Selling Out to Prove a Point: Morgan Spurlock on His New Film, 'POM Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold'
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You know, we’re going to make a film that’s all about product placement and advertising and actually get a company to pay for it. The fact that that happened is remarkable. The fact that I was able to maintain the final cut of the film with all these brands it’s not just one or two, by the time the film comes out in theaters there will be 23 promotional partners out spreading the word in theaters. Just for that I think it’s a remarkable feat.
EW: Why was this a topic you wanted to explore?
MS: I love movies and I loved TV. I loved the show "Heroes" when it first came on. I thought it was an incredible idea. After the first season, the show started to fall apart a little bit. There started to be a rise in product placement in the show. In one episode, Hayden Panettiere, the cheerleader, comes home from school one day and her dad’s there and he’s like “Honey, your mom and I we’re really proud of you.” And he reaches in his pocket and as he does the camera dollies in front of the car and a Nissan logo goes through the frame and cuts back to him pulling the keys out of his pocket, rapt focus to her face as she goes, “The Rogue? The Nissan Rogue?! Oh my gosh, Dad, I can’t believe it’s the Rogue. The Rogue!”
And I was so dumbfounded. I was flabbergasted. My jaw was hanging agape down to my knees. Later on in the show she’s coming out of a party with her friends and she’s kind of sad and bummed, and it wasn’t such a good night and she says, “Come on, guys, let’s get out of here. To the Rogue!” So the next day I went to work and my producing partner and writing partner, Jeremy, was there, and he was as offended as I was by the show, and we talked about all the product placement we’d seen in movies and TV shows and that’s when we said what if we made a film about this topic and got the companies to foot the bill. How great would that be?
EW: Who did you start with to ask to fund the movie?
MS: The first place we went was the advertising agencies. You know, so first we called all the ad agencies to see who would help us. Not one would help us except Kirshenbaum and Bond, and that’s only because I’d known Richard Kirshenbaum for about 10 years. So then we said, OK, advertising agencies don’t want to help us. What about placement companies? Let’s call all of them, so we called all of them. Not a one of them wants to help us ‘cause no one wants to ruin the gravy train that is their job right now. So none of them will help us put products in the movie, and only two of them will go on camera and talk to us in the film.
So then we started calling the brands ourselves, and we probably called about 600 brands. We started with a A-list brands. I’d say Coke was probably the first company we called. If you’re going to make a doc-buster – a documentary blockbuster – if you’re going to make a film that big, you start at the top. So we started with Coke, we started with Pepsi, all the way down through the beverages until we ended up in front of POM Wonderful.
Shoe companies, same thing. You start with Nike, Reebok, all the way down the list the list. Cars, same thing. Airlines, you start with United, all the big international airlines until we actually made our way down to JetBlue. Hyatt was actually one of the three or four hotels we called. We called the Marriotts and the Hiltons and Hyatt came on board. So we started casting a really wide net with the biggest companies possible and ended up with the ones that made the movies the best.