Joe’s Blog

Buy Another Day – Bond Product Placement Part 2

October 26, 2012 12:03 pm

After six years off the big screen, Bond returned in 1995, with a new face. For once the producers employed an actor who actually fulfilled the character as written by Fleming: a smug, self-satisfied, arrogant bastard. Who better to embody these qualities than a man most-famous for portraying a useless spy on TV, and a variety of even more useless spies in a series of god-awful TV movies with titles like Death Train and Detonator? Yes, Pierce Brosnan finally took on, what he believed to be, his god given right to don the famous tux and kill some Russians.

With the series off-screen for so long, the producers were, justifiably, worried that public may not exactly welcome his return with open arms. So to hedge their bets a bit they decided to let product placement carry the burden for over half the budget. Smart move, even if it led to some frankly embarrassing moments in the film.

Goldeneye (1995)

The watch, of course, was a given. Sadly, the Bond-saving gadget this time was a laser, an idea already used over a decade before in the rogue Bond movie Never Say Never Again.

The Omega Seamaster would become Bond’s watch of choice from here on in.

Also on display was vast swathes of IBM computers, mainly in boxes, the ludicrous sight of Robbie Coltrane not quite placing a bottle of Smirnoff correctly on a table to see the label, and twisting the bottle round, Parker Pens and finally discovering where megalomaniacs acquire all their techno-kit from.

Need a giant screen for your satellite death-ray targeting system? Give Pioneer a call!

But the big one this time around saw the return of the gadget-laden Bond car: Sean had the Aston Martin, Roger had the Lotus, Pierce had the.. um… BMW? The media were not exactly thrilled with this turn of events, and descended into their best xenophobic rhetoric to condemn Bond as a traitor for abandoning British cars in favour of a foreign make. And a German one at that!

And it wasn’t exactly gadget-laden either. Oh, we were TOLD it was gadget-laden, and Bond warns Joe Don Baker not to touch any buttons (ho-ho), but we never actually see it in action. We get a glimpse in Q’s workshop (cue ads for BT, British Airways, IBM and Parker), and then we get a clunky advert for the thing two-thirds of the way through the film, as Bond drives it through a lovely bit of Caribbean landscape. No car chase, no rockets, nothing.

This was because the deal was done with BMW, but the car wasn’t ready. So the sponsor was now dictating script changes to the producers!

Even so, BMW would have a much bigger impact in the next film, featuring not one, but TWO huge sequences designed to show off their wares.

Tomorrow Never Dies (1997)

The dullest, if not the worst, of Brosnan’s tenure returned product placement to the delirious lows of Moonraker. This time around he would have a new toy though. Just as the 60’s had brought the sight of Bond fiddling with a wrist watch, the 90’s would give Bond his next ubiquitous (and highly sought by marketeers) gizmo: the mobile phone. And like most of the important things in Bond’s life he was whipping it out at every available opportunity. Christ, he even gets it out when he’s having sex!

You may think your iPhone is bleeding edge, but this chunky, pre-Sony, Ericsson would easily have it in a fight. If only because it’s so bloody huge. And apps? Pah, where we’re going we don’t need apps. What we need is a fingerprint scanner, a spikey looking laser, disabling thing and the remote control for Bond’s new car. And what beauty did BMW furnish Bond with this time?

What the hell is that!!?

At the time of the film’s release, that legend of journalism Jeremy Clarkson had a few things to say about this “beautiful new car” (as Q describes it, whilst dressed as an AVIS car rental rep for no reason other than AVIS paid a large sum of money). Clarkson knows a thing or two about Bond cars, and is the owner of the Aston that Brosnan drove at the start of Goldeneye, so I think his opinion is relevent.

“It’s the car of choice for German cement salesmen… The only extraordinary thing about it is that Bond would choose to drive it.”

Wise words. To be fair, it does provide us with a cracking car chase through a multi-storey car park (Brent Cross shopping centre, fact fans!), whilst Bond controls it with the phone from the back seat. Though one wonders who came up with the idea of the BMW badge featuring so prominently in the chase, and actually housing a gadget (a cable cutter, one of those gadgets that only serves one purpose, and luckily is exactly what Bond needs to get out of a scrape).

The BMW badge features heavily later in the film too, as he and his latest shag run away from the bad guys. But how to escape? “Car, get a car!” shouts Wai Lin. “No, bike, bike, bike. It’s quicker!” sells Brosnan. Luckily there’s a row of lovely motorbikes in a row in front of them. They check for keys. Who’d be stupid enough to leave their keys in a shiny new motorbike? That’s right, the BMW owner…

Yeah, we’ll have our new motorbike in a Bond movie, and give the impression that all our customers are absent-minded morons who leave their keys lying about. Well done, BMW.

Finally, I don’t know what kind of bonus Brosnan was on from Omega, but he really goes above and beyond to flog the watches this time. Even when he’s having the shit kicked out of him by a henchman who has taken his boss’ death personally (I never understood this in Bond movies), he still manages to the plug in.

The World is Not Enough (1999)

The product placement in The World is Not Enough was a bit more subtle than the previous Brosnan adventures. He still flashes the damn watch every chance he gets, but at least this time you’re not having brand names paraded in front of shots.

oh… well at least Brosnan isn’t shoving desirable gadgets in your face.

Seriously, Motorola? When the world and his dog was taking the humble mobile phone to its heart, you thought there was still a market among Bond fans for walkie-talkies? They were actually flogging these in Currys with the slogan “as featured in the new Bond movie”!

However, you may not know that Calvin Klein supplied the glasses that Bond wears in the pre-credits, and the X-Ray specs he later adopts for no good reason. Like I said, it was a bit more subtle this time.

