Morgan Spurlock, famous for Super Size Me, explores product placement and advertising inside the context of a documentary. The whole movie is about the process of making a movie and securing advertising partners and brands to sponsor the movie.
The New York Times says it best in this review of the film:
Like “Super Size Me” his new film is a documentary comedy in the Michael Moore mode but without a political or moral agenda. Mr. Spurlock has Mr. Moore’s prankster’s instincts, though not his sense of outrage. Exploring product placement in movies and on television, the documentary is as much celebration as it is a critique of what is called co-promotion, in which movies like “Spider-Man 2” are infiltrated with images of brand-name products that pay for the exposure. If “The Greatest Movie Ever Sold” affects the attitude of an exposé, Mr. Spurlock is really a gleeful participant in the corruption (if that’s what you want to call it) that his movie purports to criticize.Instead of being apart from it, Spurlock is entirely inside of it, critiquing the way in which we advertise to the masses, while lining up his next sponsor. The tagline of the movie is, after all, "He's not selling out; he's buying in."
I think what's interesting about this film is the amount of transparency Spurlock got from his sponsors. Many of them agreed to be filmed, were pretty clear about what they wanted out of the film, and what their budget and agenda for it was. I wonder how much of this has to do with who is in on the joke and who isn't?
I mean, we all know that companies do heavy product placement because affinity with a popular character or show sells their product. Multiple impressions equals greater awareness and bigger profits is the rationale. But for companies to show us that they know that we know, and be open about their sponsorship, marketing, and advertising processes is a pretty fresh take. If you look at the main sponsors of the film, it's largely design-conscious, young, modern brands. POM, a purveyor of trendy pomegranate juice is the main sponsor, followed by JetBlue, Merrell Shoes, Amy's, Mini Cooper, and Seventh Generation. There are more, but this is clearly a film with a cool factor—the title song was written by Ok Go, a band revered for its cheerful innovation and indie sensibility. I wrote about their collaboration with brands last year.
I think we'll be seeing more transparency from brands in the future. At least, I hope so. The brands that didn't sign on to the project I found off-putting. There's so much protection surrounding brand image, that you have to wonder what they're hiding.
In the meantime, I'll be waiting for Mr. Spurlock's next release.