Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Automakers Look for Deals to Get Vehicles in Films, TV

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Automakers Look for Deals to Get Vehicles in Films, TV

Article excerpt

DETROIT _ In John Grisham's legal thriller, "The Firm," lead character Mitchell Y. McDeere's dream car is a black BMW 318i.

When the movie "The Firm" opens today with Tom Cruise as McDeere, the BMW won't be anywhere in sight. Cruise will lust for and eventually drive a Mercedes-Benz 300 CE.

How the BMW in the book became a Mercedes in the movie is best explained by a Hollywood axiom: What the director wants, the director gets.

Sidney Pollack, director of "The Firm," wanted a Mercedes.

"We were absolutely crushed," said Donna Schmidt, a vice president at Norm Marshall Associates, a North Hollywood product placement agency that represents BMW, Chevrolet and Volvo.

BMW was prepared to spend big bucks to be associated with the movie _ cross advertising between the movie and the car, free movie posters for customers at dealerships, even a car giveaway.

But Pollack, according to placement agents, didn't want "The Firm" to be over-commercialized like some other summer blockbusters, notably "Jurassic Park" and "Last Action Hero."

While BMW was disappointed, Mercedes and its Van Nuys, Calif.-based representative, Vista Group Inc., were elated about landing a role in Pollack's film.

"The rumor around Hollywood was that we gave him a Mercedes, but that's not true," said Carol Schmiederer, manager of product placement for Vista. "We were absolutely shocked when the call came. We didn't think we had a chance."

Along with Mercedes and BMW, Japanese automakers Lexus, Infiniti and Mazda also sought to place their products in the movie.

A director's preference or a transportation coordinator's contacts often determine which wheels get a big Hollywood break.

"This is not a cutthroat business," said Bob Hadler of Hadler Public Relations in Century City, which represents Chrysler and Toyota. "It is a business of influence."

All carmakers offer movie studios the same basic deal: vehicles used on screen are free, except for insurance and the cost of any post-production repairs. No cars are provided for off-camera use by the cast or crew. …

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