It’s an idea so simple and so fitting at a time when art and commerce awkwardly commingle that it’s a wonder nobody came up with it before.
But it took professional provocateur Morgan Spurlock (“Super Size Me”) to make a documentary entirely focused on — and funded by — product placement.
Opening Friday, “Pom Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold” is backed by an eclectic lineup of sponsors, such as JetBlue Airways, Mini Cooper, Ban deodorant and, of course, pomegranate juicers Pom
Was it easy for Spurlock to win their support, or did his reputation for rabble-rousing stand in his way?
“My notoriety was both a blessing and a curse,” says Spurlock, 40, holding court at the Hyatt, another of his movie’s sponsors. “The fact that we had a movie that people saw, and a TV show that millions of people watched, got companies to call us back.
“But a lot of them called to say, ‘We saw what you did to [McDonald’s] and we want nothing to do with your movie.’ So success got us in the door, but we still ended up calling every advertising agency that exists, and all of them but one said no. We ended up calling companies ourselves, and out of 500 we found 23 partners.”
In case you’re wondering, Spurlock did try McDonald’s. They declined, as did every major fast-food producer, including In-N-Out (tops on the filmmaker’s wish list) and even the comparatively tiny hot dog chain Wienerschnitzel.
Spurlock still got his face on a plastic cup, though, courtesy of Sheetz, a family-owned chain of Midwestern convenience stores.
With “Greatest Movie,” Spurlock’s intention was not simply to point out egregious examples of product placement — he cites “Mac and Me,” a 1988 “E.T.” knockoff bankrolled by McDonald’s, as the biggest offender — but to illustrate how pervasive advertising has become in our daily lives, in our schools and, of course, at the logo-saturated ballpark.
“At today’s game,” he says, “everybody will be wearing $75 jerseys, carrying a ticket that probably cost another $75, at a stadium named after a company that paid millions of dollars [for the privilege]. Yet [the team] passed none of the savings down to the ticket-buying customers.
“You can sign up for a credit card at the game to get a really cheap tote bag with the Giants logo on it, and that’s advertising right there.”
Still, baseball is baseball.
“In movies,” Spurlock says, “the key is to keep companies out of the creative process so they don’t compromise the integrity of the story.”
IF YOU GO
With Morgan Spurlock, Ralph Nader, Big Boi, Quentin Tarantino, Antonio “L.A.” Reid
Written by Morgan Spurlock, Jeremy Chilnick
Directed by Morgan Spurlock
Running time 1 hour 28 minutes