Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Advertising rant - Alex Cross style

I’m stunned that I forgot to mention the one big thing I kept thinking about after seeing Alex Cross.  Then I realized it bugged me enough, and is timely enough, that I could just turn it into a rant.  Basically large sections of the movie were a commercial for the Cadillac CTS.  Also featured were an old-timey Cadillac and a few Escalades but they were not quite as prominent as the CTS.  Full disclosure, I think the CTS is a good looking car.  It’s something I’d be interested in if featured on Top Gear.  It actually may have been featured but I am so far behind on Top Gear that I wouldn’t know. 

Matthew Fox’s character, aka the bad guy, in the movie drives a CTS. The first time we’re introduced to the bad guy, the camera is on the front, lower part of the car, and the shot is of the Cadillac emblem while the car speeds to its destination.  Later in the movie the camera is in the back seat and is focused on Fox playing with the stereo as he exits a car park.

I just Googled “Cadillac CTS Alex Cross” and there are just under 30,000 articles right now so I’m not alone in noticing this.  In fact you should probably just go read one of those because they’re probably written much better.  If you’re still with me then let’s talk a bit about advertising in media.

I’m sure we’re all aware of product placement.  Studios actually employ people who ensure certain products are in frame in movies and television shows.  Wayne’s World 2 did a funny spoof on product placement and that was back in 1992.  GAH!  1992!  That was 20 years ago.  I’m so old!  Hold on while I cry softly and rock back and forth in a corner.

Ok, where was I?  Yes, product placement has been a thing for a long time.  There’s a cool youtube video chronicling this very thing:

 The recent surge in television equipment like the TiVo and DVR has advertisers quaking in their loafers.  The folks who keep track of TV viewing don’t count the number of people watching shows on DVRs because advertisers don’t count them.  However these advertisers have now injected commercials into the scripts of the show.  One of my favorite summer shows, The Glades, is incredibly guilty of it.  Characters would go on and on about all the features of the car that was being shoved down our throats.  Guess what?  I can’t even remember what kind of car it was.  I think it was a Hyundai but maybe not.  Because so many of us don’t sit down to watch a TV show live, commercials and all, the advertisers have to adjust how they get their message out to the masses.  My thinking is that if we’re being sold a product during a show, then those DVR numbers should totally count.  They advertise before, during and after shows on the internet.  Heck, youtube is getting ugly with ads now too. 

Maybe this is why I find shows like Copper and Downton Abbey so refreshing.  There’s not a lot of advertising that can be done in period dramas.  At least Mad Men is about advertising. I expect it there but they handle it in such a great way that I don’t even notice when I’m being worked over for a product. 

I understand that without advertising we wouldn’t have any television programming at all.  I just resent when writers and actors have to resort to writing and reciting dialogue that has nothing to do with the plot of the show.  “Wait ‘til you see how awesome this navigation system is in this brand new Hyundai I bought.  I’m sure it’ll help us catch the bad guy and get him to confess to everything.  If he was smart he’d ask for a lawyer and OnStar would be able to find one.”

Ads have been in movies for a while and that’s not going to change.  But again, I resent the obviousness associated with Alex Cross.  My fear is that it’s just going to get worse and worse.

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