Occasionally, television finds fantastic ways to intersect, collaborate and cross-promote with its big screen brother (Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s post-The Winter Soldier episode jumps to mind). More often though, relations between the differing-sized screens tend to be a bit naff.
Peppered throughout entertainment history are some truly cringe-worthy examples of movie characters popping over to the home entertainment world to promote their films, tie-in products or entirely unrelated entities for the sake of an extra buck. Here’s some particularly egregious examples...
Product being advertised: Direct Line insurance
Film being mistreated: Pulp Fiction
Gracing television sets of the UK at the moment is this truly baffling blend – the insurance company Direct Line (previously known for their tame phoneline-based animated adverts) and Harvey Keitel’s mob-friendly fixer Winston Wolfe, breaking out from the world of Tarantino’s cult classic Pulp Fiction into the job of popping into people’s homes and reminding them about their insurance, mildly intimidatingly.
It’s unclear whether Direct Line are trying to convert Coronation Street fans into hardened cinephiles during the ad breaks, or to lure film fans into insuring with them. Either way, Keitel and Tarantino lose a bit of credibility along the way. It’s said that Direct Line pumped £40 million into the ad though, so we doubt they mind that much.
See also: Harvey Keitel blows up a Texaco garage here.
Product being advertised: Adidas
Film being mistreated: Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope
Who shot first, Han or Greedo? Well, Han wasn’t actually involved and it was Jay Baruchel who did the shooting while David Beckham snuck off sheepishly. That’s what this 2010 Adidas/Star Wars crossover ad told us anyway.
Other celebrities involved in this cross-promotional reimagining of A New Hope’s iconic cantina scene included Daft Punk, Snoop Dogg, Noel Gallagher and Ian Brown, among others. If you’re wondering what the point was, they were advertising the Adidas Originals brand, and the football world cup... Obviously.
See also: Chris Pratt annoys Darth Vader in this advert for Star Wars Kinect on XBox 360.
Product being advertised: Western Airlines
Films being mistreated: The Star Trek franchise
To be fair, this one has a touch of coy charm about it. The original Kirk and Spock reunite here to promote Western Airlines in some rather dashing shirts, featuring the most lavish airline food ever seen and a gag about how, really, they should be the ones flying the plane.
The oddest thing about this one is how references to anything like ‘Star Trek’, ‘Enterprise’, character names or any other pesky copyrighted material are entirely absent. It looks a lot like the stars cashed in without permission from anyone behind the scenes at their home franchise, which surely didn’t raise many smiles.
See also: The 25 Shatneriest Moments.
Product being advertised: Carl’s Jr. burgers
Film being mistreated: X-Men: Days Of Future Past
Regardless of how hungry the footage of Carl’s Jr.’s X-Tra Bacon Thickburger makes you, there are a number of questionable elements to this advert. Firstly, that actress definitely isn’t Jennifer Lawrence, but quite clearly a whole different person.
Secondly, and far more offensively, the fact that she had to ‘man up’ (i.e. transform into a human male) to handle said burger is just downright silly decision-making from whoever scripted the ad. Naturally, it offended a lot of people.
Products being advertised: Cinnamon Toast Crunch, Cheerios, Honey Nut Cheerios Golden Grahams
Film being mistreated: Jurassic Park: The Lost World
Although “you can get it before it’s extinct” is undeniably a brilliantly bonkers slogan, this series of cereal adverts (a cereal serial, if you will) hardly did any favours for Jurassic Park: The Lost World.
No matter how much everyone still secretly wants to collect all four dino-chomping spoons and/or catch a dinosaur with their own branded disposable camera, anyone who confused the hammily-written-and-acted characters in these ads (featuring a be-hatted elder chap, presumably intended to be an Attenborough-alike) for actual The Lost World cast-members were presumably put off the film all together.
See also: A TV tie-in example, but a goodie nonetheless: teaming Up With Mr. T.
Product being advertised: Toyota Highlander
Film being mistreated: Muppets Most Wanted
The lack of enthusiasm from everyone involved in this cross-promotional plan shines through so powerfully in this video (it’s one of many in a long series) that it plays best if imagined as a deliberately sarcastic parody of tie-in advertising.
If you’ve managed to make The Muppets’ Rowlf and Rizzo seem more droll than fun, you know there was some miscalculations along the way somewhere. Still, watch the whole series if you dare. It's almost entirely dreadful.
See also: More fun than Toyotas, check out this Lipton Tea ad starring pretty much every Muppet going.
