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UPDATE: The day after this post first appeared, Spurlock's rep from Rubenstein, a big PR firm in New York, contacted us to request that we change the headline to include the full "official title" of the film, "POM Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold." Branding!
This is a promotional blog post. I was asked to cover the SXSW Film Festival screening of Morgan Spurlock's new documentary, POM Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold, which attempts to take a meta-look at the concept of product placement via a documentary funded entirely by product placement, because of promotional considerations: Fast Company, my employer, is featuring Spurlock, his movie, and his take on the concept of "selling out vs. buying in" as a story in the April issue.
And the promotion doesn't end there. Because Spurlock sold $1.5 million worth of product placement (the film's entire budget), this blog post is indirectly helping to promote brands such as POM Wonderful, JetBlue, Mini, Ban Deodorant, and Sheetz, a family-run convenience store chain. (Spurlock really wanted his face on collectible 32-ounce soda cups, and for some reason, fast food companies weren't eager to work with the director of Super Size Me; Sheetz obliged.) Of course, this post also helps promote Fast Company's own "brand partners," particularly PepsiCo and Lincoln, which are helping bring our coverage of South by Southwest to you, the reader.
This is more or less the point of Spurlock's film—to make us aware of the role that advertising and its stealthier cousins, sponsorship, product placement, and co-promotion, play in most of our experiences, particularly the culture we consume. It's going to make you laugh—Spurlock's fans know he's incredibly likable and antic, a great storyteller—and it's also going to make you a little uncomfortable, particularly when Spurlock visits a cash-strapped Florida school district selling everything but the walls to make ends meet, and gets his own young son to shill for JetBlue.
Yet The Greatest Movie Ever Sold stops short of making a coherent criticism of the marketing-saturated world we live in. When asked by Fast Company what the take-home message was supposed to be, Spurlock replied, "Look at the world. Every day we're being sold something. Even I'm up here trying to sell you something—I want you to come see my movie. The most important thing is that you're aware of what's going on." Is that really the most important thing? Is there no way to fight back? Or to make some sacred space in our lives free of commercial considerations?
I have so many more questions. I can't wait to read Fast Company's April issue to find out the rest of the story. On newsstands in two weeks!
Read our feature from March 2011 about The Greatest Movie Ever Sold: I'm With The Brand
Follow @FastCompany on Twitter.