On 22nd February Brand Channel announced their annual Brandcameo Product Placement Award Winners. There was an interesting brand among the winners: Toyota Prius. It got the award for the Best Role in a Supporting Product Placement. Prius was placed in several popular movies in 2010 e.g. The Other Guys, The Kids are All Right, Repo Man, Wall Street 2 and The Next Three Days. However, Prius was often just a »supporting character« (as they labelled it at Brand Channel) and more or less a go-to punching bag for a quick laugh.
Below you can see a perfect example of otherwise great product placement from the movie The Other Guys (in terms of exposure). However the car was mocked constantly and I wouldn’t be satisfied if I’d be a Toyota Prius owner.
*** Possible spoilers! ***
I've recently watched The Next Three Days, a crime/drama/romance/thriller (according to IMDB) with Russell Crowe and Elizabeth Banks. Lara Brennan (Banks) is accused of murdering her boss after an argument at work. When her college professor husband John (Crowe) realizes that she’ll be in jail for many years, he becomes obsessed with the idea of breaking her out.
John is a quiet, methodical family man who drives Toyota Prius. The car can be seen in several ‘neutral’ scenes, but also in some ‘problematic’ ones, e.g. when John tries to get fake ids and when he robs a meth lab and gets in the gunfight with the drug dealers.
John’s Prius wasn't the only Toyota’s car placement in the movie – his brother drove some Toyota SUV. However, there was an interesting twist that occured some 1
0, maybe 15 minutes before the end of the movie. When John began the escape he drove his Prius, but then after a while changed it for something else: Chevrolet Traverse. I expected another Toyota, not Chevy!? In my opinion it would be perfectly normal to stick with Toyota to the end!
According to the aforementioned article on Brand Channel Toyota is “moderately active in attempting to get the Prius into films.” I know it’s the early stage of their project, but there was a conversation in The Next Three Days that included the lines:
Person 1: What kind of criminal drives a Prius?
Person 2: A socially responsible one. There's over 1,000 registered in the city, 7,000 in the state.
Person 1: How many are registered to felons?
Person 2: Six in the state. Four to embezzlers, white-collar criminals, one to a rapist, one to a murderer.
It’s nice to be in the movies, especially in the very successful ones. But on the other hand it’s a shame that some character describes your brand as “a tampon on wheels” and driving experience as “like driving around in a vagina.” (Both quotes are from the movie The Other Guys) That’s funny, but come on, this isn’t a high-school stage play, we’re talking several billion dollar car business here. The article on Brand Channel also suggests that Toyota didn’t pay for the placement in The Other Guys. I expected that, but if your brand is turning into a joke, then you must do something. Even if Toyota doesn’t like doing product placement in the movies, they must do it. Fast. Because they have to prevent being labelled in movies as “driving in a vagina”. No car owner wants to hear that!
You can see more examples of Toyota Prius product placement on my Flickr page