Product placement has been used in various media for years, including cinema. Movies such as Michael Bay’s Transformers series are chock full of shiny Chevrolet cars, Beats headphones, and Bud Light. World War Z also contains some blatant product placement. During the finale of the film, Brad Pitt’s character stops in the middle of the action to take a nice refreshing break with a can of Coke Zero or some other product. While not as bad, 28 Days Later also includes some blatant product placement.
During the beginning montage, our main character Jim wanders through a deserted hospital and the empty, lonely streets of the city. As he wanders through the hospital, he stumbles across a Pepsi vending machine. The camera focuses on a can of Pepsi and Jim and he fizzles it down. The Pepsi product placement continues later in the film when Jim is rescued by two strangers. They hide from a horde of infected in a room lined with Pepsi cans on the floor.
Cinema is an excellent art form for capturing audiences in different worlds. Movies like the Lord of the Rings series are so good is because they create a new world for the audience to explore. The films make its world believable, and draws us into the land of Middle-earth. The problem with product placement comes when the advertising pulls the audience out of the involvement in the film.
The strengths of 28 Days Later are its believable locations and characters. This film is very good at captivating its audience in its world. So when Jim stops and we get a close-up of him drinking a can of Pepsi, or the camera lingers too long on the Pepsi label, it ruins the illusion of realism. The movie felt like a commercial during that scene.
Product placement does have its pros. It benefits the filmmakers and gives them more money to put into their product. Advertisers get their product to more potential customers. But in exchange, it ruins the believability of the film for audience members. If filmmaking is an art form, is there any room for advertising? Does product placement belong in cinema?