Opinion Prone

My opinions, let me tell them to you.

Man. I’ve been trying to tap out this review for Code Geass R2 all weekend. I think maybe I’m trying too hard to word things nicely because despite everything it did indeed fail at, I still liked it. Liked it a lot even. Not sure. Maybe I should give it a bit more time before I try to write it. In the meantime, I did manage to revise both my original Code Geass review and my Gurren Lagann review so they don’t sound as retarded.

It’s been hard to get Geass out of my head. Today is the first Sunday in months where I won’t have any new episodes to watch! (I can’t watch the new season of 00 until I finish the first season, lol…) As such, I’m going to take this time to write about product placement and hilariously overt advertising in anime. My friend Andres recently wrote about it in the context of video games and lamented the fact that the American audience has been so keen on rejecting it. And I’m with him — why are people so against the idea of advertisement in their entertainment?

Most people seem to be against this whole idea of “selling out” and doing things “just for the money.” I can understand and will agree with that sentiment for things that take away from the value of the product, such as making unplanned sequels to popular series. Forcing a franchise usually only ends up hurting the property, but I’ve never found advertising to be intrusive or annoying? How distracting is it, really, to have a Coke on the table and Toyotas driving in the street? How distracting is it, really, to have a guy drive down the highway and pass a Samsung billboard. Do you really even notice?

In Japan, Pizza Hut is (obviously) a huge sponsor for Code Geass, among other series. There is a Pizza Hut logo in virtually every episode, and it becomes like a weekly Easter egg hunt to find it. Because it’s pretty much the only advertisement/logo in the series, it becomes pretty hilarious — Pizza Hut supporting the rebellion has become the butt of many, many jokes, but is anyone really distracted by it? Does it take away from the rest of the series, which is occasionally very serious? (I’m pretty sure a Pizza Hut logo never appears simultaneously with a heart or brain-wrenching scene, though pizza itself sometimes does.) Most people would probably answer “no,” and I find it hard to imagine that anyone would ragequit or refuse to watch the series just because, oh god, Pizza Hut wants you to know that they paid for it! Some people have other reasons for disliking the series, but Pizza Hut probably had nothing to do with it.

Like that whole thing about musicians promoting anime, this type of relationship can only benefit both parties. Pizza Hut obviously benefits from on-show screentime, and undoubtedly gets a slice (haha, pun) of the commercials as well. Meanwhile, Code Geass graces thousands of pizza boxes across the country and has merchandise available through some kind of points system at the pizza place. Fans of the show are directed to Pizza Hut. Fans of Pizza Hut are directed towards the show. Everybody wins. I also think the fact that some cosplayers pretty much have to go to Pizza Hut to complete their costumes is hilarious, though even those who aren’t cosplaying C.C. will probably go grab some pizza because it’s just so funny.

I wasn’t surprised when Bandai edited out most of the Pizza Hut logos from the overseas release (I say most because, hey, Bandai! You missed a spot), but I really wonder what their reasoning was when they decided that. They “don’t have permission” from the Pizza Hut of the US to advertise on their behalf, but seriously… why would Pizza Hut say, “No! You can’t have our logo plastered all over your silly cartoon!” Is it because Code Geass is about terrorism? Why would anyone refuse free advertising? And now I kind of wonder — would Code Geass have done any better on [adultswim] if they had left the Pizza Hut logos intact? Like I said, it’s so ridiculously overt, it’s amusing, and I wonder if the general [as] audience would have appreciated that kind of silliness long enough to consider the rest of the show. Maybe they would have been indifferent, but I really don’t think it would have hurt the series in any way.

So yeah. I don’t understand why people shy away from product placement because it’s probably one of the least distracting forms of advertisement out there, even when it’s as prominent as the Pizza Hut/Code Geass case. Most examples aren’t nearly as over-the-top, so I don’t even know why there’s an argument. It’s a fact that companies need money to deliever a product. It’s a fact that advertisers already contribute most of the money, whether it’s via advertisements at the broadcast or whatever, so why shun product placement? The world we walk through is plastered with logos and adverts; if anything, wouldn’t it only add to realism if our entertainment is the same?

Sure, it’s commercialism, but we survive on commercialism.

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  1. TJF588 on August 20, 2009 6:34 am

    I think the real probalems with product placement are:
    1) The detail of the product, or at least its logo.
    2) The camera focus on the product.
    3) Whether it fits in the setting.

    Most of the objects in anime aren’t tooo detailed, and when they are, it probably looks like a stick-on over the regular animation. Heck, detail is probably used to GET the viewer’s attention, so when you have relatively large tracts of a single color, seeing something as small yet clear as a logo will grab your attention. As you said, not featuring Pizza Hut’s during heavier scenes is a good call, but whenever something recognizable and relatively intricate on the screen, I’d wager your attention will shift for a moment, and this could break a viewer’s immersion/zone-out.
    Heck, the product may even be what the camer’as showcasing, though that happens with a lot of objects during talky-talky scenes. If they camera is overtly trying to point out it’s there, though… But I don’t remember well enough to know if that really happened here (at most, with pan-shots or character show-ups, like Nunally carrying them in the missed-a-spot above).
    What I do know is that Pizza Hut is part of my world, and my world is not the same as that in Code Geass. If folks are driving Toyotas of have a Coke on their tables (what are the chances its label is ever skewed at all from the camera?), then they’re prolly in a setting based on our world (Tokyo, anyone?!), but Code Geass’s world’s history is a bit different, and it’s not a “regular life with something weird thrown in” deal (like Blood+’s “normal life, but then vampires WTF?!”). In Code Geass, humanoid fighting robots are accepted by the populace as true, and that’s just how things are. So when something I accept as-is in the real world is part of a world with different norms, it might be jarring. Code Geass’s isn’t too far off, but still, I can get why people may feel jilted out of their lull.

    … or something like that.

  2. Kiriska on August 20, 2009 2:03 pm

    Hm, that’s an interesting take on it. I agree that recognizable products might help establish the idea that a series’ word is the same as our own, but even in a show like Code Geass, where there are hugely obvious differences, I think that integration helps rather than hurts it. I generally always think that the more believable something is, the easier it is to relate to, which is perhaps the most important aspect of any entertainment form — even in a world full of giant robots and supernatural powers, Pizza Hut helps ground it and adds an angle of realism to it, somehow balancing out all of the ridiculous hax, at least to some degree. I don’t really think it breaks immersion at all.

    Still, it’s hard to deny that Pizza Hut’s presence in Code Geass was very, very overt. I don’t necessarily think that all product placement should be so obvious, but there is still a lot of room for advertisement. For series that are more grounded in realism like slice of life or shoujo series, it would be amazingly easy to put in an official logo here or there. So many series pan over city advertisements in places like Shinjuku anyway — they just fill it up with parody ads like Samsang. They’re pretty much advertising Samsung anyway, why not make it official? They’re buying “Cola-Coke” and “Pockie” anyway, so why not make it official? Also, a lot of series have nondescript cars — Darker than BLACK obviously had a car sponsor and all of their cars were beautifully designed and animated. I don’t actually remember the kind of cars they were though, but it sure didn’t bother me that we sometimes got a close-up of the brand name during or after car chases.