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Marshall Fine

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Morgan Spurlock: Mr. Product Placement

Posted: 04/22/11 08:51 AM ET

The suit is by Ted Baker of London and Morgan Spurlock owns three copies: charcoal gray, nicely fitted, festooned with lavishly embroidered logos of his various sponsors.

Hyatt. Jet Blue. Pom Wonderful. Mini. Old Navy. Sheetz. Imagine Jeff Gordon gone corporate and you're almost there.

"This is actually Version 4.0," Spurlock says, sitting in a midtown Manhattan conference room. "We've got all 22 sponsors on there. I've got three of this version."

This is the official uniform - "the greatest suit ever made" - for Spurlock's new documentary, whose official title is Pom Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold. The Oscar-nominated Spurlock felt compelled to look at the world of product placement and branding, inspired while watching part of the second season of the short-lived hit series, Heroes.

"I was a huge fan of Heroes - Season One is one of the greatest ever," Spurlock. 40, says. "But Season Two went downhill - and then one night, Hayden Panettiere's father gives her a car and she says, 'Oh Dad - not the Nissan Rogue!' And I thought, I just saw a commercial in the middle of a show. It was an 'A-ha!' moment."

He and producing partner Jeremy Chilnick brainstormed the idea and decided to make a movie about the manipulative world of product placement - and finance it by selling product placements in their own movie, including the naming rights. Hence, the presence of juice company Pom Wonderful's name in the title.

(Spurlock and his production company just bought the naming rights to the city of Altoona, Pa. For the next 60 days, it will be known as Pom Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold, Pa.)

"Product placement isn't anything new," Spurlock says. "Jules Verne sold naming rights in his novel Around the World in 80 Days and Thomas Edison ran ads for his own companies in the background of the first motion pictures. When TV was created, it was supposed to be a box to sell stuff to people.

"I remember when I was 12 and I saw E.T. I loved M&Ms - but then I saw - what's that? Reese's Cups? In an M&M-sized candy? On the way home from the movie, I made my mom stop so I could buy some. So the same day I saw them they were in my home."

As he did research for his film, Spurlock set out to answer the question: Is there any place left where you don't see advertising brands or logos?

"Is anything still sacred?" he says.

Click here: This interview continues on my website.

 
 
 

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