Well, it’s a new era in product placement. I’d ask you to imagine an entire film dedicated to propelling a single product or brand forward, but then you’d likely respond with mentions of “Battleship” and “Ouija” and “The Lego Movie” (which was awesome nonetheless). And those are just the tip of the iceberg. You can easily cite films that, even without a product in the title, cater to products, angling shots perfectly to capture some logo or label or product.
A collaboration between Dell and Intel, the ”Inside” series is branded content to the extreme, and the fourth entry in the series premieres at the end of this month. Directed by Robert Stromberg (“Maleficent”), “What Lives Inside” stars Colin Hanks as Taylor, a man who stumbles upon a mysterious and magical world his late father (J.K. Simmons), a renowned puppeteer, created. The series also stars Catherine O’Hara and — no joke — the Dell Venue 8 7000 Series tablet (apparently it has a major role).
Okay, I’ll admit, parts of the preview look very pretty (am I the only one who got a “Monsters, Inc.” vibe at one point?). The notion of a man who finds a hidden world left behind by his artistic father — or any sort of mystical realm — isn’t new to film at all (adaptations of “The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe” and “Alice in Wonderland” for example). Remove the branding, and you’ve got a very legit film. If you dig a little into the history of the series, you’ll see that Stromberg tapped into crowdsourcing for the film, inviting people to submit drawings and character sketches to the production’s site, a selection of which will be used in the series, which is a neat way to tap into your viewership.
Still, whether conspicuous or not (and it looks like it will be), the Dell tablet placement will feature heavily in the film/series. Despite the incredible talent involved, is this something we can ignore? Should we ignore it? Is this just the direction of cinematic entertainment? As I mentioned earlier, “What Lives Inside” is the fourth installment of the “Inside” series, so this type of branding must be of merit, no? Heck, the last one, “The Power Inside,” even starred Harvey Keitel. Before that was “The Beauty Inside,” directed by Drake Doremus and starring Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Topher Grace.
So what’s your take on this? Have you seen the other three installments? Is the product branding a fair trade-off for fan involvement, or does the involvement of people like Simmons, Hanks, and O’Hara bode ill on a grander scale?
“What Lies Inside” premieres on Hulu March 25th and will debut new episodes over four weeks. Beginning May 6th, viewers who don’t have Hulu, or who would rather not watch the series piecemeal, can binge on it in its entirety on both YouTube and WhatLivesInside.com.