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.

1965: the apex of the 007-Ford Motor relationship

Ford Motor Co. has had a long association with the James Bond film series, most recently with Quantum of Solace. But the Dearborn, Michigan-based automaker’s involvement with 007 probably peaked with Thunderball.

The company’s cars not only saturate Sean Connery’s fourth 007 outing, but the automaker’s CEO, Henry Ford II (1917-1987), worked as an extra and Ford had what has to rank as one of the most unusual movie promotions for Bond.

First, a sampling of Ford cars that appear in the movie. For the record, we are excluding the Aston Martin DB V. Ford didn’t buy U.K.-based Aston until 1987 and sold it off in 2007. This list is of Ford Motor offerings at the time of production and release.

— “Madam Bouvard” departs the funeral for “her” husband in a Lincoln Continental.

— SPECTRE No. 2 Emilo Largo arrives at the criminal organization’s Paris headquarters in a white Ford Thunderbird convertible. The two-door Tbird, while hardly Ford’s biggest car of the era, looks huge in the narrow Paris street.

— SPECTRE operative Count Lippe tools around in a Ford Fairlane while doing his part for the criminal group’s plan to hijack two NATO military aircraft. Lippe’s Fairlane meets an explosive end, courtesy of rockets from SPECTRE hitwoman Fiona Volpe’s motorcycle.

— Bond, nearly killed while inspecting Largo’s yacht underwater, swims ashore and ditches his wetsuit. He thinks he’s lucky when a baby blue Mustang pulls up. But it’s driven by Fiona (Luciana Paluzzi) and Bond isn’t sure whether he’s going to survive the drive as the SPECTRE hitwoman gets the Mustang up to 120 mph.

— Bond drives a light blue Lincoln Continental to Largo’s Palmyra estate for lunch. A rental car? Was Bond looking for more room after driving the Aston so much? Were Ford executives relieved to see Bond, and not the bad guys, driving one of their cars?

— Bond, after a pleasant interlude with Fiona, is captured by SPECTRE. They take him in a Ford station wagon until they hit congestion from the Junkanoo festival. The disruption gives Bond a chance to escape.

This wasn’t all of Ford’s involvement. The company produced A Child’s Guide to Blowing Up a Motor Car, in which a British chap takes his godson to watch the filming of a scene from Thunderball. The scene is where Fiona (actually a stutman subbing for Luciana Paluzzi) shoots rockets at Count Lippe’s Fairlane (here driven by stuntman Bob Simmons). The audience can view how special effects man John Stears (who’d win an Oscar for his efforts on Thunderball) prepares gasoline-soaked rags, which will be ignited to create the explosion and make it look like the handiwork of rockets. Unfortuantely, this gives the god son unfortunate ideas…

The Ford promo had gone unseen for decades until TWINE Entertainment’s The Thunderball Phenomenon was produced in 1995 as part of a special VHS issue of Thunderball and Goldfinger. The featurette remained as part of DVD issues but the entire Ford production is now part of two-disk Thunderball sets.