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Mon, Jul 02, 2007 - Page 10 News List

Movie product placement about to soar to new levels

NO FEE According to industry reports, General Motors did not pay to feature in Transformers, instead it helped offset the movie's promotional costs

AFP, LOS ANGELES

The Hollywood tradition of product placement will soar to a new level when Steven Spielberg-produced action film Transformers is unleashed on US cinema-goers today.

Based on the successful line of toys launched during the 1980s which spawned a popular cartoon series and several comic books, the new movie version of Transformers has become one of the most talked about films in years.

But while film buffs marvel at the spectacular computer-generated pyrotechnics, US automaker General Motors (GM) is hoping that big box-office will translate into big car sales.

Four GM models have prominent roles in the film, which sees them "transform" from cars into robot warriors battling to save planet Earth from destruction against evil rival robots.

The GM vehicles, which unsurprisingly feature in the film as the good guys on the side of mankind, have featured prominently in pre-release publicity for the film.

Dino Bernacchi, associate director of marketing alliances and branded entertainment at GM, said Transformers represents a rare convergence of big-business and Hollywood.

"We try to find properties where the cars are the stars, and literally our cars are the stars of this movie," Bernacchi told the Hollywood Reporter. "You don't get any more heroic than the roles that our four vehicles play."

The car-robot given pride of place in the film, a Chevrolet Camaro, went out of production in 2002 but is set to be re-launched next year.

Alongside the Camaro is a gas-guzzling Hummer H2, a GMC Topkick pick-up truck and a low-cost Pontiac Solstice convertible.

"I think this is a once in motion picture history-type opportunity for an automotive company where you have a film that actually incorporates multiple cars that are actually characters in the film," LeeAnne Stables, senior vice-president of worldwide marketing partnerships at Paramount studios, told the Reporter.

According to movie industry press reports, GM did not pay for the right to feature in Transformers, but instead has helped offset the huge promotional costs of the film by featuring the movie in recent advertising campaigns for its cars.

In exchange, Transformers director Michael Bay (Armageddon, The Rock and Bad Boys) has directed five separated commercials for GM.

Park Choong-whan, a professor of marketing at the University of Southern California, described GM's Transformers tie-in as "probably the most aggressive form of product placement strategy."

But Park also warned that the campaign could backfire.

"People may discount the true effect that may be possible from this tie-in because they already know about it," he said. "There's is a kind of boomerang effect ... If prior attitudes of the people towards General Motors are negative, then it may not have a strong impact at all."

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