Record #1175

Date:
31/05/1938
Record Type:
Essay/manuscript
Reel:
Reel 12
Frame Start:
12-0040
Frame End:
12-0105
Legacy ID:
1185
Legacy Year:
1938
Legacy Index:
Advertising - industrial
Comments:
Additional text in Transcription. EDITORIAL COMMENT: Anonymous report, possibly conducted by a member of the MPPDA staff, but as probably not. The report does not appear to have been commissioned or solicited, but this is a question with which the MPPDA has been concerned.

The Feature film as Advertising Medium." A very useful document re "plugs" for institutions or products, deliberately planted in entertainment movies, and the agencies through which such advertising is carried out.

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Long Description:

The Feature Film as Advertising Medium: anonymous report, possibly conducted by a member of the MPPDA staff. "Chapter 1 discusses the extent to which the feature film is being used as an advertising medium. It says it is difficult to ascertain the extent of this practice, but there is no doubt that the feature is being so used. It quotes a series of articles and letters which appeared in Printer's Ink, the first appearing in August 1935. These articles mention specific pictures in which certain well known brands of commercial goods are identified. A letter to Printer's Ink notes that there is an individual in Hollywood whose business it is to have products of his clients incorporated into scenes of pictures in production and asserts that this individual has more than sixty nationally advertised accounts. The individual, declares this report, 'is undoubtedly Walter Kline.' "Of the hundred pictures examined during this study, only 19 were free of plugs. Of these 19, 7 were period pictures. The remaining 12 were modern stories with foreign settings. The remaining 81 feature pictures contained a total of 280 plugs. In 17 pictures made during the first 4 months of 1938 there were 89 plugs. Plugs appear to decrease in good times and increase in times of national depression, which is significant. "... The exploitation tie-up is a wide avenue for plugs. Here the studios are frank in their attitude and cooperate freely, one reason being they get as much as they give." -- e.g. Merrily We Live produced display ads for gas kitchen appliances, 1/4 of which advertised the film. "... Chapter 4 discusses specifically which commercial advertisers are making use of the screen. It gives a list of such advertisers with the number of plugs received and the number of pictures in which they appear. Ford Motors heads the list with 49 plugs in 28 pictures. It is noticeable that in the 100 pictures studied, exactly half, or 140 of the 280 specific plugs discovered, are for various automobiles. It is pointed out again that this list represents a study of only 100 pictures as against a minimum of 2,500 features released over the period studied." The J. Walter Thompson Agency has coined a new term, 'movielicity', for this form of advertising. "... Institutional advertising is thriving and nurtured by administrative policies in Washington, while trades are becoming closely united in defensive action and thereby forced to take the offensive. The entire new militant attitude on the part of trade organizations is shown by the recent suit brought by candy manufacturers from an allegedly detrimental reference in a Shirley Temple picture." "A motion picture executive with whom these questions were discussed, gives it as his opinion that the industry is not contemplating any move which would risk the furor created several years ago when efforts were made to present films sponsored by advertisers. At that time the public was quick to express its resentment. The attempt also met with strong antagonism on the part of the newspapers." - from Printer's Ink article "Brand Conscious Movies", 08-01-1935. A later letter says commercial films were banned from theatres in 1930 "because of the deluge of protests coming from patrons, who found the subjects very boring." "... Other means have enlightened commercial advertisers on the value of plugs. Advertising men who were interviewed have pointed out that each time a manufacturer or a commercial group complains because a scene in a feature shows a product or a commercial interest to disadvantage the obverse becomes apparent. There develops a realization that a plug would be as valuable as a detrimental reference is harmful." Suggests that plugs are more prevalent in times of bad business: "As box office returns went up in 1935 and 1936 the average number of plugs went down. As box office returns went off in 1937 and the first four months of 1938 the number of plugs went up." Incidentally to this, that pattern for the box office is undoubtedly significant in relation to the PCA, in that the prosperity of 1935-6 would have been used to justify the PCA's activities, as positive evidence that they had not harmed box office. The rationale for more plugs in bad times is that it's cheaper, since