Licence to Sell - Advertising in James Bond.


The Man with the Golden Omega. The Box-Office Gross is Not Enough. From Saatchi & Saatchi with Love.

Okay, okay. Bad puns, gags and 'James Brand' jokes aside, in the wake of the release of 'Skyfall' a couple of weeks ago British televisions were buffeted by an exhaustive array of global brands tagging onto the super-spy's latest cinema outing. From Omega to Sony, Coke Zero to Heineken,  these adverts came thick and fast and had seemingly very little relevance to the actual film. Information released by a senior advertising executive has revealed that 1/3 of the films entire $145m budget was generated from brands wanting to be associated with the movie (doubling the previous record held by Spielberg's 'Minority Report'). 


Advertising deals of this nature do not, of course, only mean that we are subjected to these relentless advertising campaigns surrounding the release of a big blockbuster. Product placement within film is by no means a new concept; however in its most recent installments the James Bond franchise has sunken to hitherto uncharted depths. The image above - a still taken from 'Quantum of Solace' - is practically an in-film commercial break; Daniel Craig's Bond is shown sat in front of his Sony Vaio laptop, his Omega watch suggestively peaking out from under his jumper while nattering away on his Sony Ericsson phone - probably boasting about how many tens-of-thousands-of-dollars he's making from that 5 second reel of film alone. 

There's been an outbreak of irritation levelled at Bond's recent movement towards the relentless and draconian usage of product placement. The press have published articles slamming advertising in Skyfall and various complaints have been expressed on twitter. One aggravated twitter user comically remarked:

I hope James Bond isn’t going to be eating a Subway cheese and pickle baguette and drinking Diamond White – all in the name of product placement.’
While rather amusing, I don't feel complaints of this nature are justified. The brands used by James Bond in the recent films are, for the most part, in-keeping with his character. There's a big difference between having the spy chomping on a Subway Italian BMT and his wearing an Omega watch or using a Sony Laptop both costing several hundreds of pounds. These brands are premium and are by no means incompatible with the expensive tastes of Armani-sporting, Aston-Martin-driving James Bond. Critics have complained fervently about a scene in 'Skyfall' where Bond is shown drinking a bottle of Heineken rather than his traditional tipple - a shaken-not-stirred martini. I don't think there is a real issue here - it seems unrealistic to expect Bond to drink nothing but endless martinis. Variety is the spice of life and seeing the spy enjoy a nice chilled beer, whether it's one of the movie's associate sponsors or not, doesn't detract from the realism whatsoever. Indeed at times I find that where movies actively avoid using real-world brands it can hamper the realism. In Danny Boyle's '28 Days Later' in the convenience store scene legit products and brands are replaced for made-up items like a generic Coca Cola instead of Coke. This inhibits the realism and is a jarring reminder that you are watching a movie.

People just need to stop complaining about product placement in films, including James Bond. It almost seems that just because its the trend to nag about it other people jump on the band wagon. As I understand it, product placement provides the funding essential for the film to be produced (particularly in the case of the latest Bond movie) and when used effectively can manufacture a more realistic atmosphere. James Bond is fundamentally a very brand-orientated franchise and always has been. Look at the brand placement below in 'Goldfinger' from 1964; it seems clear that advertising has always been partially present in the movie franchise and doubtless always will be.


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