A brief (incomplete) 007 product placement history

So, Bond 23 will have a record amount of product placement, according to the Sunday Times. Agent 007 isn’t exactly a virgin when it comes to the subject.

In Bond’s debut film adventure, you could see Smirnoff vodka and Red Stripe beer. Then again, Dr. No only had a $1 million budget and was modestly budgeted. The brand name referneces reflected what you’d see in a James Bond novel by Ian Fleming.

Things picked up with the third 007 film, Goldfinger. There were vehicles from Ford Motor Co. (Tilly’s Mustang, Felix Leiter’s Thunderbird, the Ford trucks in Goldfinger’s convoy going to Fort Knox and the Lincoln Continental where gangster Mr. Solo had his “pressing engagement”). Not to mention Gillette shaving products and Kentucky Fried Chicken, evidently Felix’s favorite fast food place while maintaining survellence on criminal masterminds. The film’s director, Guy Hamilton, had this to say to film historian Adrian Turner:

I used to get a little bit angry when Harry (Saltzman) used to come on the set. In the plane scene with Pussy Galore, when Bond haves, the whole thing was a Gillette exercise. You never saw anything like it. There was Gillette foam, Gillette aftershave…I said, ‘Harry what are you doing? It’s eight in the morning, the crew haven’t arrived and your’e dressing a set?’ He’d done a deal with Gillette and we were going to get sixpence to use their stuff.”
(Adrian Turner on Goldfinger, 1998, pages 158-59)

With Thunderball, Ford was even more out in force: Fiona Volpe’s Mustang, not one but two Lincoln Continentals and Count Lippe’s aging Ford Fairlane. Ford did a promotional film, “How to Blow Up a Motor Car,” and Henry Ford II, then the CEO of Ford had a cameo in the movie. For You Only Live Twice, Japanese financial titans had an impact, including television monitors by Sony and Aki’s Toyota (not orignally a convertible but it was transformed into one).

Ford was back in Oh Her Majesty’s Secret Service (Tracy’s Mercury Cougar) and Diamonds Are Forever (Tiffany Case’s Mustang that Bond drove to great effect). GM managed to get its Chevrolet division as the primary auto supplier for Live And Let Die but it appears only one type of model could be supplied. The Man With The Golden Gun had the only 007 appearance for American Motors (later absorbed by Chrysler).

Moonraker is remembered by some fans for excessive product placement. A long Rio sequence has multiple referneces to 7 Up, British Airways and Marlboro cigarettes (including the use of Elmer Bernstein’s theme for The Magnifcent Seven, which Marlboro would use for television commercials in the 1960s). United Artists initially hoped to make the movie for $20 million. The budget came in closer to $35 million, so it’s not much of a stretch to speculate the product placement was a way of finding alternative sources of funding.

Three Pierce Brosnan 007 films (GoldenEye, Tomorrow Never Dies and The World Is Not Enough) featured BMW cars.

But Ford once again entered the world of 007. For 2002’s Die Another Day. At that time, Ford had a collection of European luxury brands (including Aston Martin, a long-time 007 favorite), so DAD was a way to promote all of the brands, including a Land Rover SUV that took villain Gustav Graves to Buckingham Palace. Ford even managed to get in a couple of shots of its then-new Thunderbird two-seat car driven by U.S. agent Jinx (Halle Berry) to a big party given by Graves.

The Daniel Craig era has again seen Aston Martin make a splash and Omega watches even got mentioned in a dramatic scene between Bond and Vesper Lynd (Eva Green).

The Sunday Times reported that Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Sony, which are co-financiing Bond 23, want to generate $45 million, or about a third, of Bond 23’s production budget from product placement fees. We’ll see how it goes. The Bond 23 filmmakers will probably get the money. The question is how obvious the product placement will be.

5 Responses

  1. Wow, I had no idea that product placement in the Bond films went back to Goldfinger. I knew it had been going on for a while but always thought the early Bond films were untarnished.

    Certainly $45 M is much too high. I can’t remember how obvious the product placement was in Quantum of Solace (probably because I prefer not to remember it at all 🙂 ), but in Casino Royale it was sometime laughable. The Rolex/Omega conversation was awful and the way in which everything electronic had a Sony logo firmly featuring screen time was dreadful too.

  2. This whole subject of ‘should he or shouldn’t he?’ when it comes to product placement and James Bond has always fascinated me. For the record, I’m in favor of it. And, like anything else when it comes to professional movie-making, there are good and bad implementations.

    In an August 29, 2009, I wrote an entry to my personal blog titled, ‘Branding is inseparable from James Bond.’ Following is that piece, in its entirety:

    ‘The impetus for the James Bond branding content here is to address the too-widespread ignorance of the origins and fundamental value of brand references in James Bond stories.

    ‘Criticism can be dated back to the third Ian Fleming novel, Moonraker, published in 1955.

    ‘Rupert ‘Hart-Davis noted that a friend had told him that whenever Fleming mentioned any particular food, clothing or cigarettes in his books, he was rewarded with presents in kind,’ biographer Andrew Lycett reports in Ian Fleming: The Man Behind James Bond (1995). ”Ian’s are the only modern thrillers with built-in commercials,’ a friend remarked.’

    ‘But Lycett goes on to conclude: ‘In fact, there is no evidence of Ian seeking to capitalize on his ‘product placement.’

    ‘When Floris sent him some soaps as a thank-you for mentioning his company in Moonraker, Ian replied, ‘My books are spattered with branded products of one sort or another as I think it is stupid to invent bogus names for products which are household words, and you may be interested to know that this is the first time that a name-firm has had the kindly thought to acknowledge the published tribute.’

    ‘Author Kingsley Amis provided deeper analysis in his book, The James Bond Dossier: Is he in Hell or is he in Heaven – That damned, elusive 007?

    ‘In 1965, he wrote about ‘all those brand names that make the critics so cross. I thought of taking one volume, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, and listing all the names of things …; one reviewer said he had counted fifty-six such names.’

    ‘Again, to Fleming’s strategic purpose:

    ”To mention any given brand of car tells you quickly and in some detail about its driver. To name the brand at all helps to conceal the fantasizing, wish-fulfilling element….’

    ‘A failure to understand the unique, historical, and necessary role of branded product placements in James Bond stories is a failure to understand one of the key elements by which a character created in 1952 has enjoyed an uninterrupted continuity of success through today.

    ‘Kingsley Amis summarized it thus: Ian Fleming ‘names things to provide a linkage with reality, very desirable when the plot and much else is nonrealistic; to appeal where possible to our own experience; to act as shorthand in sketching character or milieu; and to encourage our sense of participation.”

    This latter point regarding ‘our sense of participation is particularly appropriate given so many discussions and interests in ‘living the James Bond lifestyle.’ Product placements serve and indulge this.

    Again, I suppose akin to how only Nixon could go to China, I’ll weigh-in here as I have elsewhere in saying that the bit of Casino Royale dialogue where Vesper supposedly confused Bond’s blue Omega Seamaster with any sort of Rolex watch model was not only bad, but also factually improbable (unless, of course Vesper knew little or nothing about watches).

    So, as you concluded in your original piece, the question for Bond 23 is (only) how obvious (forced) those product placements will be.

  3. […] Most interesting review, analysis of product placement history in James Bond films, thanks to The HMSS Weblog. LINK […]

  4. […] product-placement deals — and the Bond series is hardly a stranger to them — are a way to hedge bets. That’s especially true for Skyfall, where Sony is having […]

  5. […] to an article on the HMSS Weblog, Guy Hamilton was rather upset at Harry Saltzman showing up with a handful of Gillette’s […]

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