using existing products is cheaper than creating a fictitious brand name. "... producers rarely take the initiative in negotiations which result in plugs. On the other hand, certain avenues are knowingly left open for such arrangements. As will be seen when the work of advertising agencies is discussed further on, studios frequently seek technical advice from such sources as well as from manufacturers and commercial groups such as fruit growers exchanges, 'booster' clubs and the like. Frequently contacts of this origin result in plugs." The statistics here, based on 100 films, suggest that this is a widespread practice - lists products and companies involved in it. Walter Kline, whose profession this is, "is quite frank in talking about his business and boasts of connections he has in almost all of the studios whereby he works in labeled pictures in set dressings, dialogue and other avenues for plugs. He names two studios with whom he has no such connections, MGM and Warner Bros." Liberal distribution of free goods is one method used. The largest number of institutional plugs - not for a specific brand, are for alcoholic drinks - possible in period pictures, too. "... Segregation of institutional plugs in the 100 pictures covered by this report would not be convincing, probably, to anyone in the motion picture business. To say, for instance, that in a given number of pictures there appear a certain number of scenes showing characters drinking coffee, would mean little to picture people, although to certain definite interests in the coffee trade the same data would mean much. This subject must, therefore, be dismissed without a recapitulation of that nature but not without pointing to certain organizations which, according to one man interviewed for this study, are vitally interested in seeing their 'lines' plugged in features. Among them there is the association of bicycle manufacturers; the Sugar Institute, Inc., an organization of the cane sugar refineries, the Brazilian-American Coffee Promotion Committee; the American Gas Association; the canned salmon industry (vitally interested right now in Spawn of the North); and the liquor, commercial flying and fruit grower organizations already mentioned." We might note as an e.g. of developing interest the objections in Commercial Airport - or whatever that 1934 WB movie was, by airlines -- this possibly the point in which their interest in turning from protest to plug developed. The future: "... radio is schooling the public in mixing advertising with entertainment. Years ago the public ridiculed a similar arrangement off the boards - the wandering medicine show. Sophistication was believed to have ended that sort of thing but radio sponsors have learned within recent times that if the mixture of advertising and entertainment can be raised to the level of general sophistication comedies and remedies can be rolled into the one pill. The motion picture developed during the days when the old type medicine show withered but it has survived to a day when the new type medicine show flourishes to constitute a rival. What the public has learned from this rival it will accept from the motion picture, within limits, of course." "... Some of the advertising men interviewed believe that the exploitation tie-up between features and commercial products may have reached its zenith and will prove to be less and less effective as the entrance for the commercial plug. ... Time was when products like Lux were tied in with players without cash considerations or anything else of great value. But two years ago agents came into Hollywood for the Dodge car and in exchange for an automobile in each instance got endorsements from such stars as Clark Gable, Shirley Temple, the Marx Brothers and others of equal box office power. Players realizing that their endorsements were worth at least the price of an automobile have become harder and harder to land on a cheaper basis, so much so that Lucky Strikes are alleged to have paid stars as high as $5,000 for the use of their pictures and endorsements in a recent nation-wide campaign on billboards and in periodicals." Some companies see institutional plugs as advantageous even if their brand name is not displayed: "The Underwood typewriter feels about the same way when typewriting machines are shown, although they have gone to the precaution of offering machines gratis for set dressing. According to employees of Brown and Williamson, manufacturers of cigarettes and smoking tobacco, the whole tobacco trade, with the possible exception of cigar manufacturers, feels grateful to the motion picture industry for is attitude on the use of the weed. Features show old and young, men and women using the cigarette and 'the right kind of people' using the pipe - all of which is gleefully recognized as desirable institutional plugging by 'the trade.'"Plenty of quotable instances - example of the use of Advertising lines in films.

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