There is a running joke among Bond enthusiasts that 007 moonlights as a salesman, selling everything from cars to beer – when he is not meeting out justice to international criminals. With recent reports of current Bond actor Daniel Craig directly getting a piece of the product placement pie, I am afraid this is no longer a joke. They have put Bond up for sale and we are the buyers.
To be fair, the 007 franchise is perhaps the perfect marriage of content and marketing in any form of media ever. You have the perfect influencer; a handsome and eloquent jet-setting gentleman, whose main occupation is to be both mysterious and kickass. Girls want him and guys want to be like him, and thus everything he does transforms from being just an action to being an instruction of mimicry.
From the time Sean Connery took on the role of the suave secret agent in Dr No, the stage was set for ambitious brand integration by the film’s long-standing producers, Eon. Although known for preferring vodka martinis that are “shaken, not stirred”, Bond exhibits his love for both Smirnoff and Red Strike lager in the franchise’s freshman effort.
Fifty three years later, Bond’s liquor preferences remain as adventurous and unpredictable as his exploits with women; he is liable to pick up an exotic new favourite in every new film – or three, as in Spectre, where Belvedere, Heineken and Bollinger clamour for Bond’s golden touch.
The numbers associated with these product placements are staggering; and the fact that a crack team of writers, directors and actors can integrate them into a film with such subtlety is nothing short of magical. The hue and cry over Bond chugging Heineken by loyal fans might have been valid, but the way the $28 million shot was integrated into Skyfall was both elegant and believable. Or maybe my standards have fallen too low by enduring stuff like Humayun Saeed’s character bringing Voice mobiles as gifts from America in JPNA. Let’s see how intelligently Belvedere’s multimillion pound integration is handled in Spectre.
Protest all you want, but there is a good reason brands continue to pour ridiculous amounts into the franchise. Bond is not an indie flick dependent on loyalists nor does it have a disproportionate geek following writing reviews from their parents’ basements (Hello Marvel!)
Bond is a brand for the public. Spectre will be tweeted about by Kim Kardashian and discussed over a sutta break in your office’s staircase. Bond cuts across global and demographic borders and can hit big on the bottom line for whatever brands he endorses.
It seems that the international man of mystery spends a considerable amount of his leisure time strolling around designer outlets on the high streets of London, wearing the most dapper of suits. The honour of his tailoring retainer previously went to Italian brand Brioni, but since then Quantum of Solace Tom Ford seems to have better understood Bond’s need for super premium tailoring that can survive a fight sequence above a moving locomotive.
Another mainstay of Bond product placement are the cars he drives. His long association with Aston Martin is heralded as one of the most perfect matches in product integration given Bond’s British roots and his character’s love of luxury. Sean Connery burnt rubber in an elegant DB5 in 1964’s Goldfinger and Craig continues the legacy with a custom DB10 in Spectre. However, that doesn’t mean that Bond doesn’t shop around. He has routinely flirted with a variety of Jaguars and BMWs and even sat behind the wheel of a Moon buggy in Diamonds are Forever.
Yet, like most of us, he sometimes makes terrible choices in the name of practicality, and ends up stuck with something hideous to drive. Almost all the cars the Ford Motor Company paid to have included in the Bond franchise have been terrible fits, but the Mondeo he adopts in Casino Royale is the most unworthy Bond car ever. But that was all in the past. It’s good to see that the days of shoddy integration deals are behind us and that the Bond franchise treads the territory with considerable sophistication now.
So how do fans feel about the latest title in the franchise, Spectre, boasting 14 brand partners on its official webpage? I, for one, am shaken, but not stirred. Should there be a limit to product integration? Not when you have production running into the $300 million mark and you need brand to cough up for a bigger, better film. Does it bother me that Bond leaves no stone unturned, and even peddles Sunspel underwear in his new film? Nopes, not if the brand is smartly weaved into the storyline. As long as producers don’t insult my intelligence, I will not question the choices they made in the financing of the film. Hey, maybe one day all Pakistanis can rejoice when he finally glues his gun together and says “I use Bond, Samad Bond.”