Just because The Truman Show spoofs the entertainment industry’s blatant product promotion doesn’t mean the filmmakers weren’t above doing it themselves. And the Truman product plugs are much slicker than those depicted in the movie’s fictional TV show, in which Truman’s wife anxiously plugs “Mococoa” drink mix and his best friend shills “Penn Pavel’s” beer.
Instead, the real sponsors who made deals with Paramount include Ford (Truman drives a Taurus, while best friend Marlon drives a Ranger), Zenith (the television watched by the fictional TV show’s audience), Schwinn (the bikes ridden by Truman and his wife), and Hunt’s (about the only identifiable ketchup brand during a grocery store scene).
Of course, Truman isn’t the only summer movie that blurs the line between art and commerce. While Touchstone Pictures wasn’t able to disclose any arrangements for product placements in Armageddon, the companies independently confirmed agreements, even though they wouldn’t reveal the terms. Brands include Srixon (golf balls), Coca-Cola, Tag Heuer (watches), Nokia (mobile phones), and BMW, whose blue-and-white-checkered insignia can be seen in the background during a passionate moment between Liv Tyler and Ben Affleck. Similarly, for “The X-Files,” Twentieth Century Fox negotiated product placements with Casio (watches), Nokia, and Oldsmobile, which, in turn, uses images from “The X-Files” to advertise its Intrigue luxury car.
Even when there’s no commercial deal set up, studios will still try to get permission to use certain names, in order to avoid legal hassles. So when Touchstone Pictures asked Greenpeace if it could depict the group in Armageddon, spokesman Andrew Davies says the organization agreed, provided the group’s membership was not portrayed negatively and was shown using a favorite slogan: “No new oil.” Greenpeace got what it asked for–along with the movie’s oil-drilling, asteroid-bombing lead, played by Bruce Willis, whacking (Srixon) golf balls at the protesters.
Still, not every movie product has a price tag attached. In Bulworth, Warren Beatty’s Sen. Jay Billington Bulworth pulls into a Kentucky Fried Chicken and downs a bucketful of poultry–and KFC didn’t pay a dime. “Bulworth was a freebie,” says KFC spokesman Michael Tierney. In fact, Tierney says the chicken maker doesn’t usually try to plug KFC in movies. “Our core folks tend to watch more television,” he explains.