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Get in the Bin!: The Localised Product Placement in San Andreas

GITB-San-Andreas

Product placement is a long, rocky bridge to navigate. It generally pays for a large portion of a film’s production budget, therefore it is a necessary evil. You can only hope that the product placement is subtle and natural to the story being told. Is someone in a movie using an Apple iPhone, using a Dell laptop or wearing Nike shoes? That’s okay, as these brands are a part of our everyday lives as well.

Award: Converse All-Stars Vintage 2004I even have an award I give out for my movie reviews for bad product placement. It is based on an early scene from the Will Smith movie i,Robot where Smith’s character fetishises over his ‘vintage’ (vintage as the movie was set in the future, but the sneakers were currently available at all major stockists) Converse sneakers. The dialogue was clunky, and the product shilling was apparent, and it is these things that drive a viewer directly out of the movie-going experience. It’s reverse movie-magic.

Bad product placement sticks out as it actually looks like an advertisement mid-movie as opposed to harmonious integration. Wayne’s World perfectly skewers the perceived product placement faux pas by tackling it with comic effect (and no doubt paying some bills at the same time):

It’s up to the filmmakers to not throw in brands so gratuitously that it affects the viewing experience of the audience. Michael Bay can’t do this, and he’s the prime example but he’s not alone.

This is the scene!

This is the scene!

This brings me to the recently released disaster movie starring Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson, San Andreas. Without getting into the plot too much, Rocky is an air rescue pilot who finds himself swept up in the middle of an massive earthquake that devastates many Californian cities based on the San Andreas Fault line. There is a scene where Johnson and his estranged wife (Carla Gugino) crash-land a helicopter into an outdoor goods store. Upon leaving the store we get a hero shot of Johnson exiting the flaming wreck to reveal the product placement that caused my neck to whiplash due to the speed of the double-take: that outdoor goods store was Australian retail chain Ray’s Outdoors.

You see, San Andreas was mostly filmed in Queensland, Australia. But the film is set in California. For any Australian watching the film this should be a major distraction, as Ray’s Outdoors is not a global company (they have stores in Australia and New Zealand). I can guess one of two things:

1: This is localised product placement. This promotional spot was up for grabs to the highest bidder in each region. Ray’s Outdoors won the Australian bid, and the name of the store changes depending on where you are watching it (I would love some feedback here from anyone outside of Australia).

Or more than likely…

2: This scene was simply filmed at a Ray’s Outdoors location. It is product placement for an Australian audience but for an international audience it is just a generic outdoor goods store.

The first option is a long shot, but it is not beyond a movie studio to tinker with aspects of a film depending on the region it is playing in (this happened with Captain America: The Winter Soldier).

In trying to get to the bottom of this, I contacted Ray’s Outdoors via their Facebook page to ask why the movie showed a Ray’s store in California:

Ray's-Outdoors-Facebook

Admittedly, the snark level was high, but the response from the Ray’s social media team was perfect: acknowledge the post, but remain vague and polite, while cheekily responding to the statement. That’s a good social media team they have there.

Maybe it will become clearer in time, but ultimately the appearance of a local Australian store in an American-based movie threw me off enough to make it my only major takeaway from a sub-par film. For sins against product placement, I hereby commit the producers of San Andreas and Ray’s Outdoors to promptly…

Get In The Bin

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2 Comments

  1. Connor Kyle

     /  October 2, 2015

    http://blog.raysoutdoors.com.au/activities/rays-outdoors-goes-hollywood

    I know this replies a little late but not sure if you’ve seen this. I actually work for Rays (although on the West Coast) and actually thought it was kinda cool to point out our little cameo to friends who had seen the movie 🙂 yeah it probably doesn’t make sense but we did get to run a promotion along the lines to ‘where would you escape to ‘. Our last movie promotion did make more sense though , as we helped promote ‘A Walk in the Woods’. For our company that’s actually rather fitting I think

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