Carmakers' Concerns Drive Away Deals

Even in the age of brand entertainment optimism, product placed in TV shows and movies can still be a slow-moving, under-the- speed-limit problem for some marketers.

For Fox's new adventurous mid-season show, "Drive," about a group of people who entered an illegal race to win big money, producers cast a number of not-recent models: a 2000 Toyota minivan, a 1998 Ford Taurus, a 1971 Dodge Challenger, a 1983 Pontiac Firebird, an LR3 Land Rover, and others.

But when Fox contacted car manufacturers to possibly be included in some bigger marketing deals, there were no takers. The reason? Carmakers didn't want to be associated with an illegal cross-country road race -- especially one where some characters and vehicles might end up in an untimely demise. It was not an "organic" fit, as some in the branded entertainment field would say.

I disagree. Cars do, at times, represent freedom and a sense of rebellion. Couldn't some iconic car brand with a hint of edginess want to step up to the plate? Maybe one of the muscle cars of the late '60s and '70s -- the Ford Cameros, or Pontiac GTOs, say -- would like to take a stab at it?



All this reminds me of the problems Universal Pictures had a few years back with its "Fast and Furious" franchise. Illegal street racing in southern California and elsewhere has been the embodiment of what cars are about -- speed. It's as organic as oatmeal.

"Fast and Furious" featured Honda Civics, Mitsubishi Eclipses, Toyota Supras, Mazda RX-7s, among other cars. Universal Pictures tried to make a big entertainment marketing deal with Honda but was rejected, for similar reasons car manufacturers turned away from "Driven." They didn't want to be associated with illegal racing. Still, Mitsubishi Motors was involved in the second "Furious" movie with its Evo.

Even if carmakers say they don't like these risky entertainment products, some still look to get around their concerns when something becomes a hit. A brief campaign after the first movie had Honda offering up seemingly souped-up Civics in slow-moving scenes through a city street at night, all with a "Fast and Furious" feel to it.

If "Drive" is a success, you can be assured they'll be some creative, "organic" ways to get car marketers involved. It'll be as natural as stepping on the gas.

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