Plug Uglies: the 2006 Brandcameo Awards for Product Placement

Last night I was watching the film “The Situation”  (it opens March 2 at the Kendall) on DVD, a love triangle set in the Sunni Triangle directed by Philip Haas and starring Connie Nielsen, and by the time it got to the third IED explosion and the fifth sectarian assassination I thought, this is entertainment? I might as well be watching the news. So after the movie was over I did turn  on the news (it was around 10:15 p.m.), flipped through MSNBC, CNN and NECN, and saw that all three were broadcasting the latest on the Anna Nicole Smith story. Not a single scene of carnage! What a relief!

In one regard, though, “The Situation” does resemble the cable news stations: the presence of commercials. At one point the movie openly plugs Johnny Walker Black whiskey. As product placement goes, this is pretty mild. For a glimpse at hardcore studio pandering, check out this year’s Brandcameo Awards for Product Placement (the “Brandies”). Forget the Oscars; as I noted in a posting on the same event last year, these trophies recognize Hollywood’s true achievments.

Or, rather, those of the Ford Motor Company, winner for the second year in a row of “Overall Product Placement.” Of all the the top ten box office films of 2006 — 41 in all — you’ll find a Ford of some sort in 17.

That doesn’t even include, the Brandcameo people point out, “Casino Royale ,” which is loaded with Fords, but didn’t make it to number one in the box office. Maybe because the film suffered a bad rap from critics for being overloaded with product placements. In fact, with only 25 plugs, “Royale” paled even before the Oscar favorite “The Departed,” which had twice as many, not to mention “Big Mama’s House” with a big 58, or the champion “Talladega Nights,” with 89.

Which brings us to the “Brandies” post-modernist favorite. “The ‘Wayne’s World’ Award for Product Placement Placement,” granted to the film that’s hip and jokes about product placement, and thereby manages to get in more than its share of plugs. Is it irony or hypocrisy? Either way, the award didn’t go, as expected, to “Talladega,” but to the infinitely more smarmy “Thank You For  Smoking.” As the Brandcameo people explain, “Will Ferrell was no match for Thank You for Smoking, in which an entire subplot consists of our intrepid hero working out a detailed and absurd (yet not quite absurd enough) scheme to put cigarettes into the hands of today's hottest celebrities.”

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