Chris Reed
Mar 5, 2014

When product placement goes wrong, not even Jack Ryan can save you

Product placement in films is one of those things that can work extremely well or make your brand look very foolish. There is no shortage of films with product placement in them at the moment. Some are very obvious and clunky, and some are very cool and in keeping with the story and film brand.

When product placement goes wrong, not even Jack Ryan can save you

Oracle recently pulled the plug on their product placement in Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit. The reason was the association between technology and spying as brought to real life by the Edward Snowden revelations.

Oracle had paid quite a large sum of money to have several brand opportunities in the film, but got very cold feet about the espionage connection after the NSA news broke.

Two thoughts here 1) surely this association was always there even before Snowden and 2) I’m not sure anyone either cared or connected the two together. Oracle as a business brand would have survived the association, and it would have enhanced the brand in the eyes of the filmgoing audience. Many filmgoers would probably have ever heard of Oracle but may not even know what they do anyway. What did they have to lose?  

The association may have had more to do with a family connection than brand alignment. Skydance, which co-produced Jack Ryan, is run by David Ellison, the 31-year-old son of Larry Ellison, Oracle’s billionaire founder. I am sure he got the job purely on qualifications and experience.

With fewer people watching advertising and more downloading content, product placement in the middle of that content makes more sense in trying to reach this target audience. It makes even more sense when half of the viewers are on Twitter at the same time. The market itself grew 12 per cent in 2012 to almost US$9 billion, according to PQMedia.

Nokia actually did appear in the film but in years to come may be wishing they hadn’t. Won’t the Nokia product featured look old fashioned and out of date very quickly? Oh it did already. In fact there is doubt about whether the brand may exist at all in years to come. Maybe it will be there for the DVD release but what about for the first terrestrial showing on TV?

Google recently appeared in The Internship, though quite why escapes me. Sony Vaio laptops appeared in the latest James Bond film. Although as they have just announced a massive loss and the sell off of the PC division, it seems that even James Bond cannot save tech products that no one wants.

The ultimate product placement is obviously the new Lego movie, which takes product placement to the natural conclusion. Why bother with an independent story at all when you can just spend the entire film marketing your products and brand?


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