This is How We’re Fucked: Branded Content in Short Films

08/20/2010 3:19 PM |

product placement

At the risk of joining a thousand-strong chorus of shrill Cassandras… Holy fuck people, if the line between art and advertising (and between “content” and advertising) gets any fuzzier, American culture as we know it is doomed (yes, yes, it’s doom alone that counts, I know).

The latest manifestation of the commercial masquerading as the creative comes to us from from an unholy alliance of a hotel chain, a social networking site, and a film company. You see, the social networking site announced a short film contest, asking its members to pick three winners; these winners were then introduced to the film company who worked with them to shoot the films (with $30,000 from the social networking site), making sure to include the presence of the hotel chain, who agreed to waive all location fees. So what do we have in the end? Three pieces of art? Three commercials for a hotel chain? (Uh, the latter, obvs, along with a group of young filmmakers newly adept at integrating product placement into their “narratives.”)

You might dismiss my discomfort here as a naive craving for some species of artistic purity that has never existed, but I’m really not asking for saintly starving artists. I understand that art and commerce (i.e. making a living) is not an either/or situation, but rather a tricky continuum filled with compromises and tough decisions, but the aforementioned line has gone way too far, and we have compromised way too much. In short, this is how we’re fucked.