Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Keeping Up with "The Joneses"

"The Joneses" is a new Demi Moore/David Duchovny film coming soon to a theatre near you. Check out the trailer below. According to the synopsis, the film is about four individuals living undercover as a picture-perfect family. What their neighbours don't know (yet... I imagine), the fake family works for a marketing company and their job is to introduce new luxury-level products to neighbourhoods like theirs around the world, using undercover marketing techniques.

Fashion companies, including Reebok and Nike, do in fact have "coolhunter employees". Coolhunters seek new trends and act as brokers, bringing these trends back to their company and turning them into products for sale. As Malcolm Gladwell explains,
"The key to coolhunting... is to look for cool people first and cool things later, and not the other way around. Since cool things are always changing, you can't look for them, because the very fact they are cool means you have no idea what to look for... Cool people... are a constant."
Do big companies and/or marketing companies actually implant cool people into make-believe lives to sell a variety of products to their unsuspecting neighbours? I doubt they go that far. Although, I have heard of people being hired to walk around big malls with specific shopping bags in their hands, to influence others to shop at those specific stores, so maybe it's a slippery slope. I can't help but notice that "The Joneses" is in fact one big excuse for product placement.

In effect, "The Joneses" seem to me to be double-agents, the characters in the film are masquerading as cool people in the film trying to sell products to their neighbours while they are simultaneously trying to sell these same products to the film audience as well. While this product placement is most likely intentionally heavy-handed, to stress the message of rampant consumerism or whatever the director is going for... that doesn't erase the fact that it is still product placement.