Greatest Movie Ever Sold, The

For years, we have been hearing about the art and commerce of product placement, but we never understood how this increasingly growing phenom actually works? Or its impact, both in the short run and in the long run.

The documentarian Morgan Spurlock, who has become a major figure in tackling various relevant socio-cultural problems, is addressing this very issue in his new, witty and entertaining work, “POM Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold.”

Directed by Morgan Spurlock, who co-wrote the docu with Jeremy Chilnick, “The Greatest Movie Ever Made” world-premiered in the documentary section of the 2011 Sundance Film Fest, and Sony Classic will release the film on April 11.

Brands are everywhere these days, in movies, sporting events, musical concerts.  The boundary-pushing filmmaker, who has established a name in the field with the Oscar-nominated “Supersize Me,” explores the world of product placement, marketing and advertising in a movie, which was itself fully financed through product placement from various brands.

All of these brands are integrated, rather transparently I may say, into the docu.  Spurlock shows that, while using brands in film promotion is not new for Hollywood, it certainly is new territory for the documentary format.

To that extent, he exploits the phenomenon from every possible angle, from branded pizza boxes and in-flight film promotions to branded-everything in-film.

Putting the issue in a broader historical and cultural context, Spurlock shows that product placement is far from being a new phenomenon. In the 1800s, Jules Verne sold the naming rights to shipping companies in Around the World in 80 Days.  Then, in the early days of film, Thomas Edison put ads for his own products in his movies.

But it’s TV that has made the phenol popular, massive and to a large extent necessary.  In the 1950s and 1960s, TV shows were actually paid for and written by the advertisers, and the whole purpose was to sell a product. Thus, soap operas were created by soap companies for the sole purpose of selling more soap to moms!

With humor and insight, “The Greatest Movie Ever Sold” unveils the marketing process, offering invaluable insights into the different phases of it.  For example, Spurlock bring us behind closed doors directly into the pitch meetings and marketing presentations which ultimately inform our everyday entertainment decisions.

It is noteworthy that sponsors were provided with brand category exclusivity. The brands that agreed to sponsor the film placed Spurlock front and center in their brand campaigns and advertisements, both on and off-line. Thus, partners have the unique right to promote themselves in association with Spurlock and the film as “The Greatest.”  But these agreements also stipulate explicitly that Spurlock maintains creative control of the film’s content and final cut.