“It’s a nightmare! Every brand wants a Barbie.” Recently, I heard someone express their frustration about the latest trend in product placement. Instead of discreetly placing a Coca-Cola bottle in a kitchen scene, entire biopics about famous products are now being made. We have movies about things like chips, candy, and even Tamagotchi creatures, each with an amazing origin story and uplifting message.
In these increasingly popular audiovisual trifles, the product is the message. The stories behind popular brands like Flamin’ Hot Cheetos, Barbie, Tetris, and Air Jordans have opened up new advertising avenues for everyone to explore. Luxury brands have recently embraced a new form of marketing called fashion films, where the characters simply showcase the current season’s collection. However, this new film genre goes far beyond Carla Simón’s nostalgic portrayal of her mother in the brand film series, Miu Miu Women’s Tales. It’s about bringing a product to life in an epic way.
Flamin’ Hot, the entertaining film directed by Eva Longoria, tells the inspiring story of Richard Montañez, a Mexican immigrant who escaped gang life to become a janitor turned manager and innovator. Montañez’s idea to infuse the “flavor of our community” into a bag of cheese snacks led to remarkable success. The film was even screened at the White House for the Bidens. Longoria attended wearing a bright orange outfit — the color of Cheetos, of course.
Tetris explores the creation of the famous video game by Russian computer scientist Alexey Pajitnov. The film also delves into Dutch video game designer Henk Rogers’ battle to license the product. Similar to Flamin’ Hot, it recounts Rogers’ quest for a game-changing business breakthrough that would turn his life around. It’s an entertaining story with a strong pro-capitalism message.
I’m curious about BlackBerry, the origin story of the world’s first smartphone. But while I ponder whether I should move to a deserted island rather than face an awards season with Barbie, I must say the best product film I’ve seen is Air, directed by Ben Affleck. It’s about the contract negotiations that preceded Michael Jordan’s game-changing sneaker brand, starring Matt Damon playing Sonny Vaccaro, an ordinary guy who really knows basketball. But even the best movie in this new genre is disheartening — commercials have gone from interrupting movies to becoming movies in their own right.
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