Monday, May 13, 2013

Googling "The Internship" or How to write, finance and location scout a screenplay through product placement.

Ask a gambler to put ten thousand on red and there's going to be some hesitation. Ask him to put your ten thousand on red and there won't be a moment's delay.

If you could have inscribed the casino chips with your own personal logo, you've just gotten a pretty good picture of what product placement looks like. And if the other people gathered around the table just happen to be your target demographic, well, the motivation to risk ten grand becomes obvious.

Hopefully everyone at the table will walk away remembering your logo. But should red come up and a pile of chips gets pushed your way, drawing envious stares at the stack crowned with your logo - the surest bet in the casino is that not only will everyone remember your logo - they'll be talking about it all night.

Enter product placement gambling - on the movies. As old as Hollywood and running the gamut from subtle clever tie-ins to in your face, club over the head snake oil pitches. But though there have been masters of the art form (the James Bond franchise leaps to mind), there's a new player in town and he's looking to break the product placement bank - by building his whole movie on one.

Let me hold the title for a moment and let the poster do the talking. Guess who has an interest in this new movie being successful...

Did you see it? I know it's subtle, but there's a company name hidden in this poster. Go ahead, take a few minutes and study the graphics. Particularly the eyes of the actors.

Did you find it. Were your eyes open? Hello? OK, so honest - how many of you held a mirror up to your screen to see what's written in the search box? (Yes. I did.) In case your curious (yes, I was), It says "jobs for people with few skills". That phrase gets 205 million results in .31 seconds. So far the marketing is working.

Director Shawn Levy did a pretty good job of building movies from existing products when he convinced every kid and kid-at-heart that their lifelong fantasy of getting trapped over night in a place like New York's Museum of Natural History (2006, Twentieth Century Fox' Night at the Museum) would be a total blast. Soon every educational museum in the country was working to develop sleep over events for school kids. Levy did it again in 2009 with Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian. This time the museum even got their name in the title (and lots of screen time for their gift shop).

So much for museums and altruistic camouflaging of some clever marketing partners, this time out Levy's just put it out there. Google is the idea, the set and the main gag line of The Internship. Period. And they put their logo on the poster to prove it. Movies cost money to make. Get over yourselves.

I can't argue that. And I have no idea as to the deal worked out between The Internship's producers, studio and Google. But I also have no idea if this will work. Shawn Levy's track record is bright (yes, there's another night in a museum planned for future release), so hopes can be held relatively high that Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn stumbling around like Bud Abbott and Lou Costello in the Top Gun school of young hotshot tech geeks might be funny. But will all of the shameless Google plugs, logos, sets and search jokes ad nauseam kill the fun? If you use Apple's iOS instead of Android or use Yahoo search, will you be rooting against this movie?

To top things off, the trailer below is presented through the curtesy of Google's  "Google play" YouTube channel. Yes, YouTube is owned by... Google.

The Internship hits theaters (and Google's employee auditorium) on June 7th. Which means you can Google the box-office results for opening weekend sometime on the morning of June 10th to find out. 

I counted the Google logo popping into frame 14 times in this 2minute and 32 second trailer. If you go see the movie and do a "Google count", please drop us a comment.

All of this got us to thinking that the U.S. government could do with grabbing a piece of this action. What might Washington DC look like with a little product placement branding? To take a look, click over to SparxLab's sister blog Satire is Reason and take a look: "You say you need to increase government revenue? I say Google it."

Promotional materials and trailer from 20th Century Fox Film Corp and, yes, Google. 


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