stuff is inevitable, and is still going to get worse.
Films seem like they should be a different animal. But then again, it's all about money.
The good thing, though, is that quality is still going to be important. I guarantee the car people weren't happy with the performance of "Firewall". Having your brand in an underperforming, unsatisfying movie isn't going to do anyone any good.
Subtlety is also going to be important. It's one thing to watch a sweet scene in which Elliot lays out a line of Reese's Pieces for E.T. to follow. Knowing that they were paid a lot to put that candy in there? Suddenly the scene isn't so sweet.
Ultimately, I think this is very bad for movies. But beware -- it's out there, and apparently it is gaining speed.