Sunday, May 15, 2011

POM Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold, an intriguing piece on product placement

POM Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold, B

The synopsis as provided by Sony Classics is:

Boundary-pushing Oscar®-nominated filmmaker Morgan Spurlock explores the world of product placement, marketing and advertising in POM Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold, a film that was fully financed through product placement from various brands, all of which are integrated transparently into the film…

With humor and insight, POM Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold unmasks the marketing process to bring audiences behind closed doors directly into the pitch meetings and marketing presentations which ultimately inform our everyday entertainment decisions. 

This film is being defined by critics as a shallow documentary by a man who’s more of an arrogant comedian than a documentarian (Ethan Gilsdorf of the Boston Globe said “much like reality TV, nothing much of consequence happens” and Brent Simon from Shared Darkness said “it never really digs into its subject matter in a deep or interesting enough way”). I couldn’t find this to be farther from the truth. Like many of the commercial products depicted, the film itself is being falsely branded!

Morgan approaches his topic in a careful, thorough and surprisingly humble manner. The purpose of this film is not to tell you what to think about this topic (as you’d expect), which has become the standard for documentaries (as shown by recent Oscar winner Inside Job or the other tremendously successful documentary Waiting for Superman). By not imposing his viewpoints, Spurlock just presents the process by which branding, and specifically product placement, is incorporated into mass media.

In fact, there’s one scene that was very unexpected, as we assume an anti-product placement slant. Spurlock goes to Sao Paulo, Brazil, where he examines a city in which outdoor advertising is illegal and nonexistent. I found myself shockingly unimpressed by the supposed natural beauty of the city. This is the key moment where I felt that perhaps our advertising, and in turn our popular brands, help define who we are as a culture. What would New York City be without every little space being consumed by ads? Maybe these ads aren’t the devil, they’re part of who we are.

On that note, it’s important to make the connection that brand and identity are one in the same; the former just has a negative business related connotation. Really though, our Facebook profiles and Twitter accounts are major branding for ourselves. We socially brand ourselves as the “fun jock” or the “intelligent indie girl” or whatever else you’re trying to be.

Actually, I think a meta movie like this deserves a meta review. Branding is a major discussion point amongst those of us running Bostonian on Film, as we ourselves are looking for an identity. At the moment, we’re trying to brand ourselves as an intelligent blog that’s trying to start a discussion, not command it. Critic Armond White has expressed the opinion, common in old school film criticism, that critics must have extensive education so they can teach the public what they should be watching and why. Eliza, Stephanie and I take the polar opposite view; we want to bring up some ideas we think aren’t being spoken about, so we can start the conversation with you. When I write a piece, I’m expressing my thoughts in the hopes of starting a conversation, not commanding my viewpoint as the key to unlocking the secrets behind a film.

In fact, above all, this film is about transparency. I’m impressed by and even proud of the transparency of companies in this film, especially POM Wonderful, as they aren’t afraid to put their brand in this documentary. This tells me that they aren’t doing anything devious, and they’re certainly not ashamed of their product. POM Wonderful is a brand that’s about “innovation and wellness.” They believe their product is “healthy, honest and essential to the well-being of humankind.” They truly exemplify all we can hope for, honesty in the process.

This film appeared at Sundance Film Festival and SXSW 2011, among others. You can find out when the films coming to you at the official website. Feel free to support the film at their Facebook page as well!

If you have any feedback, you can reach me @BrandonIsaacson or

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