Product being advertised: Kahlua
Film being mistreated: The Big Lebowski
If you manage to get The Dude himself, Jeff Bridges, to abide appearing in your Kahlua advert entitled 'The White Russian', and you still end up on a list of adverts to set your teeth on edge, you’ve got to question what went wrong.
The problems with this advert – an four-minute-long epic – arguably lie in the fact that dressing gowns, the word ‘dude’, cases of mistaken identity, bowling, rugs-that-really-tie-the-room-together or anything else you can relate back to The Big Lebowski were clearly off the table for the creative team at Kahlua. Instead we end up with a bloated, elaborate ramble bearing no resemblance to the reason everyone loves seeing Jeff Bridges with a White Russian.
See also: El Duderino discuses standing by our decisions, in a car ad.
Product being advertised: Carlsberg
Film being mistreated: The Great Escape
Featuring holes in the ground, escaping from captivity and even the original film’s score, here’s an ad that was allowed to overtly reference the film it was riffing on. However, it still falls a little flat. Perhaps, because the 1963 classic is a sacred text to so many, there was never a chance this escaping-from-a-lovely-weekend-with-your-other-half parody would hit the right notes.
See also: Carlsberg does Spartacus.
Product being advertised: EE’s two-for-one Wednesday cinema tickets offer
Films being mistreated: Friday The 13th, Footloose, A Few Good Men, Hollow Man, Apollo 13
It wouldn’t be a list of ill-thought-out film-based adverts if Kevin Bacon didn’t get a mention. Indeed, his EE adverts that play in both cinemas and on the telly, have never been anyone’s favourite promos. However, this one, where he revisits five former roles, is particularly strange.
All his characters are reduced to whimsical parodies for the sake of better comic relations, and although it raises a few chuckles, mucking about in your old costumes is surely never great for your credibility. Less EE, more EEsh.
See also: For some Bacon redemption, witness his surprisingly supple Footloose recreation here.
Products being promoted: Vodafone mobiles
Films being mistreated: The Star Wars saga
The central gag is the issue here. The concept that Vodafone is so effective that Yoda’s Jedi mastery is completely redundant, save for the odd butt-of-the-joke moment, means that this series of (b)advertisements merely serves to poke fun at the poor old pointy-eared fella.
Reducing one of the Star Wars franchise’s most iconic characters to a useless schmuck is the sort of thing you’d expect Lucasfilm to refuse signing-off for. Alas, they did.
See also: A better type of Star Wars-themed advert, this cute Passad promotion.
Product being promoted: Kia K900
Film being mistreated: The Matrix
Morpheus – our gateway to the mind-blowing and undeniably iconic world of The Matrix. You may not know however, that he’s also basically Swiss Tony on the side. When he’s not doling out pills and changing lives, Laurence Fishburne’s Morpheus likes to linger outside glitzy establishments, give people the wrong keys then belt out a tune while they drive him around. He also says the word ‘luxury’ a helluva lot.
See also: Movie-based car adverts aren’t always awful, this Star Trek-inspired Audi promotion is a lot of fun.
Product being promoted: British Telecom
Film being mistreated: E.T.: The Extra Terrestrial
E.T. is one of the most ubiquitous stars of the TV tie-in advert community, having popped up to plug cereals, vitamins and his own Atari game over the years. Most bizarre is this BT advert though, which, before bothering to mention the company it’s advertising, spends 45 of its 60 seconds enacting a lower-budget reimagining of the film where E.T. bumps into a less-skilled child actor and cobbles together a machine which lets him put his face on a Nokia 2110. What’s not to loathe?
See also: E.T. did have his own range of vitamins.
Product being promoted: Chevrolet Traverse
Film being mistreated: Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Captain America: The Winter Soldier is a film that brings Bourne-style frenetic action and makes-you-think political pointedness to the superhero movie world. It was, to be fair, not the most kid-friendly Marvel Studios movie, despite being excellent. The Chevrolet Traverse, on the other hand, is a car aimed at mums.
This contrast is what makes Captain America: The Winter Soldier’s kids-enacting-scenes ad seem like a somewhat odd decision. With the Russo brothers actually on directorial duties, something better could have been done here.
See also: The Amazing Spider-Man 2, however, is much more child friendly, which is why this ad really works.
Product being promoted: The 2003 Superbowl
Movie being mistreated: The Terminator
The Terminator, as you know, is a time-travelling killing machine sent to the past to murder Sarah Connor. Little known fact: he also dabbles in sports punditry.
