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Quick review: Transformers and product placement

I caught a midnight show of the Transformers movie this Monday. Loved it!
The special effects really work (essential for this movie), as does the entire story.
The cast is likable, as are the robots. The movie doesn't need you to know the entire Transformers backstory.

The best part of watching a first-day show of a comic book adaptation is that you're watching it with the fanboys. When the truck that we know to be Optimus Prime, just appeared in the distance the crowd started clapping, and Prime's first spoken words, "I am Optimus Prime" was enough to bring the house down. Even though I wasn't as much in to the Transformers as a kid, there's something about the franchise I've always loved; and heroes just don't get much more noble or admirable than Optimus Prime. :)

After the movie, I was chatting with someone about product placement in the film. The discussion started out with what worked and what didn't, but later on it got me thinking about what really was effective product placement and what wasn't.

GM's strategy clearly worked! The financial terms are interesting too (no fee, just co-branding in the advertising.) You can't keep the TV on for a while without seeing a GM/Transformers ad and its a strong, very positive association for the company. Is it enough to drive car sales up? I dunno; that battle may have been lost.
Line from the movie when Sam Witwicky sees Bumblebee "transform": "Wow, must be Japanese"

But clearly, I think this was great product placement. At the very least there is a strong positive association with GM cars. I couldn't decide on some of the other stuff though. To me it was unobtrusive (we're talking brand names on flash drives, XBox kinda stuff) which is good as a viewer, but it so was unobtrusive that I didn't notice it at all! Maybe some others picked it up, but the question the marketer has to ask is "was it really worth it given the expense?"

TV and movie product placements seem like they're just going to keep increasing. Unless there's a strong positive association that comes out of it though, I'm just not sure just the brand recognition is worth it for many products.


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