"The main thing about money, Bud, is that it makes you do things you don't want to do."
Wall Street 2, better known as Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, was the top-grossing film in the nation this past weekend.
The hero of the original Wall Street, Bud Fox, was torn between siding with the unionized "working man" or the corporate-raiding embodiment of capitalism. The sequel no longer even bothers with the question, its hero a trader fully invested in working within the system of finance as our savior. The ostentatiousness of the first Wall Street film was found in the characters' ideals. The ostentatiousness of the sequel is all about the products, many of them placed. One of those products is itself.
One hopes Stone had a camera running during the studio marketing process because that will be the next Wall Street. A cutthroat campaign straight from Gordon Gekko's mind itself, the slam, bam, thank-you-ma'am publicity train started with Michael Douglas' cancer announcement and rolled right on through sponsoring a Sunday Football Night in America game, including special segments featuring former NFL players breaking down the New York Giants defense in slow motion. Meanwhile, an onslaught of television ads competed with midterm election spots for frequency.
A website for Gekko's fictional book "Is Greed Good?" was set up to drive to the film site. Some studio marketer even got the pleasure of populating Gordon Gekko's official Twitter feed. (234 followers currently.) On September 20, in an act that would have had Bud Fox choking on his tie in 1987, Oliver Stone rang the NASDAQ opening bell.
Maybe more telling than anything about the marketing of Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps is that it is rated PG-13. (The original is R.)
"Want a Heineken," asks Gordon Gekko moments before the beer's label slides in to fill the screen. The scene takes place at New York's Shun Lee restaurant, where staff confirmed to us that they do in fact serve Heineken. In the closing credits, the IWC logo floats over the screen like a reflection in a pool. Everything in between is branded. In fact, one difference between the first Wall Street and its sequel is that Money Never Sleeps has a credited crewmember (Allison Robin) responsible solely for "product placement."
Stone has gone on record to talk about how he involved Wall Street insiders to assure authenticity. But when it came to putting products in those authentic character' hands, it appears money ruled the day. Millionaire bankers drinking MoÃ«t? Sure. The suicidal choose Lay's chips as a last meal? Why not. Goldman Sachs-like titans of finance race Ducati bikes? Absolutely. That Bulgari is the ring of choice for bankers' fiancées may be true but there are other news sources than CNBC. Where the original Wall Street featured the iconic Leslie Buck-designed New York coffee cup, now everyone sips on Dunkin' Donuts.
What's more, these products are taking credit for their roles. Belstaff's website boasts of its Wall Street 2 role. Meanwhile, a press release for luxury watch brand IWC reads, "To show who's boss, standing out-in an understated way-is paramount in the cut-throat world of finance. Jacob Moore couldn't show his understanding of this philosophy any more-by sporting the IWC Portuguese Perpetual Calendar (Ref. IW502303), he is the true representation of the IWC guy, an educated, driven and talented man 'in the know' who has a passion for the finer things in life."
Below, a list of the brands we spotted that made a showing in Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps.
Barton Perreira Halston
Bed Bath and Beyond
NY Daily News
The New York Post
The Bowery Hotel
Ellen Mirojnick, Wall Street 2's costume designer, was also on the blitz, speaking with everyone from Bloomberg to the Chicago Tribune to The Wall Street Journal to make sure all of those brands in the film that could not be identified by label got their due credit, including Barton Perreira Halston sunglasses, Vacheron Constantin watches, Oscar de la Renta and Vera Wang gowns and Jaeger-LeCoultre, whatever it is that brand makes.
In Entertainment Weekly, Josh Brolin says he hopes audiences will see the film and wonder "How much is enough?" Meanwhile, in People, Brolin was grabbing Mirojnick and whispering that "he loved the maroon jacket that he wears in the film."
To listen to Stone, the sequel is a commentary on the way Wall Street has changed and become more greedy in the time since its 1987 predecessor. But the real commentary of Wall Street 2 is on the business of filmmaking itself. For lack of a better way to put it, product placement is now good. It appears, Oliver Stone loves Andacott Steel, as long as it's going to help pay for production.
Abe Sauer writes the annual Product Placement Awards and weekly product placement updates for Brandchannel.com