A few days ago I decided to finally watch the 2009 remake of the famous movie from the 70s: The Taking of Pelham 123 with Denzel Washington and John Travolta. Not for product placement, but because I wanted to check how successful were Tony Scott & co. with their version of the movie. I didn’t expect a lot of placements, because the movie involves one seriously bad guy, but I have to admit that I was surprised with the outcome: positively and negatively.
We got used to the fact that the majority of computers in the movies are Apple’s, but not in The Taking of Pelham 123. Basically all electronic stuff in the movie was Sony’s: we could’ve seen several Vaio laptops, Sony speakers and headphones. The most logical explanation for Sony’s takeover of all electronic devices in the movie is the fact that Columbia Pictures, which released the movie, is owned by Sony Pictures Entertainment, a subsidiary of the Japanese conglomerate Sony.
If I were a brand manager for a famous brand, I wouldn’t want to be associated with a bad guy in a movie. But that concern did not affect Breitling’s decision to have a big part in The Taking of Pelham 123. The main bad guy, played by John Travolta, was wearing a Breitling wrist watch and checked the time on several occasions, with the necessary close-up of the watch, of course.
John Travolta has signed a deal with Breitling to promote their watches in 2005 and joined several other high profile stars who became the ambassadors for watch manufacturers, e.g. Pierce Brosnan, Uma Thurman, Pete Sampras… But while Omega was involved with James Bond, Breitling got mixed up with a bad guy. Travolta was looking at his watch and counting minutes/seconds before he was going to shoot hostages!?
You can read more about Breitling’s failure in Abram Sauer’s blog post Watch the Product Placement Failure
Oakley is another brand that was used by Travolta. Not only was he wearing Oakley’s model Square Wire, he had them on even on a movie poster. Again, what is so great if a killer wears your sunglasses? Travolta’s character wasn’t Mickey or Mallory from Natural Born Killers or Hannibal Lecter. His Ryder is just one of the countless, unimportant bad buys in the movie history.
These were some strange decisions.
Other movies from the ‘Product placement in pictures’ series: