My Herald on Sunday column about the proliferation of Sony product placements and tech product placements in general in big Hollywood movies. I'd love to have a chat with a behind-the-scenes type Hollywood insider who has the task of negotiating these product placement deals. I wonder how much money changes hands, how much control the companies have over treatment of their brands. Whatever the answer, it's big business and only going to get bigger...

Tech buffs play 'spot the Sony'
1.00pm Sunday December 10, 2006
It's been an average year for movies, but a great year for average movies crammed with technology product placements.
Going to the movies these days still requires you to suspend disbelief for two hours just before you stump up your $12 entry fee. The problem is that film making is now such big business that virtually every Hollywood blockbuster is a walking advertisement for some company or other.
In the tech realm, Apple, Nokia and Dell seem to get the most screen time. There's that shot directors repeatedly mimic, of the star of the movie tapping away on a laptop, the lid positioned perfectly to show off its maker's logo. Then there's the cut away to a news flash on a TV screen that includes just enough of the screen's frame to show us who made it.
As a technology enthusiast, I feel like a trainspotter going to the movies, constantly on the look out for which gadgets or consumer electronics have been negotiated into the scene. My most striking memories of Superman Returns, apart from the evil monologue from Kevin Spacey on the boat, are the numerous shots in Clark Kent's newspaper headquarters that capture those lovely Samsung flat screen TVs. Spike Lee's clever heist movie The Inside Man was loaded with tech product placements, Apple iPods and Macs battling with Dell computers for the most screen time.
Michael Mann's patchy crime drama Miami Vice devoted much of its tech quotient to ugly, featureless satellite phones, but Nokia got decent face time with its video phones and Sony's laptop made a cameo appearance.
In fact, Sony has this year claimed the title of tech product placement king. It helps that Sony owns the movie studio that makes the movies that feature its products. That's the beauty of being vertically integrated.
Tom Hanks played a tweed-wearing professor in The Da Vinci Code, but a stylish Sony Ericsson phone or Sony Vaio laptop was never far from reach. Sony's other blockbuster, Mission Impossible III was also heavy on Sony gear, but that movie's product placements pale in comparison to the ultimate Sony advert of the year - the new Bond flick, Casino Royale. This is the mother lode for Sony. There are the numerous Sony Ericsson mobile phones - one particularly gratuitous shot shows a close-up of Bond's GPS-enabled phone guiding him along a coastal highway in the Bahamas. Like, a secret agent would need GPS on an island slightly bigger than Waiheke.
In another shot, Bond looks at security footage conveniently recorded to a Sony Blu-ray disc recorder. Later, Bond composes his resignation on a Sony Vaio while sitting on a boat in Venice, and the latest Bond girl innocently snaps away on a Sony Cybershot digital camera. I'm surprised Bond didn't take time out from his high-stakes poker game for a different type of gaming - on the Sony Playstation 3, a product the success or failure of which is most likely to determine Sony's future.
As we start using digital recorders to cut ads out of TV shows, we can expect more product placements on the small screen. The big question is: Will the computers in Shortland Street be Dell, Apple or HP?

Feedback from Jaycen:

Hey there,

I was just reading your article in the herald and applaud the fact that someone else notice's that Sony is more than obvious with their placements of their products in their movies.

I went to see Fun with Dick & Jane and really felt that I watched Fun with Dick & Jane & Sony. It was THE worst I have ever seen with reference to Product placement.

I had pretty much grown accustomed to seeing Nokia phones with the "Nokia Ringtone" and ipods etc in various films but Fun... was so far over the line I felt that I was watching an infomercial for Sony.

One case in point would be a full screen closeup on the Vaio logo slowly pulling away to reveal Tea Leoni tying away.

Another was right at the end when they set Alec Baldwin up which begins with a full screen close up of the Sony logo on the News Camera which pans away to reveal that there are people in the film too.
To be honest, I felt that subliminal messages would have suited better but the blatant branding was sickening. I went to buy a HDtv the other day and felt nauseous every time I saw the Sony logo on a tv, I think I'll buy Samsung.

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