"Minority" Reports Product Placement

Madison Avenue's biggest brands invade new Steven Spielberg-Tom Cruise flick

By Josh Grossberg Jun 21, 2002 9:30 PMTags
Audiences headed to see Steven Spielberg's Minority Report, prepare yourselves, you're about to see the latest and greatest in Hollywood advertainment.

Aside from star Tom Cruise, a hefty portion of the screen time is devoted to advertisements, with more than 15 major brands, ranging from the Gap and American Express to Lexus, Nokia, Pepsi and Reebok, interlaced throughout the sci-fi noir flick.

Coproducers and distributors 20th Century Fox and DreamWorks have not only solicited product placements as a key part of Spielberg's futuristic vision (Spielberg convened a conference of futurists before filming to help him paint a realistic portrait of the 52 years hence), but the studios also see their marriage with the brands as a way to rein in production costs, since companies pay good money to have their wares on the big screen.

According to Daily Variety, ad placement by major brands knocked off roughly $25 million from Minority's $102 million budget. And the result?

A good number of the companies--such as Burger King, Century 21, Guinness, Fox, Aquafina, Revo, USA Today and even Ben & Jerry's--have video billboards of their logos prominently featured in the movie. Some brands cleverly blend into the background while others actually play an intrinsic part of the plot.

One scene in the film takes place in a futuristic Gap store, while another has some of the billboards giving a personalized pitch to characters as they walk by. For example, as Cruise's character tries evading the cops, he's identified by a billboard which calls out to him saying, "John Anderton, you look like you could use a Guinness!"

"The movie is filled with fictional commercials and the onslaught is presented as intrusive; each has been geared to speak directly to the individual consumer about, paradoxically, escape. The movie turns product placement into omnipresent white noise fodder," opines Elvis Mitchell of the New York Times, who praises the film as "a tour de force" and "magnificently creepy."

Toyota ponied up $5 million to secure a prime spot for a futuristic Lexus the company designed itself, dubbed the Mag-Lev, which Cruise uses in the movie to climb the sides of buildings. Phonemaker Nokia spent $2 million to design nifty sci-fi headsets through which most of the characters use to communicate.

"With traditional product placement, everyone's trying to find a way to integrate the advertisements into the body of the story," Jeff Boortz, president of 3 Ring Circus, a company Spielberg tapped to create many of the ads, told Variety. "When you're trying not to apologize for that, you can do more with a brand, making it more recognizable wherever it goes."

Of course, Spielberg helped usher in the advent of product placement by making E.T. a Reese's Pieces junkie way back in 1982.

As cultural critics debate whether Spielberg is cleverly skewering Madison Avenue in his film or just shamelessly trying to make a buck off willing companies, most movie critics, like the Times' Mitchell, are embracing Minority Report. Here's a quick sampling:

"Minority Report is a thrilling sensory overload, a detailed fully realized world that's repeatedly, and delightedly, surprising," writes Christy Lemire of the Associated Press. "When Hollywood's first teaming of Tom Cruise and Steven Spielberg delivers the goods and then some, it almost seems unfair to have fate intervene on its behalf as well. Minority Report, set in 2054, benefits from chance timing: It's as topical as movies get," offered USA Today's Mike Clark. "[Minority Report] is brilliantly executed as pure cinema, both breathtaking and disturbing. Pure cinema, however, is all it is. Steven Spielberg has grown up into, of all things, a superior film artist," lauds Andrew O'Hehir of salon.com. "[The movie] is the kind of pure entertainment that, in its fullness and generosity, feels almost classic," exclaims San Francisco Chronicle critic Mick LaSalle.