As both media and retail consumers, we are fairly well aware of when we're being advertised to and how. We know that when we buy an Iron Man branded cup of soda from 7-Eleven or see an Audi ad with Tony Stark whipping around corners that this is a form of co-promotion for both the advertisers and the film. Throughout The Greatest Movie Ever Sold, Spurlock peddles everything from the title sponsor Pom Wonderful (a Pomegranate juice drink) to Ban deodorant to the country of Aruba. The film succeeds in explaining how product placement works on the business end of production. Stacks of contracts outline what Spurlock can and cannot do, raising consumers' awareness about how marketing in the movies works.
At one point, Spurlock travels to Sao Paulo, Brazil, where the city has outlawed all outdoor advertising, meaning no billboards, no ads on buses, nothing. Spurlock asks a storeowner how he competes without advertising. The owner replies by saying that he relies on "the Internet and word-of-mouth." Yet throughout the film, Spurlock completely ignores the Internet, viral marketing and social networking. In theory, this could be a different movie altogether, but to ignore what has to be the largest-growing sector in advertising seems silly. Spurlock completely overlooks how Hollywood and the Internet intertwine in co-promotion.
Still, I laughed out loud during Spurlock's conversation with Mane 'n Tail, the maker of shampoos for both horses and humans. The first-person documentary makes viewers laugh, but in the end leaves several questions unanswered. Did Spurlock sell out or buy in? And most importantly, did the ironic act of funding a film about product placement entirely with product placement hinder the film's content? Was that the whole point? The film wasn't the hard-hitting expose it had the potential to be. And while educational, it was hardly enlightening.
Pom Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold
Written, directed, and starring Morgan Spurlock.