There is a whole lot of product placement going on in the new long-form music video for Telephone from Lady Gaga and Beyonce. Virgin Mobile, Diet Coke, Beats (by Dr. Dre) Headphones, Chanel, Polaroid, Wonder Bread, and Miracle Whip(???) are all featured prominently within the Quentin Tarantino-styled narrative. Oddly enough, most of these product placements make a bizarre sort of sense in an artistically contextual kind of way. Let’s review:
POLAROID – Polaroid has hired Lady Gaga as a Creative Director for the company — so the fact that we are treated to Gaga taking a bunch of tiny instant photos of Beyonce (contractually) follows. However, the appearance of a full-screen Polaroid brand logo on a photobooth outside the diner at the end of the video was less gracefully implemented. As an aside, this partnership has the potential to be rad. Nice one, Polaroid execs!
DIET COKE – This was my favorite brand placement in the video. The appearance of empty cans of Diet Coke as impromptu prison-style hair rollers in Gaga’s hair is one of the most creative and inventive examples of product placement in recent memory. It’s sort of a classically feminine version of a shiv. Since we never explicitly see the Coke logo, I wonder if Gaga got paid for this one – but in a just world, she certainly would have been.
VIRGIN MOBILE – I get that Gaga has (rightfully) built up a cache of credibility in the realm of music videos and concert appearances (if not with her actual music) – but I am impressed that this cache is strong enough that Virgin Mobile would acquiesce to their logo being in the same shot as Gaga stroking the crotch of a butch lesbian in the yard of a prison. My guess is that Richard Branson and his millionaire buddies are just out to prove they’re down to party, after all.
(A side not on this one… ha ha… Virgin Mobile = virgin = ironic = good joke. Too bad that Twilight: New Moon beat them to it. )
CHANEL – Ooh! Lady Gaga is wearing Chanel sunglasses! Meh. The Haus of Gaga-designed actively smoking cigarette glasses were cooler.
WONDER BREAD – This is one of those WTF!? moments in advertising. I get that Wonder Bread is associated with lower income individuals, who are associated loosely with criminal acts, which is associated with whipping up a batch of poison, but I wouldn’t imagine that the Gaga image would do much to sell Wonder Bread, and the brand’s appearance in this video in the same kitchen with food that kills people doesn’t seem like a smart PR move, from where I’m standing.
MIRACLE WHIP – All my misgivings about the appearance of Wonder Bread in this video also apply to Miracle Whip, only double. It just doesn’t make sense. The only saving grace, in my mind, is that Miracle Whip strikes me as a great name for Gaga’s next record. Now that I think about it, maybe I’ll steal it for one of my projects.
BEATS BY DR DRE – Lady Gaga also has a partnership with Beats. She designed her own line of jewel encrusted in-ear ‘phones with them that she can be seen sporting in the kitchen scenes (they just look like triangular earrings). However, the way that the Beats logo is featured in the video, arbitrarily stuck to the back of the guard’s laptop, seems like a little bit of a disconnect. Brand white noise is worth something, though, I suppose.
After beating the viewer over the head with all this product placement, you would think that the project would have lost it’s spark as it tripped over itself to sell out. However, given the many instances of blatant sexuality, ever-present lesbian undertones, gratuitous violence, group homicide, swearing, and near total frontal nudity that are keystones of both the style and narrative of Telephone, the most surprising element of all this is that the brands were willing to be associated with the project at all. In a way, Gaga seems to have subverted the selling-out process. Her popularity has forced corporations to bend to her wonderfully strange, freaky, and dirty vision of the world instead of the other way around. It obviously isn’t for everyone (Kraft, I’m looking at you), but one has to bet on any company that figures out a way to really hang with Gaga – the reigning master of brand ingenuity (sorry Bjork/Barney).
Here’s to the weirding of media!