MEDIA: MINORITY REPORT - AN EXPERT'S VIEW. If product placement works, as it does in Minority Report, it can benefit a brand

Forget Jade. Step aside Alex. If you want to see the real Big Brother this summer, there is only one place to go. That's to your nearest screening of Steven Spielberg's Minority Report. The film depicts a near-future, pan-optical world where Tom Cruise, in the guise of the Pre-crime Unit, smashes through skylights preventing murders through clairvoyant tip-offs.

Many who saw Spielberg's last film, AI, will have wished that Tom Cruise had been able to prevent the crime of its production. Minority Report, though, comes as a welcome return to form.

Unlike George Orwell's Big Brother, Spielberg's vision is complete with brands such as Nokia, Lexus and The Gap, which are reported to have stumped up some $25 million of financing for the film. Given the cost of film-making and the problems advertisers have in targeting young, affluent consumers, this is part of a burgeoning trade. But is it a good thing?

As a consumer, product placement, more often than not, can seem out of place - for example, James Bond's elongated pause over his Omega while the world had only seconds left. In Minority Report, these brands are, at least, contextually relevant given a plot device involving personalised advertising being beamed directly to a consumer's retina. The film positively benefits from the inclusion of real brands that bring the film's future world closer. But what of the brands being lured by the silver screen?

Product placement has a lot in common with another growth area: sponsorship.

It can lend a brand a glamour that a 48-sheet somehow lacks. The effectiveness and the value of rubbing shoulders with the stars is hard to quantify; and the true value of the investment will only be realised when it is exploited through other media. Nokia has clearly taken heed of this and is running a TV campaign for its new phone using clips of the film.

When brands get it right - backing a winner then supporting their investment with an integrated campaign - there can be little doubt of the value of product placement. Remember when The Matrix launched and the product-placed Nokia handset become the must-have phone despite a battery-life shorter than Tom Cruise in flip-flops?

But for every marketing director who will be recounting how they met the man who played Cop Number 2 at the premier, another will explain why they paid $2 million to be the official snack food for a turkey. Given that only one in ten Hollywood films ever turns a profit, scoring a hit is a risky business.

Simon King, the director of strategy at the WPP agency Incline, was disappointed not to find any golf or power tool brands in Minority Report.

Film company: Twentieth Century Fox/Dreamworks
Advertisers featured in film include: Lexus, Nokia, Omega, Guinness,
Reebok, Pepsi, The Gap
Estimated film budget: $100 million
Estimated amount recouped from advertisers: $25 million

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