Top Hollywood classics get advertising makeover April 1, 2009Posted by Cal in : Articles, Humour , trackback
Advertising in film is something that has gone on almost as long as the media has existed. Product placement, or “embedded marketing” is now something that most viewers are familiar with, and most tolerate it as perhaps a necessary evil in today’s cinema.
However, in a move that is set to alter our viewing experience forever, on-screen advertising is about to get significantly more aggressive. In a move that will shock and outrage millions of film fans, classic films will be digitally altered, reshot or rescripted to feature advertising. What’s more, these new versions will replace the originals in theatres and home cinemas alike. Reports state that all in-movie advertising on home DVDs and Blu-ray discs will not be skippable. So far, only the largest companies have offered sufficient cash (rumoured to be in the region of tens of millions of US dollars) to the movie companies to feature their product, but if the practice takes off there could be no limit to the amount of advertising we see on screen.
Already altered forever are the classic movies Casablanca, Ben-Hur and The Godfather, with the promise of more to come. Casablanca will now feature, thanks to digital computer trickery, a scene where Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman eat in a McDonald’s restaurant. Furthermore, the setting will be recognisably modern (the McDonald company was in its infancy when Casablanca was shot) and in colour. “We carried out research,” said one McDonald’s executive, “amongst our key demographic of eight to eighteen year olds and discovered that most people enjoyed the updated version and found that they thought the black-and-white sections a big snooze”. However, McDonald’s insist the advertising is unobtrusive and “fun” and that a few years from now, most people will forget the original version – “like the theatrical versions of the first three Star Wars movies”.
Taking a slightly different approach is the Coca-Cola Company, who have shot new footage for Francis Ford Coppola’s 1972 movie The Godfather. Interspersed into the film will be an entirely new subplot involving the characters attempting, in vain, to extort protection money from a Coca-Cola manufacturing plant. New actors portray the characters including Don Vito Corleone (played by Marlon Brando in the original footage) but have been shot from behind, masking their faces. Voices have been provided by winners of a competition run by the Coca-Cola Company last year on the side of special promotional cans of their soft drink. The winners, selected by the company as having the best vocal resemblance to that of their original counterparts, are set to be immortalised forever in the controversial project.
More bizarrely is the decision of motor-car company Ford, who have paid an estimated $50,000,000 to advertise their Ford Focus car in legendary epic Ben-Hur. A new sequence has been filmed showing their car, with a CGI Charlton Heston behind the wheel, trouncing the opposition in a chariot race. The new scene takes the form of a dream sequence, ending in Judah Ben-Hur waking to proclaim in awe: “I’ll give you the keys to my Ford Focus when you pry them out of my cold, dead hands”. Heston passed away in 2008.
The new versions of these three movies are being rolled out on home video formats from today, with nothing marking them as different from previous editions. In addition, Hollywood films currently in production will feature more obvious forms of advertising within the scripts of their films, but it remains to be seen if this will be noticed by the general population.
This is only the tip of the iceberg. Movie makers are finding funding increasingly difficult, and even big companies are discovering that profits are dwindling. It’s no wonder the industry is taking such bold, controversial steps. When classic films are changed forever at the whim of a corporate giant, one has to ask: has cinema finally and irretrevably “sold out”? Is there any integrity left in the industry at any level?
This article is brought to you by Budweiser beer: when you say Budweiser, you’ve said it all.