Lexus places futuristic craft in sci-fi film
By Robert Marich
Nov. 12, 2016—Sci-fi film Valerian incorporates a futuristic spaceship designed by Lexus, which is the Toyota automotive brand that gets some imagery placement in the movie and its marketing materials. Presumably, Lexus also will do formal tie-in promotions closer to theatrical release.
Valerian is scheduled for domestic theatrical release in July, 2017. The movie has a Star Wars feel and is from somewhat-arty French director Luc Besson, whose
Valerian gets early publicity for this Lexus-designed spaceship; it's a July, 2017 movie release
EuropaCorp will control distribution of the Valerian. The English-language movie is based on a French comic book series. The movie’s full name is Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets.
Says a press release that the spaceship “incorporates an adapted interpretation of Lexus’ signature ‘spindle’ grille, and a similar headlight design to that of the hotly anticipated 2018 Lexus LC coupe, defined by an athletic and aerodynamic shape.”
Lexus got Besson to allow his name to be directly associated with the brand by quoting the filmmaker gushing over the spaceship being “pioneering in innovation and technology.” So it's a product placement with a rub-off for Lexus cars.
Carmakers, while active placing their cars in contemporary settings, haven’t showcased their brands in sci-fi very much in recent years. They did in past years. “In recent years, German carmaker Audi has been the most aggressive prestige brand seeking car placements in movies, which is part of an overall growth plan,” says the third edition of Marketing To Moviegoers. “For Twentieth Century Fox’s July 2004 release I, Robot, Audi adapted a futuristic concept car for use in the movie…. In I, Robot, actor Will Smith, who portrays a homicide detective, drives the silver Audi with butterfly doors around Chicago in the year 2035. The carmaker’s corporate logo of interlocking rings is visible in a film trailer and in the movie on the steering wheel. Audi also displayed the vehicle at automobile shows, giving I, Robot another promotional boost.”
To me, the best branded placement in sci-fi are 1968’s epic 2001: A Space Odyssey and 1984 sequel 2010 with Apple Computers, AT&T phone, Sheraton Hotels and this now-defunct airline, with a commercial: “So if your business takes you out of this world, enjoy the speed and comfort of a Pan Am space clipper with convenient non-stops to the moon and all major space stations. At Pan Am, the sky is no longer the limit.”
When familiar brand logos are tweaked for use in sci-fi, they add a touch of reality to future settings.
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