SBJ/July 24 - 30, 2006/This Weeks News

Partners get right to yell ‘Cut!’ during film’s production

With Will Ferrell in the lead role and Adam McKay (“Anchorman”) directing, the companies that placed products in “Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby” knew the film might take a few shots at NASCAR’s expense.

Sony Pictures, though, allowed significant latitude when it came to script review. Many companies were updated with prescreenings of certain scenes that involved their product, and occasionally somebody asked for change.

Laurie Thompson, Sprint’s director of entertainment marketing, said that her company was uncomfortable with a scene in which Ferrell’s character, Ricky Bobby, uses his camera phone to take a photo of a topless woman.

“That’s clearly not something we wanted to be associated with,” Thompson said. “They changed it.”

NASCAR, which helped produce the movie, grew a little fidgety with one exaggerated wreck scene where a car rolls over repeatedly. Sarah Nettinga, NASCAR’s director of film, TV and music entertainment, suggested that the fictitious TV coverage could take a commercial break and McKay adopted the idea, which satirized the perception among NASCAR fans that TV goes to commercial at the most inopportune times. In the movie, the car is still rolling when TV comes back from the commercial.

Other companies, such as Checkers, saw opportunity where others shrank. When one sponsor expressed reservations about a crash scene involving its car, Checkers stepped forward.

“We said that we’d crash,” said Rich Turer, vice president of marketing for Checkers/Rally’s. “You always reserve the right to review scripts, but in a movie like this there’s a lot of ad-libbing. Plus, we’re willing to push the envelope.”

Nancy Davis, the building brands with customers manager for Unilever, which placed one of its brands, Country Crock, in the film, said Unilever reviewed the script “to make sure our product is shown in the proper context. We could have made changes.”

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