In case you haven't seen enough trailers and other advertisments letting you know that Man of Steel is hitting theaters soon, maybe the $160 million worth of cross-promotional tie-ins will catch your attention. According to Ad Age, the new Superman movie has broken records by having more than 100 product and brand partners around the world through which the production and its iconic hero is being used to sell things like Clark Kent-style eyeglasses, "super" bacon cheeseburgers, Twizzlers (see above) and Norton Antivirus software.
Maybe you've already seen the spot likening Superman to members of the U.S. National Guard or the ad intercutting scenes with footage of a RAM truck climbing a rugged hill or the multiple videos for Gillette featuring Kevin Smith, Bill Nye and Blossom offering theories to how the character shaves his beard. Man of Steel director Zack Snyder even helmed a commercial starring Superman himself (played by Henry Cavill) for Hardees and Carl's Jr.
What's the weirdest tie-in for the movie? I'm not sure, and the Man of Steel sexual enhancing product I found in my Google search probably isn't one of the official partners. One of the campaigns I do find interesting is Kellogg's contest to win Superman's powers -- sort of. You can win airfare (flight), time with a personal trainer (strength), a Ford Mustang (speed) and movie tickets via Fandango (vision). Meanwhile, some brand partners are also involved in product placement, such as Sears, which reportedly has a store appear on screen in a "cameo."
In honor of Man of Steel's record number of product partners (not to be confused with product placement or straight-up merchandising like t-shirts and toys, by the way), I'd like to share a handful of my picks for weirdest movie tie-ins of all time:
1. Silver Surfer Quarters (Franklin Mint)
Back in 2007, tied to the release of Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer, 20th Century Fox partnered with the Franklin Mint to produce and distribute limited edition quarters that swapped the official "tails" image with a color rendition of the Silver Surfer. It might have been a cool idea had it not been illegal. The United States Mint reminded Hollywood that it's against the law to affix advertisements on money. Franlin Mint, which regularly makes commemorative products of this sort argued that it wasn't an ad, though it did include info for the film's website. As far as I know, no action was taken on the studio and you can find the coins on eBay to this day, but it still would have been smarter for them to simply make completely new coins unrelated to any legal tender. And actually made them in silver.
2. Jar Jar Binks Tongue Pop (Cap Candy)
Every now and then some sort of tie-in or movie-based merchandise is somehow approved by a group of executives somewhere in spite of the obvious fact that it's downright dangerous or sexual in appearance. The latter is always good for a laugh. Recall the E.T. finger flashlight that reminded people of a sex toy. And also this disturbing lollipop from Cap Candy tied to Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace. Yeah, you get to suck on the tongue of Jar Jar Binks. Never mind that nobody likes the character to begin with. But why would a candy tongue that pops out of any character's likeness be a good idea? Wait, nevermind, I don't want your mind to go there.
3. Transformers Shilling for Copy Paper (Double A Paper)
It's always interesting when brands having nothing remotely to do with a movie's plot or concept buy into the cross-promotional game anyway. It actually happens all the time, as you'll note above with Man of Steel being partnered with a candy better suited to whenever Warner Bros. makes a Plastic Man movie. Paper is probably the most laughably boring product to be tied-in with a blockbuster movie, though, especially one as over the top as Transformers. Sure, the commercial for Double A's A4 Paper has some nice special effects involving a copier turning into a robot and ripping up some non Double A sheets, but otherwise what's the connection here? Actually, it might have been better if the robot started folding some origami. Okay, I take it back, paper is kind of relevant to Transformers. But it's still an odd partnership.
4. The Help and Cajun-flavored Stuffed Chicken Meal (Home Shopping Network)
First of all, I don't want to buy any sort of food product that's associated with The Help. Even if it's not a pie. Second of all, is the implied idea here that we have our servant prepare the meal for us? Or wait, is the idea that they're so easy to make that we don't need servants the point? Either way, it's no surprise that Home Shopping Network no longer offers the item, which seems to have been a normally stocked product that was branded to The Help during a special promotion. HSN is known to do these odd stunts where it partners with a movie and sells random junk they try to make relevant. They got a lot of flak for their tacky Eat, Pray, Love day, I recall. This time they worked with the Oscar-winning adaptation for "one-of-a-kind items inspired by the movie." According to the Tumblr I'm With Kanye, this product's pitch was: "Need some of southern charm in your next meal? You might enjoy our Cajun Specialty Meats Set of 2 Stuffed Chickens with 2 Sides."
5. Gremlins Cereal (Ralston)
There's actually not too much that's odd about a cereal being made as a tie-in for Gremlins. Especially from Ralston, the pet food and breakfast food giant that also gave us gross bowls of sugary oats and marshmallows made in images associated with Batman, Batman Returns, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Ghostbusters and of course TV's Steve Urkel -- not that they were the only ones doing it, but there's were the nastiest. What's fun about Gremlins cereal more than others is the ironic laughs we'd get from eating it after midnight. What's not cool, though, is how fat Gizmo is on the box. Did he gain wait eating the cereal? Nah, it's just terribly cheap graphic design proving just how thoughtless the gimmick was.