The Chinese Art Of Product Placement: Look Who's In New Transformers Blockbuster
The market is suddenly booming for getting cameos in blockbuster movies for everything from Chinese computers to clothes to milk. Just make sure the movie isn’t made in China.
Levono's computers, Metersbonwe's clothes, Yili's milk and TCL televisions all take supporting roles in the new Transformers: Dark of the Moon film from Paramount. Metersbonwe already showed up in the last Transformers, but it's a first for the other three brands.Apart from being a Hollywood blockbuster, Transformers is a major product placement hit. It's said that as many as 68 brands were placed in the film which has brought in $400 million for the film's investors. It also represents a transformable Christmas must-have from HasbroToys.
It is too early to predict Chinese spectators' reaction to product placement in a Hollywood film. Generally, Chinese people hate advertising placed in shows or films, which is at its peak in the Spring Festival evening TV show or in Chinese film super-productions. The comedian Zhou Libo quipped: "I strongly protest against the Spring Festival's spots in the advertising slots!"
Nevertheless, the Chinese distaste of advertising placement isn't such an issue when it comes to foreign films. The number of advertisements in the Transformers series is enormous, and Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen still managed to break the box-office record held by Titanic for 12 years. It was in this film that for the first time a Chinese brand was placed, Metersbonwegarments. Not only do Chinese spectators not complain about such ads, they are in fact quite pleased to see a Chinese brand landing in Hollywood - and the Metersbonwe clip from Transformers went viral as a video highlight on the Internet.
Although the "West-worshipping" factor does partly explain why Chinese react differently to placements in a Chinese or foreign films, the film's production quality is still the most important reason. In reality, it's in classics, like Forrest Gump where Gump's favorite drink is Dr. Pepper, that ads are both the most obvious and most well-done. In Hollywood, the most famous film director, Steven Spielberg, is also the most daring in product placement marketing.
Through the experiment of Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, advertising agencies in both the U.S. and China found that China is the best market for product placement. The biggest Hollywood agency in this field, NMA, immediately set up a branch in Beijing. The "hot ad money" now runs from China to the U.S.
Though China and the U.S. have become important trade partners, cooperation and interaction in the film industry is rare. According to The Washington Post, Hollywood openly welcomes outsiders' investment, whereas job opportunites are generally closed. There are fewer Chinese in Hollywood than on Wall Street. Liu Siru was one of the few who made it. She conceived the marketing campaigns for the Chinese brands in the last two Transformers hits, and had previously worked for Columbia Pictures and NMA's Chinese office before launching her own company, Filmworks. Through her match-making, the Transformer robot became Levono's ThinkPad and Josh Duhamel drinks Shuhua milk in the film.
Last year, in Wall Street 2, Zhang Xin, the CEO of SOHO China, a big real estate group, appeared as a big foreign investor who Wall Street tries to fawn over.
There are in fact certain risks that Chinese brands have to take if they want to market themselves in Hollywood films - mainly censorship in China. Even if the examination procedure has gone through and the film can be shown in China, there could be other factors affecting the film's release. For instance, the Chinese film, Beginning of the Great Revival, promoted by the Communist Party of China, will be shown before Transformers 3, which has been pushed back to late July. And it could get worse. Gao Jun, the Deputy General of the China Film Group originally claimed that if Beginning of the Great Revival didn't pull in 800 millions RMB, Transformers 3 would not be distributed at all.
Read the original story in Chinese
photo - DoktorSpinn