Rich On The Silver Screen

The place of the paid product in media spaces usually devoid of advertisements is becoming more common due to the advent of digital recording devices and the viewer’s ability to download feature films.  The viewer’s tendencies to ‘fast forward’ ad breaks have prompted advertisers to be more creative in pushing their products into the viewer’s gaze by putting them into story lines and other spaces which are not traditionally designed for advertising.

A viewer connects with content in a different way from how they engage with blatant advertisements.  As society becomes increasingly more media savvy, advertisers are becoming sneakier in their attempts to get their message across. On any average night we are seeing more brand-advertising on home-grown TV shows like Neighbours and Australian Idol.

As people are forgoing the cinema experience by downloading films at home, we are therefore seeing a rise in indirect advertising in feature films. This is a way for companies to make millions on their film investments before it has reached an audience. This is not a new phenomenon in Hollywood; however where it is becoming worrying for some is just how hard the film industry now pushes brands and products.

Dr. Paula Kelly, a Monash University film expert says ‘I think product placement ultimately corrupts the concerns of film making and disrespects the role of an audience. The pleasure of watching a film becomes corrupted by the awareness of its own economic concerns.’

Since the rise in popularity of digital radio, we have also seen the same dilemma for advertisers using that medium. Last month, Radio 2GB came under scrutiny for not acknowledging the economic exchange of services between it and its partners in TAB Sportsbet.  It is Australian law that advertising content remains clearly distinguishable from other radio content, something John Gibbs of Radio 2BG failed to do as he interviewed the TAB spokesperson.

However is this an issue for the average Australian today? Upon interviewing 28 young people, 92% said that they are aware when a product is being pushed, however they did not mind. It seems that while advertisers are adapting to new technologies, people in turn must become more wary and discerning in the content they are watching.

– Some of the most blatant product placement of the past decade. Interesting to note they are pushing products that their audience will never be able to buy.

– Media watch report on the 2GB scandal

– Results of survey conducted of 29 of my friends

Aus Film Industry: Lights, Camera but not much Action

The Australian government is increasing its allowance to a struggling film industry again this year to $170 million, despite not seeing returns in revenue for the past 10 years.

Australians spent over $600 million at the movies last year at the box office, which included record numbers in most states. However of that, Australian films generated less than 2 per cent of the box-office intake, the lowest it has been in 10 years.

In 2008–09, government funding represented 17 per cent of the total funding for Australian produced and co‑produced feature films in production. Since the 1980’s there has been the continued debate over the close association between the Australian Government and the Australian Film Commission.

80% of the films coming out of this country don’t make a profit and 40 per cent of those don’t even make their money back. It is an industry which resides on government funding, a resource which ensures that a specific type of film is made.

“The significance of returns at the box office is not as important as producing films which a distinct sense of nationalism.” Says film and arts critic Dr. Adrian Martin says of the Governments attitude to film content.

“What this means is that a certain ‘type’ of film gets made, one which furthers how the government vision of how it wants to present the nation. We need to start making films which will see a return and we won’t have to rely on government funding.”

In a struggling industry there has been the commercial push for filmmakers to fund their own projects. This has led many young filmmakers to look for commercial backing for their films.

In 2008 21 year old filmmaker, Andrew Erlanger made a short film detailing life in suburban Melbourne called Last Stop: Belgrave Station. The film was partly financed by Connex and the city of Belgrave. ‘I just went to Connex and the City of Maroondah council and asked if they would be interested. They were but it took a lot of convincing,” Said Erlanger.

“In the end I had to take out some of the negative sentiment towards suburban Melbourne and a scene where the main character gets caught spraying graffiti at a bus stop. But I got to make my movie, and I didn’t have to compromise much really.’

In a struggling film market in Australia, ad revenue for smaller films is outweighing what it makes up in the box office. “There really is that notion where film makers are saying ‘this film won’t make its money back, I can make at least half of the money financed before the film has even reached an audience’” Says film writer Adrian Martin.

“If it’s helping art and it’s for the art then I can honestly say that i don’t have a problem with it. The fact of the matter is that the Australian film industry, as it stands, is a struggling industry. If Film makers want to get their film out there, compromises potentially have to be made.” Says film scholar Dr. Paulla Kelly

“From an advertiser’s perspective, it’s more about moving with the times and acknowledging that traditional advertising methods are no longer as effective as they once were,” Says Richard Weisal of Norm Marshal Advertising about the use of product placement in films.

“People aren’t watching their commercials any more. So that’s happening, advertisers will now have to think in a smarter way about how they can still sell their products to consumers. And product placement is the future.”

The future of film in Australia seems to be split with commercial and government funding. However Adrian Martin thinks it does not have to be like this, “The goal of the industry is to make films people want to see and not have to rely on the governments allowance or anything else. We should be able to be a self sufficient industry, ala Hollywood, and see the money we spend on films made up at the box office.”




Shots from the film shoot of Andrew Erlanger’s 2008 award winning short film ‘Last Train To Belgrave Station’. A dream sequence in which actress Amanda Crawford walks through a feild of pink TV’s.


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