No one has succumbed yet to slotting advertising breaks into feature films in the cinema but the newest Tom Cruise epic shows how Hollywood has found other ways to bombard the audience with product promotions.
Minority Report, directed by Steven Spielberg, is said to break new ground in the number of commercial products it weaves into the storyline. If you are keen-eyed, you should be able to spot at least 15. They include American Express, Aquafina, Ben & Jerry's, Bulgari, Burger King, The Gap, Guinness, Lexus, Nokia, Pepsi, Reebok, Revo and USA Today.
The film, which is expected to be a major summer hit, is set in 2045, and describes a society where the police can tell if someone is going to commit a crime in advance of them doing it. A sub-theme is America turned into a country where consumerism has run amok. This proved handy on a project with a budget that stretched to $102m (£68m). All told, the 15 companies contributed $25m to that sum; enough to pay – almost – for Cruise's fee.
Most of the brands given space in the film are displayed on huge electronic billboards in the background. Some identify faces among the pedestrians below and actively urge them to buy whatever product is being pushed.
This makes life hard for the policeman portrayed by Cruise, who is accused of preparing to commit murder. He is trying to escape capture when a billboard blurts: "John Anderton, you look like you could use a Guinness!"
It was Spielberg who pioneered brand promotions in movies when he featured Reeses Pieces sweets in E.T. The practice has become more and more commonplace. Panic Room, released this year by Columbia Pictures, repeatedly shows television monitors bearing the Sony brand. Sony, of course, owns Columbia. Another Columbia offering due out in the US next month, Men in Black II, will feature advertisements for Mercedes and Rockport shoes, both products with major roles in the film.