December 18, 2005
Product placement, branding, and Kong

The talk of product placement this past week has been centered around Peter Jackson's King Kong.

Last Wednesday's Metro featured an editorial from Dan Dunn that captures the complications of product placement in feature films.

Dunn's starting point is an e-mail from Chase requesting that he take out a Kong-themed MasterCard. He then finds that he can't escape the Kong crossover, from Toshiba to Burger King to Nestle Crunch to Kellogg's to Volkswagen to clothes and all types of merchandise.

We can sympathize with Dunn as he sarcastically makes a pitch for Trojan to launch the "Kongdom" or for Survivor: Skull Island because product tie-ins and crossovers shouldn't work along the lines of thinking the more, the better.

There is an emotional backlash that the audience feels when they start to realize that King Kong's face is stuck on products everywhere they go. Instead of clever tie-in or creative synergy, it starts to feel like...well...overbearing corporate propaganda that viewers can't get away from. That's not to criticize Universal in particular, but it seems to me that quality is much more valued than quantity when it comes to product tie-ins like this and that too much of a good thing can even make ardent supporters cringe at the sight of your brand on yet another box.

The editorial was placed across the page from of King Kong written by Dunn as well that calls the film "one of those extremely rare works of art powerful enough to change the way people view a medium," so it proves that the relationships are complicated and that annoyance on one side of the page is coupled with complete admiration on the other.

In Steve Daly's "Lexikong" in this week's Entertainment Weekly, though, he reveals that Peter Jackson wanted to recreate Times Square as accurately as possible for 1933, including a Columbia Pictures sign. However, Sony Pictures refused to allow the Columbia logo in the film without getting paid for it, so Universal just replaced it with their own logo.

So, imagine this...The producers of King Kong, a film getting massive amounts of hype and guaranteed to be seen by a huge audience, want to put a big sign for Columbia Pictures in their film, despite being competiton, but Sony refuses this prominent product placement because they want to get paid?

Am I missing something? Or are they?


On December 18, 2005 at 5:06 PM, Alec Austin said:

Whoever made that decision at Sony should've given Universal permission. It's free brand placement in a movie that was guaranteed to get wide exposure. There was no downside, absent some kind of weird corporate doublethink that would create one out of thin air.

Stupid, stupid, stupid.