A bottle of Magners Mr Bond?

An Aston Martin DB5 as seen in Goldfinger. Exp...

An Aston Martin DB5 as seen in Goldfinger. Expensive items are often part of a glamorous lifestyle. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The world has changed. Traditional business models which rely on advertising to keep them afloat have to evolve or die. When you could count the number of TV channels on Mickey Mouse’s left hand, it made sense for companies to pay lots of money to ply their goods over the airwaves. After all, you were guaranteed a decent share of viewers.

Nowadays, with satellite and cable TV, the audience is more fragmented. Not only that, but many households can now record their programs and watch them later, zipping past the adverts in the process. There are internet services available through which programs can be viewed on demand from most of the major channels. Companies like Netflix and Love Film carry a huge catalogue of advert free content available on demand. A growing number of people are not watching broadcast material at all.

To counter this, advertisers have turned to techniques like product placement. If you can persuade a film producer to feature your products, the viewer gets the subliminal message that he or she will be a bit more like the hero if they use a particular brand. I don’t have a problem with the technique per se, providing it’s subtly done and fits in with the overall film.

In the books, James Bond drove a Bentley. In the transition to screen, his steed of choice is an Aston Martin. I’m OK with that. I can understand that someone who likes Bentleys might also like Aston Martins. When I see him jump into a BMW, it stretches my belief. Would the quintessentially British spy really choose a Teutonic behemoth like a 7 series? When they turn Bond into a lager swilling Mondeo driver, something in my head says “hold on a minute…”

Today I learned that advertisers are experimenting with a new method of product placement. In post production, they digitally splice in the footage of the product they are trying to promote. Maybe they change an advertising hoarding in the background to reflect something suitable to the local audience or maybe they place a can of soft drink prominently on a table in the foreground. Because it is done after the fact, the film could be customised for different audiences.

I’m not sure I like this idea. It might mean that you never see the same film twice. The first time you watch the classic Ice Cold in Alex, you will see a very thirsty John Mills sink a Carlsberg. The next time you see it, he might be drinking a bottle of WKD Blue. Can we really trust the advertisers to splice in content that matches the film?