A New Kind of Product Placement

It’s no secret that my favorite fiction writers are Christopher Buckley who satires spin, and Max Barry who satires corporate life. In Buckley’s Thank You for Smoking, cigarette lobbyist Nick Naylor and Hollywood executive Jeff Megall discuss the idea of creating a brand of cigarettes around the the fictional movie “Message from Sector Six.” And, in Barry’s novel, Syrup, he writes a fictional tale about the inner-workings of Coca-Cola’s marketing department as they rally around a new product called F**K. Word is Syrup is becoming a movie. As a long-time fan of this book, I’ve often wondered if Coke would release a F**K product with the film, even if only as a limited promotion. Well, it seems someone else had a similar notion.

In the upcoming movie Tropic Thunder, which is a Ben Stiller movie-within-a-movie spoof, a fictional energy drink called Booty Sweat is seen throughout the film. Now, Paramount Pictures has decided to license and sell the drink through national retailers, campus bookstores, and sites like Amazon.com.

According to AdAge, two versions of the product will be made available beginning in August. The can’s label will be customized for “urban” and “rural” markets. Metropolitan stores will carry the description of the concoction as a “delicious and bump up struttin’ energy drink that will pump up a brotha’s ass right-pronto. This swill will crank yo’ metabolism up skippin’ right over jiggy to straight G-pimp level, word to your mutha. Brothas will be layin’ down the 2-3 on the wiggy jig focusing the energy flow into cold-face benjamins that will fill yo’ pimp pockets to burstin’. Damn straight! Booty Sweat will keep a brotha pitchin’ straight game all night to the baby-dolls.” Rural stores will get a can that simply has the Booty Sweat moniker, but no street slang.

Now, I think that heavy street vernacular is way overboard and reminiscent of Sony’s PSP debacle. But, with several hundred thousand cases already produced, Paramount believes the new drink will become a staple beyond just the film’s release. “Not to my knowledge has this ever been done before,” said Michael Corcoran, president of consumer products at Paramount Pictures. “We’re very excited, because it has the potential to live for quite a while, well beyond the film.”

Contrary to what Mr. Corcoran thought, this isn’t the first time fictional products have been launched in the real world. Last December, an energy drink called Brawndo: The Thirst Mutilator from the Mike Judge comedy Idocracy appeared on convenience store shelves during the film’s promotional timetable. And Paramount released the men’s cologne Sex Panther that was featured in Anchorman, which was promoted with Will Ferrell’s hilarious descriptor: “It is 150% more awesome than any cologne. Ever.” It seems that unlike Brawndo, Sex Panther is actually selling and will see a wider release this Fall.

Considering the recent FCC inquiry into product placement, these kinds of new product launches could take brand integration to a whole new level. In the meantime, may I just say Sector Sixes anyone?

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