Saturday, March 31, 2018


Morgan Spurlock is fascinating and has brought attention to a number of issues that require more attention.  My attention was drawn to the concept of product placement in movies.  Barely acquainted with the notion it seems it was of greater import than I had assumed.  Money is a driver of activity.

This post was almost stopped at one point for some personal knowledge of Morgan, but in the end I decided this was too interesting and perhaps even important and should continue.  In fact I decided to check out two more of his documentaries.  More about the obstacle at the end

Morgan was trying to make the point that commercials pay for much of what we think is free.  He developed the idea of doing a movie and having it paid entirely by sponsors.  Easier said than done.  They approached ad agencies and even placement agencies and received total rejection.  There is a snippet showing one agency that accepted a pitch.  After these initial failures they decided to approach companies directly.  They developed customized pitches for each company demonstrating how they would use their product in the movie.  It took over 500 cold calls before they found their first sponsor  After that it was easier as no body wants to be the first to buy a new concept, but there is always somebody ready to join a bandwagon.

In the movie itself there was a lot of points about how movies are dependent on money.  Lots of movie ideas are killed because not enough money can be raised.  Iron Man2 held a record of over 30 product placements in a movie.

Morgan's crew traveled to one of their co-promoters, Hyatt Regency Hotels in Sao Paulo, Brazil.  He noted there were no ads on taxis, buses or buildings. Talking to Brazilians they were told merchants relied on word of mouth (and good products).

Ralph Nader (who promoted his books when filmed) and Noam Chomsky, among many others made comments and gave some advice.  Donald Trump said a few words about the importance of promoting yourself.  The film showed examples of how some movies did placements.

Schools have been beaten down by budgets and some find themselves looking to advertising to help support some educational efforts.   Demonstrates that tax payers do not value education as much as they claim.  More and more schools are co-operating with commercial interests to have enough money for a wide variety of tools.  Nothing is too sacred.

One of the commercials brought back some memories.  Mane N Tail is a well known horse product and at a trade show I met the inventor who created it at home  The company I worked for at the time Orange aPEEL developed a shampoo that at first was for dogs, but as the owners had horse connections it got tested among horse owners they knew.  It was added to my list of products and I remember going into one small town (Perth) and talking it up when I was interrupted by a manager who said she only sold horse shampoos that she would recommend for people as well.  I gave her a sample.  Phoning her back she was very enthused about it, but said she was closing up shop.  I told her where else in town she could buy it.  Then I lost contact, but another store in that same town reported an increase in sales.  The other store was aiming it at dog owners.  I and my wife got to trying it and loved it.  Unfortunately I no longer have access to it or I would recommend it for you.

While filming they had a goal of being ready for TIFF, but unfortunately they were delayed.  Ended up debuting at Sundance

"Super Size Me" was an earlier effort that attracted a lot of attention.  An experiment under some medical guidance.  He was to eat all meals provided by McDonald's with nothing else.  The movie got into other issues, notably obesity.  Schools were being forced to adopt fast food, but some rebelled.  One good example came from Appleton, Wisconsin where they demonstrated that diet and exercise can have a positive impact on academic studies.  Schools were finding their budgets cut and demands made for subject coverage that limited or even eliminated physical education.

All through Morgan was being measured for his medical response.  It was pointed out that few if any ate all their meals at McDonald's, but many ate several times a week.  Morgan was several times told to stop this experiment as it was having a very detrimental effect on his health.  He stuck it out and had a plan to get back to his normal health.

Eric Schloss, author of Fast Food Nation appeared in bonus features--consumers sucked in by flavor (chemistry/testing), industrial agriculture.  He pointed out that with industrial farms, manure is concentrated .  One of the forces behind fast food is tv which gets a lot of revenue from fast food ads.   In a previous blog I discussed mindless eating and mindful eating:  A nephew worked at McDonald's and will not eat there.

"Where in the World is Osama bin Laden"  concept originates as his wife becomes pregnant and is concerned about safety.  Osama bin Laden was portrayed as a great menace and was used as a tool to demonstrate fear.  He interviewed Muslims in different countries (Morocco, Israel, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Pakistan).  Many commented on how foreign money sent is wasted through corruption  

He was realistic in his coverage.  Americans had supported dictators around the world.  Americans had displaced an elected Iranian Prime Minister and replaced with a dictator.  After the Iranian Revolution that replaced the Shah, Americans befriended Sadam Hussain, dictator of Iraq.  It was also pointed that much of the American financial aid was sidelined by corruption.   Read an earlier blog on that issue:

In his travels he found Saudi Arabians and Israeli Orthodox Jews the most difficult to reason with. Morgan did agree that the problem wasn't just Osama Bin Laden as he would be replaced with others who felt the same antagonism against America.  Unfortunately when the movie came out there were few Americans willing to consider the humanity of the "other," especially Muslims.  This is perhaps another example of IMDB ratings being affected by political concerns.

Morgan Spurlock confessed in 2017 to being  a sex predator including being accused of rape, settling a sexual harassment lawsuit and cheating on his two wives.  I don't want to associate myself with Harvey Weinstein, but it wasn't so much a degree of difference as a degree of self awareness.  I am reminded of Jimmy Carter confessing lusting in his heart.  I confess that I read it in the original Playboy format as a young person.  It hurt him with some of his supporters but struck me as being honest.  Jimmy and Morgan recognized a human failing that has caused a lot of harm, much of which is not even consciously appreciated.  The three documentary films I have seen and I suspect many of his others are real mind openers.  Apparently Morgan may be another victim of his own indiscretions.

 Some of my thoughts on sexual consent:

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