We had the chance to sit in a comfy chair in a Sony screening room yesterday evening to watch Morgan Spurlock’s new documentary Pom Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold. The definition of “meta” (literally), the movie is a step-by-step account of Spurlock’s attempts to get sponsorship and product placement deals for this movie. Spurlock navigates the contracts, branding, and negotiating that have become common in modern movie-making. And while the film’s poster makes the declarative statement “He’s not selling out, he’s buying in,” it’s actually posed in the movie as a question.
You would expect that the guy behind Super Size Me would use the movie to assail marketers and the marketing industry. And while the idea for the movie may have come from a negative experience, the movie just presents the information and leaves the opinion-making largely to the viewer.
For the most part, Spurlock is asking advice from all sorts of people — OutKast’s Big Boi, MIT professor emeritus of linguistics Noam Chomsky, LCO founder Michael Levine, and kbs+p founder Richard Kirschenbaum among them — about what he should do to secure the sponsors that he’ll need to make the movie.
For sponsors — Pom Wonderful, Hyatt, and Jet Blue among them — it meant a mention (if not a full-on commercial) in the film and a certain amount of say in how the brand is portrayed. He also made guarantees on the number of screens the film would be shown on and the media impressions it would get. Sound familiar?
If Super Size Me was a marathon of eating, this is a marathon of pitching. By and large, the brands that chose to partner with the film (and there were many who declined, some, like fashion label Guess, who did so harshly) knew they were taking a bit of a chance with Spurlock. But a couple of times, it’s said that brands have to be willing to take a risk every now and again. And Lynda Resnick, owner and CEO of POM Wonderful, liked the transparency of showing the public this product placement process. “You’re going to see the whole thing play out,” she says. Are some marketers shown to be a wee bit blech? Sure. But it’s not a red mark across the entire profession.
So on a scale of one to five, PRNewser gives the movie a four. For some who are new to the industry, it will provide a little insight into the process. For those who are already familiar, it’ll be interesting to see your work play out on screen for others to digest.
If you recall, Spurlock held an eBay auction for the naming rights on his TED conference (EMC won that one). He talks about some of the issues from the movie in the video here. He also passes judgment on yesterday’s McDonald’s hiring day (“a publicity stunt”) in an interview with the BBC.