The James Bond movie that will serve to follow up “Quantum of Solace” is going to break the current record for most product placement spending. Reportedly, a hefty 45 million dollars of the overall budget will come courtesy of businesses wanting to brand their products behind and to the side of Daniel Craig. You may think that product placement to finance a movie is a fairly recent endeavor, but you would be wrong.
As far as any historian has so far discovered, the very first film to sell product placement rights in exchange for money sunk into a disappearing budget was a lesser Marx Brothers effort titled “Love Happy.” This movie represented the end of the movie careers of the Marxes as a brother team. So bad was it that Groucho Marx routinely ignored it and cited its predecessor “A Night in Casablanca” as the last movie the brothers ever made. A chase scene across the roofs of urban buildings is a centerpiece of “Love Happy” and if you know anything about movies made in the 1940s, you know that high buildings back then often featured enormous neon signs advertising cigarettes or some other product. With money running low and still more film to be shot, the producers came up with the grand idea of selling advertising space on those neon signs to raise funds to complete their movie. “Love Happy” is mostly famous for being one of the first movies to give Marilyn Monroe a featured part, but in fact it should be rightly noted as one of the most important films in Hollywood history.
The next James Bond movie is going to look significantly different from a latter day Marx Brothers farce, but the tie that binds is undeniable. Oh sure, there had been cases of product placement in movies going back as least as far as the first movie to win the Oscar for Best Picture: “Wings.” The product was a Hershey bar. Other examples of what was probably product placement go back to the heyday of silent movies. What sets “Love Happy” apart is that it appears to be the first case of showcasing products in scenes merely for the purposes of advertisement in exchange for financial fluidity. The next James Bond movie is simply “Love Happy” times 1,999.
That Bond movie is going to set a new record, so there must be an existing record already in place. Care to know what it was? “Minority Report.” Steven Spielberg’s increasingly less futuristic movie banked about 20 million by selling advertising slots. The one thing you can say about “Minority Report” is that this advertising was integrated into the plot in a way that was more creative than the typical kind of 3D shoving of the brand name product directly at the camera.
Bond movies have been using product placement for some time and, truthfully, the placement is about as subtle as a commercial for a used car lot airing around 2:35 in the morning. It would be nice to kiss off product placement forever, but that is hardly realistic. The next best thing would be to hope that filmmakers lean a little more closely to the “Minority Report” method than the James Bond method.