Boycott FX

Img_0093 How do you spell desperation?

If you are FX, you take a very good movie and you paste "DIRT, SEASON FINALE, SUN 10P" in the corner of the screen.

And you keep it there for the duration of the movie.

The movie in question was Any Given Sunday, one of Oliver Stone’s finer moments as a filmmaker with miraculously good performances from Lawrence Taylor, Lauren Holly and Jamie Foxx, and the likes Cameron Diaz and Al Pacino playing well above par.

There are several places where a marketing message should never appear, and the corner of a TV screen is one of them.  Let’s put it this way.  It’s my TV.  So that space in the corner, it belong to me.  If you want to use it, you are going to have to rent it.  You may work out a deal with my cable provider who will work out a deal with me.  And even then, I will opt in.  Or I won’t.  Otherwise, it’s hand’s off. 

What FX did on the weekend was larceny.  Grand or petty, you decide.  We should hope that the consumer punishes FX by boycotting them.  I’m going to. 

There is a larger "product placement" issue here.  I am on record as saying product placement is a bad idea, especially when it interferes with the suspension of disbelief.  There are exceptions and one of them happens to occur in Any Given Sunday.  Coach (Al Pacino) and his new star (Willie "Steamin" Beamen, as played by Jamie Foxx), make an attempt at conversation on the plane home from a victory.  It goes badly.  Coach is patronizing.  Beamen is quietly scornful. 

They decide to try again, over dinner at Coach’s house on the water.    Beamen is out of his depth and manifestly uncomfortable.  But he knows one thing: that Coach is going to renew his efforts to play "father" to his "son," and he is going to use this leverage to push Beamen into sacrificing his interests for those of the team.  In this alien circumstance, Beamen needs a way to show his distance, to send Coach a message.  His choice of Budweiser does this perfectly.   It separates him from this house, this world, this coach.   

This Bud works so successfully on the screen that it is impossible to know whether it is product placement or another of Stone’s inspired directorial choices.  And that is what it should always be.  Anything more obvious is too obvious.  This is the standard of subtlety that must apply when commerce meets culture in this context.  And by this standard, any ad stuck in the corner of the screen is an abomination.  And it has to be punished.

The Wikipedia entry on boycott here

7 thoughts on “Boycott FX

  1. communicatrix

    You know, I’ve always vaguely thought this, but for some reason, the way you’ve articulated it here makes it crystal-clear. There’s just too much desperate shilling on TV, esp. cable, which I’m already subsidizing with my dollars.

    Only I’m not anymore, of course. Gave it up a year ago last October. One of the best, most satisfying decisions I’ve ever made. Talk about your boycotts!

  2. Rick Liebling

    Like many things, product placement/product integration isn’t inherently bad (at least in my opinion). The problem comes with poor application, jamming every brand under the sun into a summer blockbuster movies, or when applied in the wrong context as Grant described. I wonder what directors like Stone think when they see this happen to their work? I doubt it’s worth the trouble to fight over, but could a director write something in his contract stating that any cable distribution rights were contingent on the film NOT being saddled with promos?

    Ultimately the boycott, if strictly adhered to, is a great answer. If enough consumers reject this strategy it could lead to a change of policy.

    I’m also intrigued by the decision by Fx to promote Dirt, a show I would guess is targeted towards females, during a movie that has the testoterone levels cranked up to 11. What’s the strategy there exactly?

  3. Christian Newton

    Funny, I had made a similar observation recently.

    I’ve noticed that the rising tide of awful “channel ID” bugs (rendered distractingly sharp on an HD set) has resulted in a perverse (and free) brand equity for those few channels that do not carry bugs. I know I’m watching HBO (or HDNET) not because they have a bug but precisely because they don’t.

    This continually reinforces a real quality differentiator, which will presumably become important when a la carte lays waste to current cable lineups.

  4. John Frost

    Would it count as a boycott if I promised to only watch the shows via DVR and skip all the commercials? I think “The Riches” is some of the best stuff on TV right now.

  5. IshMEL

    I agree that it’s obnoxious, but how is it larceny? Any more than interrupting a movie with commercials? Or editing a movie’s content for broadcast? Any time you watch a movie on “free” TV, you’re going to get a sub-standard experience. Rent the movie if you don’t like it.

  6. Jason

    There aren’t many channels left for you to watch I’m afraid. FX is far from the only channel doing this, they all do. You’re boycott might as well be to cancel your cable entirely and wait for HBO to release it’s shows on DVD.

    They can be distracting, I’ll give you that. The one you’re pointing out is actually very subtle compared to channels with dancing animated characters and moving text, etc.

    I’m also surprised you’re so upset by this. It doesn’t seem to fit with what I associate as a typical McCracken opinion. I’m not sure I can articulate why at the moment either.

  7. Nathan Bowers

    Product placement is fine as long as it doesn’t break suspension of disbelief. Hamfisted placements take you out of the story and make you aware of all the corporate machinations involved in making movies.

    Oddly, *not enough* product placement is just as bad. Every time I see a laptop on TV without a recognizable logo I remember that I’m watching TV. Brands are part of the fabric of life. If you show me a MacBookPro I expect to see the Apple logo and not some stupid globe sticker.

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