Critics may love to mock director-producer Michael Bay, but he continues to laugh all the way to the bank, stacking up hundreds of millions in profits on movie after movie, mostly summertime popcorn fare with as many explosions as lines of dialogue. Audiences know they’re not getting Shakespeare. They love Bay movies for exactly what they are, and big-name brands love Bay movies for the massive exposure they receive for splashy and obvious product placement.
While Bay is known – and some would say renowned – for his myriad products prominently placed in every film, it’s probably safe to say that no brand has been more prominent in a Bay film than General Motors.
When the world first learned that Bay would be at the helm of a live action retooling of the hugely popular 80s cartoon and toy line, Transformers, it had to be a watershed moment for many automotive manufacturing marketing departments. This was going to be a series of movies where the cars were the stars. Whoever got in on that stood make a huge impact.
Turns out, that company got to be General Motors, who used the first Transformers movie to roll out a new model of an iconic sports car, as well as signature models of just about every auto body style imaginable.
There was the Pontiac Solstice, the GMC TopKick, the Hummer H2, and the most visible star of the show, the brand new Chevrolet Camaro concept car. In fact, the human characters in the film also say the word “Camaro” multiple times, in case the audience missed the ‘slow-roll’ vignette of the new Camaro gliding up to the lead actors. GM would go on to sell fleets of “Bumblebee” inspired Camaros, making this partnership with Bay’s Transformers a massive PR win.
In the follow up Transformers film, GM would introduce a concept Corvette Stingray, as well as a Chevy Volt, Beat, and Trax concept vehicle. In every scene, along with the prominent Autobot emblem, the automaker’s logos are front and center.
There’s no doubt both Bay and his main product placement customer, GM, benefited greatly from the partnership. The vehicles look impossibly cool, and the target fan base of 18 to 40 year old guys found themselves dreaming – and eventually going out and buying – their own “Transformer.”
Whether fans love the product placement in Bay’s movies, or they love to joke about it, companies will continue to line up to get the exposure as long as he keeps producing massive blockbuster hits.