The exposure ranges from simple, traditional product placements to larger, more expensive deals in which the carmaker touts that placement with ads backing both its vehicle and the movie.
Traditional product placement deals-in which vehicles are provided free to the studios and the only money changing hands is between the carmakers and their product placement companies-remain more prevalent, but industry experts predict an increase in the larger, ad-supported efforts.
STUDIOS PUSH AD SUPPORT
The experts also say movie-makers are now pushing for more of these sorts of deals, as film budgets continue to escalate.
Among upcoming auto product placements:
nLand Rover North America's Discovery sport-utility vehicle will be featured in "Volcano," opening April 25. Its Range Rover 4.0 will be driven by Kristin Scott Thomas in "The Horse Whisperer," due in December. Also, a Range Rover will appear in Walt Disney Co.'s "Flubber," the remake of the 1960's "The Absent-Minded Professor."
nChrysler Corp.'s Chrysler Sebring convertible will appear in a humorous ending of "Speed 2." Chrysler also is negotiating which of its vehicles will appear in the "Godzilla" remake and is said to be looking to place its Plymouth Prowler roadster in the "Green Hornet" remake.
nBMW of North America will place a still-to-be-determined vehicle in the next James Bond movie, tentatively called "Tomorrow Never Dies."
Industry experts agree BMW sparked the trend toward ad-supported placements when its new Z3 appeared in fall 1995 in Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer's Bond film "GoldenEye."
Commercials from Fallon McElligott, Minneapolis, advertised the roadster with clips from the movie.
That deal encouraged Bill Lierle, general marketing manager of Land Rover North America, to sign product placement company UPP Entertainment Marketing, Burbank, Calif.
Land Rover, which previously handled movie deals in-house, has seen "a significant increase in [movie] opportunities" since hiring UPP last June, Mr. Lierle said.
UPP also handles General Motors Corp.'s Buick and Cadillac brands, said Account Exec Kevin Sullivan.
VOLVO LINKS TO `SAINT'
Volvo Cars of North America was the second carmaker to catch the buzz, via its current linkage with "The Saint."
Movie producers normally don't commit to how long a vehicle will appear in a flick, but will guarantee which character drives it, Mr. Sullivan said.
Several car companies said they look for movies and characters that portray their brands in a positive light. They don't like their vehicles driven by gangsters or drug dealers, and rarely provide vehicles that will be destroyed.