This blog post does not have any sponsor – yet
Recently I wrote a post about product placement and how it irks me if it’s too obvious. I illustrated it with a screenshot from The Greatest Movie Ever Sold, so I reckon people just assumed that I had watched it and become inspired. I hadn’t. I just stole the picture.
But as it happened, it turned out that the documentary had been broadcasted on Swedish television only a few days earlier and it was available to watch for free on the public television’s website for a few more days.
Such a coincidence couldn’t be neglected, especially since I’m professionally as well as privately interested in marketing (while also a bit appalled by it). So I watched it, and good for me I did.
More than making fun
This is exactly the kind of documentary I fall for, with a delicious mix of intelligence and humor. I was properly entertained, but it was more than just someone making fun of the product placement phenomena. Seeds were sown and I’ll never watch movie advertising the same way again.
I’ve always known it was present of course and I complained about that it sometimes is just too obvious in my blog post. But I didn’t see the full extent of it, how big the business has grown with companies specialized in finding suitable partnerships. I didn’t see what influence the sponsors may have through the contracts that are written; I didn’t realize how brands and movies go into long-term partnerships, boosting each other for mutual winning. Not until now, after this hands-on-lesson where Morgan Spurlock gives us access to places, people and conversations I never imagined existed.
The concept of the film sounds a little bit nutty. Spurlock decided to go not just make a film about product placement: he also financed it with product placement. We see him chasing for sponsors, which is a little bit hard to begin with. But lo and behold, finally a juice sponsor turns up. And woops – from that moment and onwards, all other drinks are blurred out from the screen.
A balance act
It’s a tricky balance act. On one hand you contracts with sponsors, which Spurlock needs to honor. He can’t afford putting them in a bad light. On the other hand; this is a documentary, and in that genre credibility is essential. Documentary makers aren’t necessarily journalists, bound to follow a professional code of conduct. But they’re damned close. Spurlock has his own brand to think of here. If we start thinking of this film as too much of a sell-out, his credentials will fall and we’re less likely to be interested in what he has to say in his future.
Does he pull it off? Yes, absolutely. I didn’t feel as if I had been tricked into liking the product placed companies, but I don’t think they have anything to complain about either. They got good exposure for their investment.
What also makes me love this film is that he never goes preachy. Spurlock doesn’t require anyone to hate or to love the product placement. What he does is to make us more aware of it, while giving us quite a few laughs at the same time.
I’ve never watched any other of his documentaries, but after this first encounter I’m definitely up for more.
The Greatest Movie Ever Sold (Morgan Spurlock, US, 2011) My rating: 4/5