The Joneses, which opens this week, takes on the issues of our consumer culture with a humorous, and not inconceivable, new type of product placement — a "family" of actors placed in a wealthy community, where their ideal lifestyle inspires "keeping up with the Joneses" purchases. No way to Tivo past them!
Product placement is nothing new in movies — ever since Steven Spielberg famously placed Reese's Pieces (then a new and little-known candy) in 1982's E.T., advertisers have seen the possibilities of a more "stealth marketing method." In fact, just last week the New York Times reported that branding deals are coming earlier, often before the movie is cast or the script is fully shaped.
Well, now a company has taken the next step. And what movie is better suited for an interactive shopping experience than The Joneses? Check out our exclusive look at Media/And's SmartBar technology below — we won't lie, it's pretty sweet — followed by our interview with The Joneses producer Doug Mankoff.
What attracted you to The Joneses?
Mankoff: I signed on when there was a rough version of the script. I loved the concept. Thought it was a clever way to explore some real issues, hold up a mirror in a fun way without being preachy. There's nothing wrong with our desire for things, just need to question where that stuff belongs in our lives.
What was it like getting brand integration for this movie?
Mankoff: I went in thinking that brand integration would be easy, but found it wasn't. Partly because of the movie's message and partly because the economy tanked right as we were starting development. Director Derrick [Borte] was a strong proponent that we use real brands, not made up ones. First, it's really expensive to do that, to create products and brands. Plus the movie's more real that way.... One brand we had to create was Rudy's Rum Punch — no one wants to be associated with drunk driving, especially when it involves a teenager.
You said monitoring brand integration on the set was more than a full-time job. Can you give an example?
Mankoff: There's a scene in the movie where Demi Moore opens the fridge and grabs a bottle of water — a very specific kind of water. When we got to the set that day, the fridge was stocked wall-to-wall with just that water. Completely unrealistic. We spent the day redoing the fridge, which involved making sure other items in the fridge were cleared or hiding their labels.
We also had to check with the major actors to make sure they didn't have any problems working with a brand. For example, David Duchonvy has been a brand ambassador for Swiss Watches. Could he wear a different watch in the movie?
We also held screenings/viewings for the more than 40 brands involved. [Only two of the brands contributed financially to the movie, and then small amounts.] Most were proud. A small group of them are promoting their involvement [in the movie] on their websites. More aren't because of concerns that consumers might not understand that they did it because they wanted to be part of the conversation. That they're not the butt of the joke. MBT Shoes was so excited they sponsored the Hollywood premiere.
Tell me about working with Media/And to create this demo.
Mankoff: We originally decided to test this out with the trailer. But we found that people were playing around with the technology, hitting pause, and not watching the trailer. Not what we wanted! [Laughs.] So we decided to use a clip instead.
Do you want people to be buying stuff while watching your movie? Or would you rather they wait until after?
Mankoff: [Laughs.] Maybe on the DVD extras there could be a purchase track.