Archive for May, 2011

Morgan Spurlock’s Wonderful Movie About Advertising and Product Placement

Posted on May 2, 2011. Filed under: Marketing and Public Relations | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

movie poster for POM-Wonderful-Presents-The-Greatest-Movie-Ever-Sold, by Morgan SpurlockWhat’s the difference between selling out and buying in?

Not much, if you’re documentary filmmaker Morgan Spurlock, whose latest movie, Pom Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold, explores the world of branding, advertising and product placement.

It’s Spurlock’s personal statement, albeit an irreverent one, about how we’re pummeled with advertising throughout our daily lives.

Just because it’s obvious doesn’t mean you can’t make a point

The point of this flick is admittedly obvious, however, Spurlock likes to examine the obvious in unexpected ways.

The film that first brought Spurlock to national attention, Supersize Me, is about how eating lots of McDonald’s food is unhealthy and leads to obesity. In it, the filmmaker serves as a human guinea pig who only eats McDonald’s food for 30 days straight. That he gains weight is to be expected; what’s surprising is the drastic dangerous toll the dietary experiment takes on Spurlock’s health and psychological well-being.

With Pom Wonderful, the director gets super cheeky: He’s making a film about product placement and advertising that’s all about how he’s financing the film solely through product placement and advertising. He calls hundreds of brands, and 22 sign on. In return for their money, the brands get to have Spurlock shamelessly promote them throughout his movie. The biggest sponsors have full-fledged commercials inserted right into the documentary.

Movie still of Morgan Spurlock and Ralph Nader from Pom Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever SoldSpurlock records the meetings where he tries to get companies to support his concepts. He’s an energetic pitchman who’s full of ideas. Some of his most outlandish ideas get shot down. No matter: Spurlock is a paid shill who gladly lets the brands control their message (though he delivers these lines with a big sly wink).

Along with the mischievous encounters with sponsors Spurlock delves into the world of manipulation, er marketing. He talks to experts in brand integration, co-promotion, brand collateral, brand personality, media placement and neuro-marketing. He chats with movie directors, TV execs, Donald Trump, Noam Chomsky, as well as Ralph Nader, who comes up with one of the movies more memorable lines when he says the only time we can avoid branding is in our sleep.

Two examples on the extremes of advertising (or not)

For the most part, Spurlock’s tongue is set firmly in his cheek, yet there are exceptions. Like when he heads to Florida’s Broward County to investigate how sponsors have infiltrated its public schools — an area even the educators agree should be off limits, but with budgets being cut to the bone, the school system is forced to find money however it can.

It all begs the question, where do we draw the line? For the right price, will we let consumer culture infiltrate every aspect of our lives?

Apparently, at least one place on earth isn’t buying in: Sao Paulo. The Brazilian city passed a law banning all forms of outdoor advertising. City officials say they passed the law to rid Sao Paulo of “visual pollution,” and when the camera pans its streets, we see what the city looks like with nary an ad in sight. In interviews with Spurlock, shop owners and residents all agree that Sao Paulo is now more attractive and they “notice a lot more” without the “distraction” of ads.

Powerful personal branding

Spurlock is transparent about irony of his efforts. He’s clearly practicing what he’s preaching against. Or is he? He claims he’s not selling out, but rather, buying in.

Of course, the biggest product placement of all in Pom Wonderful is for Mr. Spurlock himself. It’s an inspired piece of personal branding.

The movie has sparked demand for Spurlock’s bon mots. Fast Company featured him in a lengthy piece called I’m With the Brand and Forbes did a Q & A with him called This Space for Rent. He did a talk for TED called Morgan Spurlock: The Greatest TED Talk Ever Told and wrote a guest column for Entertainment Weekly called The Filmmakers Guide to Making the Perfect Pitch.

Spurlock even got the city of Altoona, Pa to change its name for 60 days, to Pom Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold, in exchange for $25,000. Altoona is the home-base one of the movie’s sponsor’s Sheetz, Inc. The name change is ceremonial, still the city figures to get publicity out of the deal.

All of which goes to show, as is stated in the movie, “At the end of the day, marketing works.”

Wanna peek at the picture? Here’s the movie trailer

Your Comments Welcome

What do YOU think? Have you seen Spurlock’s latest movie? Is he really buying in, or selling out?

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