Sunday, November 28, 2010

127 Hours of Product Placement

Consider this.

I go to see a movie about Aron Ralston, a hiker who has an accident so bad that he nearly doesn't survive.

The movie portrays his accident vividly, gruesomely, and in every physical detail.

Yet what do I notice equally as much as his plight?

That he is starving with thirst (see bluish, cracked lips in the photo) - and thinking about a Gatorade, orange flavor.

Distracted from the plot, I think to myself, how much did Gatorade pay to get their product placed into this movie so obviously? (In the film, hiker Aron Ralston dreams about a bottle of Gatorade, placed on its side, the orange liquid sloshing up and down. Inviting him to drink.)

Gatorade is made by Pepsi. But Pepsi doesn't dominate the movie. Coca-Cola is there too. So is Scooby-Doo.

In fact there are so many product placements, but they're so well-done, that I can't tell whether the hiker is really obsessed with brands, and the movie documents this, or whether the movie was somehow compromised to enable the placements.

I couldn't even remember all the placements in the movie so I had to look them up:

"Gatorade makes a prominent appearance, and when his water runs low, Aron fantasizes about cold drinks -- and viewers see actual TV ads for Sunkist, Coke, and Perrier. Mountain Dew and Scooby-Doo are also mentioned."

Ralston, in fact, is very into brands. He actually speaks to the audience, to tell us not to buy the (I'm paraphrasing) "generic brand of Swiss Army Knife that comes with the cheap flashlight."

Being a brand-conscious person, it is perhaps not surprising that Ralston is very conscious of himself at all times. He doesn't just hike...but rather he videotapes himself hiking. And photographs himself. Much of the movie is about this need to document every moment of his life.

It's interesting how, 5 or 10 years ago, his behavior would have seemed odd or strange to the average person. Today, it's 100% normal.

Brands have changed us in a significant way. We have gone from living life directly, to experiencing life in terms of how it will look later on, both to ourselves and to others.

We have learned the lesson that we are all brands...but has the lesson gone too far?

As a hiker who is so aware of the physical world, who seems to literally see and smell and taste things more vividly than everybody else, Ralston seems like the exact opposite of someone who would be carried away by image. And yet he is.

127 Hours is a great movie by the way, I highly recommend it. Despite all this talk about branding stuff, I was deeply moved.