The producers once again supply BMW with a fine advert for their new car, but the relationship seems to have soured a tad as this time (despite the badge on the steering wheel providing Bond with his missile controller) the car proves next to useless and gets royally done over by a buzz-saw wielding helicopter.

Die Another Day (2001)

This useless piece of crap warrants no more attention on my blog than that I’ve already given it.

I’ll just mention that the $70 odd million the producers acquired from desperate¬†companies was then a record for one film. The guilty parties included the usual suspects of Omega, British Airways and Aston Martin (or strictly speaking, Ford, as they now owned the company, along with Jaguar, which also featured), but also Tiffanys, Pringle sweaters (!), Heineken (well, well, well), Swarovski and Armani.

Bond makes another error of judgement that upset the tabloids, by drinking Finlandia, instead of Smirnoff vodka (you’d think they would be pleased he wasn’t funding the Russian economy).

The least said about this tatty old dross the better, so here’s a picture of Rosamund Pike.

Casino Royale (2006)

Daniel Craig’s debut may have been a back-to-basics attempt to drag the series kicking and screaming back down to earth, but in terms of selling products it was pretty much business as usual. But with a twist.

In the intervening years between Die Another Day and Casino Royale, the studio to which the movies had always been tied, MGM/UA, found itself in dire straights. It was eventually rescued (ie bought) by the mammoth Sony Corporation, who already owned Columbia Pictures as their film division.

Whilst the Bond producers still operated pretty much as independent producers within the system (in the same way as George Lucas did for the Star Wars films at Fox) it did mean a certain leeway had to made in terms of which products could be promoted by the films. Or rather those that couldn’t.

What this Sony meant was that if Bond Sony is seen using a mobile phone, it must be a Sony phone.

If Bond Sony is fiddling Sony on a laptop Sony it Sony must be a Sony laptop…

There were minor exceptions. Namely, the bad guys most definitely did NOT use Sony products. When Bond steals the phone of the scabby, crane jumping, parkour-loving bomber, his phone looks like a 10 year out of date Nokia, with the name scratched off. Because that’s what bad guys use. They wouldn’t dream of having the latest technology to stay ahead of the secret services around the world who may be tracking them. Nah, this thing’s alright. I can make calls, send texts. What else do I need, guv?

As you can see, the bloody watch is back. And this time Omega even get their name mentioned onscreen! Positively shocking.

The film also features perhaps the most obvious car advert in the series, as Bond cruises around the Bahamas in a natty little Ford Mondeo (yep, we’re back in cement salesman territory), whilst fiddling with his bloody Sony mobile phone.

Honestly, he spends so much time playing with the phone, they should have just put a gun in it and be done. Bond may have finally found something he loves more than himself.

The controversial offender this time was another of those “Bond abandons a true friend’ deals, as he brushed off British Airways, and went with brash, bold Virgin Atlantic. Part of the deal was that shameless self-promoter, and walking beard, Richard Branson went and snagged himself a cameo in the film.

It may be a ‘blink and you’ll miss it’ moment, but once you’ve seen it, you can’t unsee it on future viewings, and completely ruins a pretty tense scene. It also led to BA removing the offending frames from all versions of the film shown on its planes. Oooh, handbags.

Quantum of Solace (2008)

Things continued in the same vein for Kumquat of Slice of Cake, with Ford and Sony the most prominent again. Omega watches went one better this time, though, getting their product on the bloody poster!

I hope Craig has the same bonus structure in his contract as the boy Brosnan.

Skyfall (2012)

And that brings us bang up to date, and where we came in.

So, were the stories true? Does Bond really swap sipping vodka martinis for quaffing pints of Euro-piss, cooking lager, as EVERY news story said he would.


Someone drinks a beer. It’s a little incongruous, but given what the character has been through, at that point a beer seems like, um, small beer. It certainly doesn’t ruin a scene like Branson’s beard, a series of billboards or having a walkie-talkie shoved in your face.

(EDIT: On second viewing, I must admit I made a mistake. Bond does drink a beer. He also drinks whiskey, brandy and tequila, so it’s a bit much to criticise him for having a beer. It should be noted, he quite clearly covers the label of the bottle so you can’t see it clearly, and the scene is clearly not compromised by the bottle’s presence or I would have noticed it first time around.)

But it does generate copy for news media desperate for punters to read THEIR Bond stories, rather than anyone elses. Just like I’m doing now.

It’s easy to forget that when the news media criticise Bond, as they always do, for selling out and taking the corporate shilling in order to provide the most popular film series in the world, that they also benefit. Film magazine editors will find any reason to put Bond on the cover because they know there’s enough mugs like me who will buy it for that very reason. And the newspapers know this too. A Bond story (even better, a Bond exclusive) will generate reams of copy of that there interweb as fans ponder the possibility of Benedict Cumberbatch being the next villain, or whether Sam Mendes really did say “I loved it, but never again”. Why do you think every single TV channel has some kind of Bond special whenever a new film comes around?

It’s the kind of love/ hate relationship that the media has with football too. They criticise clubs and players for being greedy, selling out the fans to corporate sponsers. But when saturday comes around, or the bi-annual bunfight that is the transfer window, suddenly football is the greatest thing in the world, because it fills columns, shifts units, gets web hits.

Bond is a commodity, and has been ever since Sean Connery sparked up his first Morland in 1962. It’s a business. And if the background deals that help the business to keep on churning sometimes impinge on the ¬†final product, it’s hardly the end of the world is it?

If anything they are simply continuing what Fleming did in the books. Bond, as a character, has a certain lifestyle which readers (and latterly viewers) want to aspire to. If the producers suddenly decided to have a scene where Bond fills his car with shopping from Tesco, or actually swaps his cocktail for a pint of mild, we may have to talk again. But until that day, I’m quite happy for the films to try and sell me stuff I can’t afford.

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