Both "Iron Man" and "Sex and the City" are the recipients of three top awards each, with "Sex" bearing the distinction as the winner of the first Film Whore Award, or movie that "sold out" for product placement.
Drama gets attention
This year's awards were based on survey information compiled from nearly 900 Brandchannel readers in 90 countries from July 25 to Aug. 1, asking them to name any film that topped the U.S. box office from August 2007 to July 2008. Abram Sauer, a writer for Brandchannel who helped select this year's winners, said other metrics such as media coverage and hits from Google News' volume aggregator also factored into the methodology. Mr. Sauer found readers responded to more dramatic films with strong character arcs, leaving comedies such as "Bee Movie," "Superbad" and "The Simpsons Movie" with considerable lower scores than "Sex," "Iron Man" and "The Bourne Ultimatum."
"Iron Man" is the winner of the Odd Couple Award ("most seemingly ineffective product placement," for the LG cellphone), Best Off-Screen Support (Robert Downey Jr.'s public endorsements of Burger King and his special-edition 18-karat gold-plated LG cellphone) and the Welcome to Reality Award (Stark Industries' high-teach weapons were chosen as the fictional brand or product readers most wanted in real life). It was also the most divisive film on the list, as it often toed the line between positive reader feedback and negative media coverage.
"People loved the Audi [R8] recognition, but stuff like the Burger King placement they really weren't huge fans of," Mr. Sauer said. "Then they had stuff like the Dell servers, which only people in the industry would even know about. Bloggers would write, 'There's no way he would use that stuff at Stark Industries.'"
"Sex and the City" was equally praised and panned for its shameless peddling, taking home honors for the Perfect Fit Award (Manolo Blahnik, natch), Most Mouthwatering Award (Jennifer Hudson's Louis Vuitton bag was deemed most likely to send fans running to the stores) and the aforementioned Film Whore Award. Surprisingly, the femme-friendly film didn't prompt much gender bias, as votes for The Film Whore Award were split nearly 50/50 between males and females.
Other notable awards include the Bomb Award, which went to Nokia's role in "Cloverfield" as the product placement that most ruined the enjoyment of a scene (runners-up: Symantec for "The Incredible Hulk," Sony for "Vantage Point" and Fox for "The Simpsons Movie"). "Transformers" also got the dubious Reese's Award for Achievement in Press Coverage, which racked up more media coverage for its General Motors tie-in in a few days following its release than any other film tracked by Google Labs received during the whole year.
Perhaps the most distinguished achievement, however, goes to Ford, which received the Brandcameo Award for Overall Product Placement. Ford vehicles appeared in 30 of the 52 No. 1 films at the U.S. box office from Jan. 1, 2007, to June 30, 2008, up considerably from its cameos in 18 of 2005's 41 top films and 17 of 2006's 41 top films. However, as Mr. Sauer is quick to point out, Ford doesn't seem to be getting much return on investment from its aggressive branded-entertainment model, as year-over-year sales are at a 15% decline, and Mark Kaline, Ford's global media manager, was recently "written out of the Ford script" in the company's recent marketing restructuring.
The Apple of producers' eye
Ford could also have some serious competition next year in Apple, which appeared in 50% of this year's No. 1 films, often by default. "Defenders of product placement talk about having real brands in the film, saying it accentuates the reality. Then you have a scene in some little movie where an entire CIA operative bank of computers is Apples," Mr. Sauer said. "If it's left to the producers, they'll just choose Apple."