Two years ago Morgan Spurlock, who starred in and directed “Super Size Me,” and regular collaborator Jeremy Chilnick reached their tipping point with advertisements. They were watching the TV show “Heroes” when they were struck by the product placement that had co-opted the script. It sparked a longer conversation between the two about product placement in major blockbuster films and the overwhelming amount of advertising we all consume in our daily lives.
They wondered if they could take advantage of product placement to fund their own film about advertising, which they were calling “The Greatest Movie Ever Sold.” It wasn’t until a pomegranate drink maker bought the titular spot that the project became “POM Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold”, which opens in select cities on Friday.
In a recent interview at the PBS NewsHour, Spurlock recalled thinking, “What if we pulled back the curtain, showed how it works, showed the influence that these brands have over content and actually get them to pay for it?”
Despite the initial roadblocks, the plan worked. Spurlock says they approached every advertising agency to help find funders, and all but one turned them down. That’s when they started contacting brands directly. “We called nearly 600 companies to sponsor this film, of which we got 20,” he said.
The film takes viewers through the process of pitching to brands and selling the film as it is actually being created. But Spurlock’s self-promotion reaches a new point of shameless when he buys advertising space on school buses and even the jerseys of a girl’s softball team. “If there is a place where someone can sell and market something to you,” says Spurlock, “then they will.”