Last week SKYY Spirits announced that SKYY vodka will be again named the official vodka for the movie Sex and the City 2. The company will also offer limited edition bottles designed by Patricia Field, the movie’s costume designer. Additionally the company will be using advertising, sweepstakes and organize advance screenings.

So on Friday, May 28 all showbiz media will follow the premiere of the Sex and The City 2 and new adventures of the New York’s Fab Four.

I have to admit that I haven’t watched the first movie – not until last Sunday. In fact a few years ago I saw some episodes of the TV show and I’m familiar with the girls’ stories, but I’m not a fan. I guess I’m not a member of the right target group. In my opinion the movie is quite boring – my favourite movie critic James Berardinelli gave it 2 stars out of 4 and the most famous Slovenian critic Marcel Štefančič jr. gave it 2 out of 5.

There were countless brands involved in the TV show, among them were shoes designed by Manolo Blahnik and Apple computer on which Carrie wrote her columns. The same trend continued in the movie. Some New Line Cinema exec explained that SATC is the “Super Bowl for women”. The studio got seven official promotional partners: the aforementioned Skyy Vodka, Bag Borrow or Steal, Coty fragrances, Glaceau VitaminWater, Mercedes-Benz, Swarovski, and Bacardi Silver. All of these partners were somehow included in the story and they used the movie in their own ads.

Vanity Fair spotted 67 brands that were seen on the screen or were mentioned in the movie. BrandChannel was even more thorough – they counted 94 placements. It’s fair to say that SATC is a prime example of “product placement prostitution” (that’s what I call it though). This happens when corporate money directs the movie.

But John Melfi, an executive producer of the series who was also a producer of the film, said that they include all those brands, “to establish the reality of the world the characters lived in. It’s not sticking a bowl of cereal or a Coca-Cola in front of the camera it’s organic to the lives of the ladies.” Yeah right.

In my opinion the majority of those placements were not as efficient as they could be, but I have to admit that making placement effective in that kind of movie is hard to do, considering the number of brands involved. There’s no point in describing all of them (you can see more examples of product placement in SATC here), but let me write some words about couple of them.

The funny placement had occurred when everyone was gathered at the wedding and was anxiously waiting for Mr. Big’s arrival. Carrie had asked for a mobile phone and when she got Samantha’s iPhone, she just nervously replied “All right, I don’t know how to work this.”

iPhone in the movie Sex and the City (2008, New Line Cinema, screen capture)

The “I want to buy this product” effect happened in Carrie’s apartment when she gave her assistant Louise a Christmas present. It was a Louis Vuitton Motard Firebird bag.

Louise: Oh, my God. My very own Louis Vuitton?

Carrie (off voice): It was the best money I’d ever spent.

Louis Vuitton in the movie Sex and the City (2008, New Line Cinema, screen capture)

Back to Skyy vodka. The product was barely seen in the movie – it was included in the scene right after the cancelled wedding when Carrie drowned her sorrow with vodka. So without movie tie-ins, merchandise and heavy investments in advertising this product placement would be waste of money. But in case of Skyy vodka they used the movie to enhance brand value and brand position – it’s was associated with glamour, success, urban girls, fun, …

So, even though the movie lacked the artistic value it was a box office success (Box Office Mojo reports 415 million USD worldwide gross) and I eagerly anticipate what the marketers will do with the sequel.

What are your thoughts on product placement prostitution? Do you find it offensive or do you think that in case of Sex and the City it’s necessary that there are so many brands included.

  1. I believe that you can hardly say that product placement in that kind of a movie is a prostitution of brands. It’s not. It’s just that kind of a movie – a movie about lives of a 4 modern women, whose main concern is how to be cool and how to express their own individuality in the modern world where but being average everything is acceptable….

    So it’s hard to say if brands are not their way to do so. Let’s face it – if you wear Rolex and Hugo Boss AND drive a BMW you express a different life style than a guy who is also wearing a Rolex and Hugo Boss and drives a Bentley. So products in that kind of a movie are not just adverts but they are the most important ‘costumes’ of those characters….

    But… In Bond movies… there one can really talk about prostitution of brands!! Because the only car of Her Majesty’s Agent is Aston Martin and not BMW-s, Audies or even (heavens no…) Alfa Romeo’s….