Thursday, October 4, 2012

21 Jump Street

While it sometimes flies under the radar for viewers, product placement is often used as a key marketing strategy in films. It used to be that companies paid films to use their product for advertising purposes, while now it is sometimes flipped where films pay companies to use their trusted and respected products to improve the believability of the film. Either way, it has become ubiquitous, with examples in almost any movie produced these days.
The 2012 remake comedy 21 Jump Street has many examples of sponsorship.

While it featured brands like Twitter, Facebook, Red Bull, Jansport and Taco Bell, one of the most prominent products in the movie was by Sony. Jonah Hill’s character uses a distinct and obvious Sony Ericsson Xperia cell phone (“Product Placement”). He uses it to call his crush, Molly, and he sends her multiple texts with silly emoji faces (21 Jump Street film). Some movies will use generic cell phones so as not to have to deal with the legality of another company’s product, but in this film, the character is clearly using a Sony phone, with the “Sony Ericsson Xperia” prominently and noticeably marked on the face of the phone as he is texting.

This film was produced by Columbia Pictures, which is incidentally owned by Sony Pictures Entertainment, a subsidiary of Sony (“About Sony Pictures Entertainment”). This explains why the product placement was hardly subtle. These two companies didn’t need to create much of a partnership for this film because they are already connected. When deciding which cell phone to give Jonah to use for the film, I’m sure the choice wasn’t hard. This simplifies understanding the marketing behind the choice.

After looking at the Sony product placement in this movie, there is an important thing to consider: was the marketing effective?
As Lunsford and Ruszkiewicz say in Everything’s an Argument, films will “unabashedly want to move audiences enough to provoke action” which often means “buying a product” and they will use different strategies to make that happen (Lunsford 10). Many times products are associated with characters to up their “cool” factor. For example, car companies will pay to have superheroes drive their cars or clothing companies will pay to have attractive people wear their clothes, in the hopes that viewers will want to purchase the product simply because of these ethos of the character. It is clear that that was hardly the move Sony was trying to pull here with Jonah Hill’s extremely uncool character. So maybe there were other intentions in mind? Well one important scene in which the Xperia is featured is at the climax of the film when Hill is with Tatum on a car chase to catch the bad guys in the act but trying not to miss his role as Peter Pan in the school’s play. He is literally on the run, texting Molly to tell her that he will be there shortly (21 Jump Street film). Although he’s hardly sly about the multitasking, maybe Sony was hoping to use this to show that texting on their keyboard can be quick and easy and done by just about anyone.

Although the sponsorship is painfully conspicuous, I do believe that Sony made a smart move putting their phone in the film and it had to have been at least somewhat effective in getting viewers to consider their product. I rate this sponsorship a 3.

"About Sony Pictures Entertainment." Sony Pictures. Sony Pictures Digital Inc, 2012. Web. 04 Oct. 2012. <>.

Lunsford, Andrea A., and John J. Ruszkiewicz. Everything's An Argument. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin's, 2010. Print.

"Product Placement in Pictures: 21 Jump Street." Brands & Films. N.p., 25 June 2012. Web. 03 Oct. 2012. <

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