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Product Placement, ET and Saving the World


E.T. the Extra-TerrestrialThe first time I became aware of product placement as an adult was when ET: The Extraterrestrial came out. It seems that Mars decided that M&M's not be the bait that Eliot uses to lure ET. The filmmakers went to Reese's, and the result was that sales of Reese's Pieces shot up 65%.

I knew that the heroes of Independence Day in 1998 probably didn't use Macs to save the world- the PC was hot back then- but it felt good to see Will Smith and Jeff Goldblum using MY Powerbook to save the world.

Apple is still pushing product placement. They took first place in 2011 and 2012 for the Brandcameo Awards, with products appearing in 42.5 percent of the top 40 U.S. box office hits. Second place was a three-way tie between Dell, Chevrolet and Ford with Cadillac, Coca-Cola and Mercedes-Benz coming in third.

For the recently released Man of Steel, Chrysler has even hired one of DC Comics artists to illustrate their print ads.

Why has product placement become more important? One of the reasons is the rise of alternate ways to view media. We can skip through TV ads with ease, so how do advertisers get their products in front of the public? One way is to embed them in the content people want to see- i.e. the movies or shows they're watching.

But how does product placement actually influence us as consumers? By making us implicitly prefer products rather than explicitly prefer them. Our  attitudes towards the movie or show we're seeing can subtly determine whether we like a product or not. Even though we may be unaware of it, the feelings and emotions we experience while we're watching something may be transferred to the products placed in the program.

The process can work both ways- when Charlie Sheen was on Two and Half Men and if you thought he was jerk, you might have negative associations with any products placed in the show.

One study shows that even when people are alerted to the fact that placements are a from of advertising, and have a negative reaction to that, they still may have a positive reaction to the product if it's associated with a character they liked!

Product placement is big business because it works. Viewers don't necessarily realize that it's a subtle form of advertising because the advertisers aren't hitting you with something that you want to scan past with your DVR. Combined with online marketing activities, it's a powerful pull weapon as opposed to the push weapon of traditional advertising.

I mean after all, how could I resist buying a Powerbook to save the world.

Click on the button below for a free evaluation of your marketing materials!

"Mad Men's" Quest for Authenticity Pays Homage to Great Illustration


Illustrators from the age of Mad Men

When I was just breaking into the graphic design profession there was a great variety of illustration styles that were flourishing; from painters whose styles carried over from the 1950s to artists creating a new language in visual arts. From painterly to abstract, there was a huge number of incredibly talented illustrators working at the time.

brian sanders1This came to mind because of an article in The New York Times about a British illustrator named Brian Sanders. It seems that creators of "Mad Men" were looking to duplicate the style of some 1960s illustrations to market the fifth season but couldn't quite get it right. Then they found Sanders, 75 years old, who was the illustrator who did the originals they were looking at and found he's still working, so they commissioned him to do the art.

" 'What it did was take me right back, about 50 years,' said Mr. Sanders, who added that he was familiar enough with “Mad Men” to be in a bit of disbelief when the show came calling for his drawing board and brushes. The impressionistic image he created uses a scumbled acrylic technique that in its jazzy, textured effects instantly conjures 1960s illustration."

UPDATE: AMC has released Sanders' poster- Here's a link.

This got me thinking about the illustrators that I "grew up with" professionally. Mark English- who started out painting latrine signs in the army and wound up winning more awards from the Society of Illustrators than any other illustrator. There was Bob Peak- who revolutionized movie poster illustration; Bernie Fuchs, sports painter extraordinaire, and so many others.

The other style that was dominant was the "Push Pin" style of Milton Glaser and Seymour Chwast, with its heavy outlines enclosing watercolor or flat color areas. This style even carried through to the movies with "Yellow Submarine".

I enjoyed the variety of illustration styles that were employed enthusiastically in the media of the time – magazines; editorial or advertising; posters, even packaging took advantage of the richness of artistic vision that contained the past and future in one present.

That richness seems to be gone now. The speed of today's media seems to mitigate against the time and effort needed to develop art of the diverse kind produced then. There's a lot of imagination in animation techniques that are being used in today's commercials and movies- but in a lot of cases they seem to be slick and used mostly for style and not for substance. Maybe there's something to be learned from working with a 75-year-old illustrator who doesn't use digital media. It will be interesting to see if the "Mad Men" campaign brings back a look from a time that we seem to miss today.

Top image, left to right: Bernie Fuchs, Jack Potter, Bob Peak, Mark English, Al Parker, Milton Glaser

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Dancing in the Streets-How West Side Story & Saul Bass Made Me a Designer


MoldaveDesigns design and marketing Mountainside New Jersey Saul Bass West Side Story poster

When I was a kid, I used to keep scrapbooks. Not sports or music, but movie stills, posters and logos. I'd look through the newspapers for movie ads, cut out the ones I liked and put them in a scrapbook- if i liked the logo, I'd just cut that out. I could have dozens of different variations of a logo depending on what size ad it was in or if it was horizontal, vertical, etc. 

I saw most of my movies at the neighborhood theater. The local hardware store displayed the one-sheets in the window for the movies that were playing. Every once in a while, I'd ask the store owners if I could have that month's crop of posters and they more than willingly gave them to me.

Looking back, collecting the posters and paying attention to the art that was being done for the "branding" of the movie was a big step toward my realization that I wanted to be a graphic designer.

I only have one of the original posters - a rerelease poster of West Side Story by the great Saul Bass that hangs in my office. But a lot of the artwork that I loved from the movies and cut out was also his work.

Looking at it now, I realize why his design sense appealed to me:

It was off balance- yet it was perfectly balanced. The art for the film title is in the lower right of the poster, with the credits in white right above it. They are in News Gothic - flush right, not left or centered. This adds to the feeling of space in the design. The rest of it is a huge blank warm red field. 

The title type is hand lettered -  we'd call it distressed now - and looks like paint peeling off a building. I must have drawn and redrawn the abstract dancers dozens of times.

He was a designer that created beautiful things that meant something- there was never any ornamentation for the sake of ornamentation. Whether it was movie posters, film title sequences (check out Vertigo, Psycho, North By Northwest, Spartacus (Kubrick- not Starz), Anatomy of a Murder) or his corporate design work (AT&T, United Airlines, Rockwell International, and more) his designs always told the story about the subject. 

To see more of Saul Bass' work, click HERE






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