When he’s not asking politely for men’s motorcycles, The Terminator likes to store American football data in his head and deliver short videos-to-camera. Not a mishandling of a character at all...
See also: More screen villains trying to sell us things – Loki, Lord Blackwood and Trevor Slattery unite to promote Jaguars.
Product being sold: Subway sandwiches
Movie being mistreated: The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
One’s a huge corporation selling sandwiches to the masses; the other’s a dystopian young adult franchise where kids are forced to fight to the death in a world where poor people live on bags of grain alone.
It’s not surprising then, that this cross-advertising ploy doesn’t include any newly-shot footage - one can only dream of President Snow offering Katniss a meatball marinara in exchange for calling off the rebellion. Instead, a voiceover loosely tries to link attempting to overthrow a dictatorship to a tasty sandwich via the theme of boldness. Nice try.
See also: This consumable-produce ad with almost no footage from the film it’s endorsing (Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 2).
Product being promoted: DirecTV HD
Movie being mistreated: The Dukes Of Hazzard
While no-one is arguing that Jessica Simpson-starring big screen version of The Dukes Of Hazzard is the stuff of legend, it’s tie-in promo for tellies is even worse.
“233 straight days at the gym to get this body,” the film’s star intones, “and you’re not gonna watch me in DirecTV HD?” It may have been seven years ago, but it’s still hard to believe this got made.
See also: Back To The Future starred in the same series of commercials, and it’s much better.
Product being promoted: Fiat 500L
Movie being mistreated: Godzilla (2014)
In Gareth Edwards’ Godzilla, the Monsters director withholds from showing you his monster until it’s absolutely necessary. While not everyone loved this decision, it was agreed by the studio and bled through into all the trailers, the idea being that you had to see the film to see the beast in all its glory.
Meanwhile, the Fiat 500L was being advertised with Edwards’ Godzilla in full view. Not only was he visible, he was coughing up a car because it was bigger than he expected and, resultantly, being the punchline of the ads. Any bets on how Edwards felt about that?
See also: Funnier, smarter and without feeling the need to spoil Edwards’ reveal. See the Snickers Godzilla trailer here.
Product being promoted: LG phones
Movie being mistreated: Iron Man
In 2008, no-one knew if Marvel’s shared universe plan would work. It’s not surprising, then, that they need to give out to advertisers a bit to raise awareness and funds.
While not the worst on this list by a long way, the resultant LG advert is just a bit weird – implying that Tony Stark runs his suit through his mobile, and that he would also be liable to drop it accidentally. Who came up with that idea?
See also: Another Avenger got a less-baffling tie-in ad in this Hulk-meets-Burger King mash-up.
Product being promoted: Prom Shampoo
Movies being mistreated: The Marx brothers’ filmography
A brilliantly odd historical example here – back in the 1950s, Harpo and Groucho Marx were paid an undisclosed sum to advertise, of all things, Prom Shampoo. The result was this charming story of how Harpo Marx was “always chasing the girls – but not anymore! – now he tells the girls about creamy Prom!” If all film star-led ads were this tongue-in-cheek, we might not mind as much. It has more charm than most on this list, despite still seeming incredibly strange today.
See also: Without the same levels of fun, Groucho Marx also starred in a lengthy, chat-heavy DeSoto car ad. Count how many times he says "competitors" here.
Product being promoted: MoneySuperMarket.com
Movie being mistreated: Swingers
Does anyone else think MoneySuperMarket’s “you’re so MoneySuperMarket, you don’t even know it” slogan (used as a coda on countless ads) is just a little too similar to the much-repeated “you’re so money” line in Swingers to be a coincidence?
If you’re the cult film fan in the MoneySuperMarket marketing team, please do step forward and take a bow. Vince Vaughn would be proud.
See also: Occasional film star Snoop Dogg got involved with this campaign too, see him cash in at Doug Liman's expense here.
Product being advertised: Bakers Complete Meaty Meals
Film being mistreated: The Italian Job
Here’s another aggravating advert currently frequenting television sets around the UK – a questionable remake of The Italian Job which reimagines Peter Collinson’s 1969 seminal crime caper with gratuitous amounts of canine co-stars.
The creative team at Bakers' ad agency bafflingly opted not only to recreate the iconic cliffhanger ending, but also to meddle with it to the point of suggesting how Caine and co. could have escaped if they had shared the inventive imagination of these highly-trained hounds. For shame.
See also: If you’re a fan of dodgy dog-versions of beloved material, witness John Williams' Imperial March taking a butchering here.