TIME Business Writer Attacks Superman Movie for... Product Placement?!

June 4th, 2013 6:09 PM

It's one thing, perhaps, for a major movie critic to grouse about product placement in a major motion picture and deem such an action a "sell out." But when a business writer does so, it kind of makes you scratch your head.

Take TIME magazine's Brad Tuttle, whose beat his profile describes as covering "personal finance, travel and parenting, among other topics." In a June 4 piece headlined "Superman the Sell-Out? 'Man of Steel' Has Over 100 Promotional Partners," Tuttle groused about the various promotional tie-ins to the summer blockbuster:

Movie fans are surely excited by the soon-to-be-released Superman reboot, “Man of Steel.” But the film might be even more eagerly anticipated by its 100-plus corporate promotional partners, which are using the movie to help sell razors, cell phones, fast-food burgers, Twizzlers, a career in the armed forces, and more.

Until now, the animated 2012 film “The Lorax,” which had a strong environmental, anti-materialist message, was probably the movie best known for over-the-top promotional tie-ins. It wasn’t just the sheer number of promotional partners—more than 70—but that some of the products tied to the movie seemed inappropriate, such as an SUV.

This summer, AdAge reported, the Superman reboot “Man of Steel” blows “The Lorax” away with more than 100 global partners adding up to around $160 million. (The movie was made by Warner Bros., which is owned by Time Warner, corporate parent of TIME.)

[For a while this afternoon the Time.com front page teased the article with a headline reading, "Superman, the Corporate Shill of Steel."]

I suppose that's interesting trivia, but is it really of concern to most moviegoers, especially since the movie in question is a superhero flick, rather than say an arthouse drama itching for multiple Oscar nominations?

In an age of time-delayed television viewing -- via DVRs and video-on-demand services through cable companies -- aren't product placement and marketing tie-ins no-brainer moves to sell products to Americans in a hyper-competitive media market?

In fact, you might say such ingenuity and brazen product placement is "the American way." You might, that is, unless you're a business writer for a floundering liberal news magazine.