After 50 years and 23 movies, Heinie is finally chasing James Bond.
Heineken USA has signed a reported $45 million partnership agreement with Sony Pictures for the use of Heineken products in the November Bond film Skyfall. The agreement includes Daniel Craig appearing in commercials for the brand, lending his likeness to beer packaging, and reaching for a Heineken rather than his trademark “shaken, not stirred” cocktail. It’s the last change that purists, and fans, take issue with.
“James Bond Sells Out,” declares Roger Ebert, well-known film and television critic at the Chicago Tribune.
Even Craig has gone on record saying that the deal is, “unfortunate.” But, he also feels that the sheer cost of filming and promotion make it a necessity.
The thing is, this reaction is a bit baffling in the context of James Bond films and product placement. Omega wristwatches, Ericsson cellular phones, Aston Martins, BMWs, Pan Am flights, British Airways billboards, Perrier trucks, prominently displayed bottles of Red Stripe beer (a precedent!), and at least two brands of vodka, Smirnoff and Finlandia, have graced the 23 films of Bond.
In fact, the original Bond-martini connection was due entirely to Smirnoff’s paid product placement in the 1962 Bond film, Dr. No. For the record, that’s the first James Bond movie, and product placement was already influencing the character’s iconography.
This isn’t necessarily a trend that would make sense for every fictional character with a movie franchise. For instance, Sherlock Holmes shouldn’t give up his pipe in favor of Zig-Zag rolling papers. And, it isn’t really interesting to watch Bruce Wayne rub Turtle Wax onto the Batpod’s shiny finish. That said, there are probably some moviegoers who would like to see what brand of underwear Thor and the Black Widow are wearing in this summer’s The Avengers.
Regardless, James Bond has always been a franchise that made a home for product placement. So much so that the products in question became an almost integral part of the character. Getting upset about it now feels very disingenuous, even if it has become more blatant in recent years.
There are more interesting things to focus on in the entertainment industry, especially in movies. For example, bloated production budgets, and out of control promotional spending, combined with a lack of attention to quality scripting, create a Blockbuster-or-Bust mentality that isn’t good for either movies or movie goers. Maybe product placement, no matter how brazen, is less the issue than the problems to which it points.
Maybe fans should be concerned that it costs almost as much to promote a film even with the name recognition and star power of Skyfall as it does to make it.
Maybe all of us should wonder why, for instance, a movie based on a board game exists at all, let alone costs $200 million to make.
One thing is for sure, we should all hope that this latest installment of the Bond franchise makes a lot more sense than Quantum of Solace did, regardless of what Daniel Craig uses to wet his whistle.