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A license to shill

In “Die Another Day,” the new James Bond spy thriller, the special effects are flashier, the legendary secret agent is edgier and the parade of product placements is bigger than ever. By Jane Weaver.
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In “Die Another Day,” the new James Bond spy thriller, the special effects are flashier, the legendary secret agent is edgier and the parade of product placements is bigger than ever. Will the Bond makeover bring younger fans to the most successful franchise in movie history, or will audiences be left wondering if the super-spy has a “license to shill”?

IN “DIE ANOTHER DAY,” Bond marketing gets extreme.

MGM and Eon Productions, which owns the rights to James Bond, are taking no chances with the potential success of the 20th Bond film.

Not only is MGM spending $30 million in advertising, according to Variety, the movie studio enlisted more than 20 marketing partners who are reportedly contributing at least $100 million in promotional support for the franchise.

Only the Olympics can boast more “official” sponsors.

In which is being released on Nov. 22, as Bond is grittier, more casual and adept at extreme sports like windsurfing. As pitchman, he’s a suave, action hero billboard.

He sports an Omega Seamaster watch, carries Samsonite luggage when he flies British Airways, sips Finlandia vodka, shaves with Norelco, takes pictures with a Kodak camera and talks on a Sony Ericsson mobile phone. who plays the American spy Jinx, wears Revlon make-up and drives a coral-colored Thunderbird.

MGM wouldn’t comment on the promotions, but the blizzard of marketing and hype around “Die Another Day” is the movie studio’s way of making sure the big budget film is a box office blockbuster.

The last three Bond films earned more than $1 billion worldwide at the box office. But “Die Another Day” is up against a fresh crop of action heroes like Spider-man, X-Men and the shaven-headed actor (“XXX”), who has been called the “Bond for a new generation.”

MGM says the movie’s audience is men and women ages 13-59. But for many younger viewers, the actor as “Austin Powers” is the definition of a hipster secret agent. MGM’s challenge is to make the aging spy franchise more relevant to younger movie fans without losing its core audience.

In fact, Jay Roach, director of all three “Austin Powers” comedies, told earlier this year, “I think a lot of kids hadn’t really heard of Bond until ‘Austin Powers.’ ”

Commercial tie-ins are nothing new in Hollywood, but the Bond blitz puts to shame even Sony Pictures’ which plastered ads for Cingular Wireless, Kellogg, Hershey, Samsung and United Airlines in a pivotal fight scene and boasted millions of dollars worth of brand promotions.

In “Die Another Day,” Ford Motor is said to have paid $35 million to bump BMW as the official Bond car, with Bond speeding away in a hand-built, $230,000 Aston-Martin . The villain, played by actor drives a super-charged A TV ad campaign for Jaguar features film clips and urges viewers to see the car in “Die Another Day.”

“The James Bond franchise is unique because it’s well-loved by all ages,” said Samantha Hoyt, business development manager for Ford global marketing. “But in action movies today, you can’t just be a sophisticated and smart person, so they’ve really pumped up the volume in this one.”

Even brands that don’t appear in the movie like 7 Up and Energizer battery are helping promote it with Bond-themed sweepstakes and special merchandise. Through December, 7 Up has put the “007” logo and secret agent’s silhouette on “several million” soft drink cans along with in-store materials.

“Anytime someone is drinking 7 Up, they will see James Bond,” said Jim Trebilcock, senior vice president of 7 Up.

Then there’s Mattel, which is releasing a $75 Barbie doll for 007’s 40th anniversary. Barbie, of course, is a Bond girl, and Ken as the undercover spy.

The products that do show up in the move are hardly undercover.

MGM caused a shake-up among purists when it decided Bond would drink Finlandia Vodka, not Sean Connery’s Smirnoff medium-dry vodka martini, in the latest installment. Scott Reid, global marketing director for Finlandia, a unit of Brown-Forman Corp., says the brand brings a more “premium image” than Smirnoff to the franchise.

Norelco’s senior vice president of marketing Nina Riley won’t reveal how the new Spectra shaver is used in the film except to say it’s in a “very pivotal scene.”

A TV commercial introducing the new, personalized razor features movie clips and the tagline, “James Bond’s razor choice.”

Norelco is also offering customers a free, 2-hour DVD sampler, including highlights from all previous 19 films and behind-the-scenes segments.

Brand appearances in the movie range from the subtle — Berry reportedly wearing Revlon make-up throughout the movie to go with a 007-themed cosmetic line in stores — to the blatant — while flying first-class on British Airways, Bond reads “High Life,” the airline’s in-flight magazine.

British Airways, the “official” airlines for the franchise, is running a multimillion-dollar campaign for its “Save your moneypennies” sweepstakes, including magazines and Internet advertising.

“The biggest risk is to over-commercialize,” said Amy O’Kane, who heads up North American marketing services for British Airways. “The last thing MGM wants to do is turn the new Bond into a 2-hour commercial.”

Can there be a such thing as commercial overkill when it comes to Bond? Critics have long complained about MGM’s enthusiastic sellout of Ian Fleming’s hero, but there’s no sign of a consumer backlash yet.

Gitesh Pandy, editor of, predicted that with the extra promotion, “Die Another Day” will become “the highest-grossing James Bond ever.”

Thomas Chau, editor of the Cinema Confidential Web site, says the hottest topics are always related to Bond films, with visitors clamoring to know who will be the next Bond “girl” or whether Brosnan will return.

“James Bond is still a standard to which all spy action films nowadays are being measured by,” said Chau. “As long as they continue to attract the younger generation by bringing familiar talent to the series ... the Bond films will never die out.”