Microkhan by Brendan I. Koerner

The Art of Product Placement

July 14th, 2010 · 4 Comments

The armed forces obviously have to deal with a lot of requests from Hollywood, which is why the various military branches all have entertainment liaison offices. If your forthcoming production is supposed to depict military personnel, or you want to film on a base, you need to go through an elaborate clearance procedure that occasionally ends in tears. According to this compilation (large PDF) of weekly reports from the Air Force’s entertainment liaison, for example, you’re unlikely to get the green light if your TV show includes scenes from the Playboy mansion. (Sorry, aspiring producers of Gumball 3000.)

Yet as the reports reveal, entertainment liaisons aren’t just passive recipients of applications. Like any PR department worth its salt these days, they also reach out to filmmakers in the hopes of placing products. Take this tidbit, regarding the Air Force’s aspirations to piggyback on Agent 007:

“CASINO ROYALE”· (Sony/Columbia Studios) – While in London for filming of “Flight 93” we met with the new James Bond feature film director Martin Campbell at Pinewood Studios. During the visit we discussed our services and what the Air Force can bring to this major feature film. Mr. Campbell was receptive and we’re hoping to highlight a weapons system or Air Force mission in the next Bond film. We worked with Campbell previously on a project, not yet produced, titled “Night Witches.”

This makes us wonder if the military has any hard evidence regarding the correlation between film placements and recruiting numbers, or if they’re just operating on instinct. If a 17-year-old sees a really snazzy weapons system in a movie, is he or she really more likely to consider a career in the Air Force? Or would the money invested in these efforts be better used to offer inducements such as better signing bonuses? We hope we won’t have to write a FOIA request in order to find out.


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4 Comments so far ↓

  • captured shadow

    I imagine the movie “Top Gun” might have put a spike in the Air Force recruiting numbers.

  • Brendan I. Koerner

    @captured shadow: Pretty sure they were Naval aviators, rather than AF pilots. The fact that I know that is to my discredit.

    I’ll be posting about military recruitment again next week, while cross-posting over at Ta-Nehisi Coates’ blog. Saving up the non-esoterica for when I’ll have a bigger audience…though I’ll throw some curveballs in there, too.

  • Brian Moore

    This is all 3rd hand, but I vaguely remember that apparently the TV show “Stargate” has a great relationship with the Air Force on this front, which has led to them portraying them in a correspondingly good light in most episodes. A standard plot point will be the hard-nosed Air Force guys wanting to do something while the annoying (and often evil) civilian bureaucrat tries to prevent it.

  • Brendan I. Koerner

    @Brian Moore: Indeed–apparently to the point that top Air Force brass appeared in the show as themselves:


    I still wonder whether this strategy is based on really real research, or whether it’s just assumed that positive portrayals of the military will naturally result in higher recruiting numbers. Something to look into over the weekend, as I prep for Ta-Nehisi’s slot…