On the Margin

X, y, z...

For the las ten years Poland has been continuously awashed with advertisements of any kind, form and shape. On every step we see enormous billboards over the roads, leaflets on the streets, cars with promotional mumble all over them screaming witty slogans through the loud-speakers. It's not even worth bothering to mention commercials breaking through in the crucial moments of the film - and lately even in the middle of the word. There's one more path to reach prospective client - product placement. In accordance with various definitions found in the Internet - we talk about product placement when particular product is being placed in the film, play, book, series, photography, computer game etc.

Let's focus on the film. "Subliminal message" is an assumption of this technique and it aims at "packing" the spectators with shapes, colors or destination of certain product or service. It's obvious that while watching your favorite character driving "x" car your desire to have the same car - everyone try to be alike their idols. Seeing slim actress eating "y" yogurt you start to think "I'll eat it too, and I'll be as slim". Product placement is therefore an easy marketing tool which more or less directly convinces the recipient to given brand or object. There comes the essence of the matter - more or less directly. 

"Subliminal message" appeared for a reason. It's the idea of product placement to advertise the thing in such a way so that the spectator doesn't know his subconscious is being manipulated and that the information promoting particular product or service was passed. Sponsor's logo shouldn't appear on character's T-shirt, all of the actors won't drive the same car because "xyz" is the sponsor... Such ideas aren't successful.

Advertising agencies hire specialized workers who are responsible for putting clients' products in the films. Those people take care of subtleness and yhe quality of the message. In Poland, however, this term is still fresh and still has no legal basis. Films and series are full of visible - unfortunately, mostly unsuccessful - attempts of product placement. 

You don't have to be an educated marketing specialist to spot the rules of this "matter". If there's an "x" car on the set and its producer didn't throw some cash, the mark is taped with black tape - it doesn't matter that the viewer can recognize the shape of the symbol anyway. You can see how much did the sponsor pay simply by looking at the frequency of product appearance. It gets even better when the film is sponsored by 10 or more companies - instead of plot the production shows products. The funniest moments are those when the product of specific character and destination pops up in an absurd place - cat food in the trunk, in the place where spear wheel should be (real example). In the same production, the same cat food appears on the wedding when cats eat it in bowls with brand name on them right next to the guests' tables. Should we cavil? Well. At least the main character didn't say the name of the cat food. However, pills extend youth (taken regularly by the character, maybe even way too regular) are named time after time. Should it surprise? How many times during the day do you take your "vitamins" and use their brand name? All those examples come from one production the title of which we won't tell to avoid advertising or product placement...

It must be said that American films deal with this kind of advertising much better. It's because Hollywood productions know this business much longer and they've learned how to do it to do it right. Even though Americans do it better, products still can be seen on the first screening. But they aren't impudent or forced - they are so camouflaged that you have to know what you're looking for to find it. Of course, like in Polish films there are many examples of not so bad product placement, many American productions didn't manage to do the same trick. 

After reading this it would be the best to turn on your favorite movie once again and look for this cunning marketing operation. It's worth considering whether those products or companies aren't your favorites. It can be a lot of fun - both for adults and older kids.  For example: you can sit in front of TV and try to remember as many presented products as possible. The aim isn't to encourage kids to buy promoted products but make them aware of presence of advertisement, and how to approach it without being manipulated by marketing operations. Good luck and have fun.

Text: Agnieszka Furmańczyk

no 67 January 2013

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Check the archive

From editors

Fast ride without popcorn - interview with Sławomir Fijałkowski - Maciej Mazerant

Directed by Jakub Czekaj

Film and mimesis - Artur Zaguła

Career in Culture
The Internet gives freedom - interview with Dawid Marcinkowski, director of Sufferrosa - Daria Głowacka

Culture Industries
Idea is the most important - interview with Olgierd Cygan, the initiator of Filmteractive - Daria Domańczyk

Young Culture
I like my characters - interview with Kuba Czekaj - Magdalena Skrzypczak

Self-presentation - Sergiusz Wasilewski

From Lascaux to series on-line - Arkadiusz Biedrzycki

On the Margin
X, y, z... - Agnieszka Furmańczyk