Bond is back. For the 50 years that the spy’s been on screen he’s never been alone – Bond girls, henchmen, bad guys… and sponsors. Does product placement in films wind you up?
The latest James Bond film, Skyfall, is out soon but it has already been criticised for the suave spy swapping his upmarket cocktail for a pint of Heineken.
Now, without getting into how drinking two neat spirits with a bit of ice and citrus is ‘upmarket’, I think it’s less of an outrage and more of an easy way out. It’s not the first time he’s mixed his drinks; Bond drank Finlandia vodka in Die Another Day.
But Casino Royale sticks out for me, and not for its drinks, but for when Bond and Vesper stop to have a meaningful chat… about his watch.
For Your Eyes… Only £5.99
Film making is never a guaranteed return, even on Bond films, so every penny helps. I’m not against product placement in principle, but only when it’s done badly – when it breaks the suspension of disbelief.
Sure, product placement has always been part of Bond – in From Russia With Love he somehow managed to take US-based airline Pan Am from London to Istanbul.
Even in the books he went for top brands, and he wasn’t the only spy to do so. 1960s unglamorous rival Harry Palmer had a very subtle placement – the author’s own recipes are used to impress a girl in the Ipcress File.
One Pepsi is Not Enough
It’s not just Bond. Anyone trying to study what life was like in the 1980s would assume that Americans only ever drank Pepsi (with logo always uncluttered) judging by films like Back to the Future. And sometimes it’s got to be hard for filmmakers to avoid, as firms are getting wise to branding (think glowing white apples on laptops).
It’s not always done badly. When The Matrix came out, Nokia had a boost in sales. Phones were essential to the plot, and well, if a bunch of kung-fu goths were going to have a phone, it’d be one that had a needlessly stylish slide-out function.
It can also be done cleverly in Bond, as long as it fits his character and the plot. I believe that James Bond would drive an Aston Martin given the chance (and who wouldn’t?). And I can believe that if any brand would bring out a submersible, it would be Lotus. So there must be scriptwriters out there smart enough to make products key to the plot. And if they can do that, then fine, plug away.
I’m only glad that, as a man of the ‘60s at heart, we’re unlikely to have Bond’s romantic scene interrupted while the couple wax lyrical about Durex.
What do you think about product placement in Bond films?
Product placement can work if done well (37%, 75 Votes)
Who cares? I just want to watch Bond (36%, 74 Votes)
Product placement is always awful (27%, 55 Votes)
Total Voters: 205