Thursday, October 9, 2014

Austin Powers: The Power of Product Placement

In an age where advertisements are literally everywhere we look, how are companies and products able to distinguish themselves from the competition? Some common forms of advertisements are posters, ads, commercials, and billboards, and even wrapped cars. Marketers are continually improvising and innovating to find new ways to reach their target audience. One effective method of advertising is called product placement. According to the European Union, product placement is “any form of audiovisual commercial communication consisting of the inclusion of or reference to a product, a service or the trade mark thereof so that it is featured within a program.” What makes product placement unique is that it is an attempt to positively portray the product in the environment where it is actually used.

In Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me, product placement is used numerous times throughout the film. One of the most blatantly obvious advertisements is for Starbucks coffee. While many product placement advertisements are subtle, this one for Starbucks is very direct. This product placement definitely appeals to logos. To begin, the name “Starbucks” is very clearly portrayed on the outside of the Seattle Space Needle. The inside of the building is set to look like the inside of a Starbucks. Starbucks products are scattered about the room and the characters are all drinking the coffee. They make sure their image is very visible across the room. During a meeting, number two, a character in the movie, goes on to specifically advertise Starbucks as he says: “Today Starbucks offers premium quality coffee at affordable prices. Deelish.” This is a clear yet effective method of advertisement. The viewer directly associates what the character said with the Starbucks coffee and is more likely to buy some. It is a very direct, yet very logical advertisement of Starbucks Coffee. Another statement that sponsors Starbucks is: “If we shift our resources away from evil empires and toward Starbucks, we can increase our profits five fold” It highlights Starbucks as not only a place to buy coffee, but also a place to invest your money in. While I am unsure if this is literally a campaign to find investors in the company or not, regardless, it still argues the huge growth and success of the organization.

Appeal to pathos is another aspect of the product placement. As stated in Understanding Movies, “Sometimes images have the ability to persuade by sheer pathos” (Giannetti 456). Simply showing the coffee in the film is enough to attract customers. This is most likely to work on those who are already familiar with Starbucks, as they associate its image with the feelings they get from the product. Not only seeing the coffee, but hearing the coffee described makes viewers crave Starbucks. One special quality of this scene that enhances the viewer’s emotions is the lightning at the beginning of the clip. It is dark and stormy outside, but then they flash inside to a nice looking Starbucks with warm coffee. Warm coffee is something that is appealing to me when it is cold and storming. This aspect of the product placement appeals to both pathos and logos. Starbucks is clearly attempting to set the viewer up to feel an emotion that would make them want their product. Another example of appealing to emotion is when Dr. Evil takes a sip of the coffee and gets whipped cream all over his nose and mouth. It is a very comical scene and brings humor and happiness to the viewer. It is a positive advertisement of Starbucks because it connects happiness with the coffee in the eyes of the viewer. If Starbucks is able to successfully argue that happiness and their coffee are intrinsic, they have created a good advertisement. As Sut Jhally says in Image Based Culture, “every ad says it is better to buy than not to buy, we can best regard advertising as a propaganda system for commodities. In the image­system as a whole, happiness lies at the end of a purchase” (Jhally 3). This coincides with the idea that the coffee and happiness are intrinsic qualities. It argues that when the viewer purchases the coffee, they will be happy.

 Dr. Evil (Mike Myers) is a rather well known character, and Austin Powers is a well known movie. The fact that Dr. Evil is drinking Starbucks and even says its “good” is an appeal to ethos. Starbucks gains credibility from being connected with well-known characters and movies. Whether Starbucks ask to be in the film, or the film asked to use Starbucks, the company will definitely benefit by featuring its product. While perhaps less important, it should still be noted that the Starbucks is located within the iconic Seattle Space Needle. This in itself is a form of advertisement, yet its main function still is to highlight the Starbucks.

Overall this advertisement argues the success and quality of Starbucks. This scene incorporates all of the appeals to promote the product to the viewer. The marketing campaign of Starbucks was highly effective. There is a solid balance between legitimate product promotion and comedy to create a positive ad. Companies that are successful in marketing their product need to find this balance between real advertisement and creating a memorable product. I find it interesting, however, that this product was so heavily emphasized in an Austin Powers movie. I cannot see why Starbucks would choose to use Austin Powers over another more serious movie. For this reason I believe it is likely that Austin Powers asked Starbucks to use their brand. Although this is likely the case, Starbucks still received positive advertisement from the film. From the perspective of Starbucks using this as a marketing campaign, I would give it four out of five pickles. The film successfully advertises the product, but I believe a different genre of movie (like drama) could have perhaps reached a greater number of potential customers. A comedy like Austin Powers is likely to reach a more immature audience of young adults and teens, while the major consumers of coffee are older and likely to watch something else. It is also possible that they were attempting to appeal to the younger generations to increase customer base. All in all, this was a successful product promotion

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