If there was ever any doubt about James Bond’s nationality, it disappeared three years ago when he parachuted into the opening ceremony of the London Olympic Games, a stunt which confirmed the international status of two great British icons: the Queen, of course, and 007.
The story began in 1953 when Ian Fleming wrote his first novel, Casino Royale. Like any good hero, Bond is a blend of fantasy and the real world, an amalgam of spies and commandos whom Fleming had known in wartime naval intelligence. James Bond provided glamour for a country that was no longer an imperial power and where food was still rationed. To this day he embodies a belief that Britain has a central role to play on the world stage. And Bond is definitely British, not English. Fleming specified that his father was Scottish after Sean Connery became a hit in 1962 with the first film. (Bond's mother was Swiss, which theoretically makes him trilingual, but Bond villains – who are usually Dangerous Europeans – conveniently prefer to speak English.)
Spectre is the 24th Bond film. It has shattered all previous box office records for a UK launch and is over half way towards the $1.1 billion record that Skyfall set in 2012. It needs to do well: it cost at least $350 million in production and marketing, compared with $200 million for Skyfall, and will pay for itself only when box office sales reach $650 million. These are scary numbers, but Eon Productions has long traded the value of James Bond in order to make each film bigger and better. The result is that 007 can’t make up his mind about which brands he likes. Watches seem to confuse him the most: over the 54 years of the franchise he has dithered between Rolex, Omega, Pulsar, Breitling, Seiko and Heuer. Only since 1995 (GoldenEye) has he been sure about the Omega Seamaster. In Casino Royale Bond specifies Gordon’s gin when he orders a vodka martini. In Spectre he’s more concerned about which vodka he drinks (Belvedere). In Spectre he’s 100% certain he prefers Bollinger, but he has previously been enthusiastic about Veuve Clicquot, Dom Pérignon and once described Taittinger as ‘probably the finest champagne in the world.’ In Skyfall a $45 million deal gives him a sudden thirst for lager, and in Spectre he’s still drinking Heineken. In fact Daniel Craig is the ‘booziest’ Bond of all time: 20 units of alcohol per film compared to 11 units for Connery and Moore, while that lightweight Timothy Dalton only drank 4.5 units (Source: The Grocer magazine).
There is one exception to 007’s indecision. It seems nothing will persuade him to part with his Walther PPK handgun. Further evidence of trusty German engineering, obviously. (See Marke 41 Ausgabe 5.)
„ I thought James Bond was a SECRET agent, not an estate agent. “
The Bond franchise has been a trailblazer for product placement. In 1999 MGM Studio was reported to break all records when it earned $100 million for embedding brands in the plot of The World is Not Enough. It is estimated that twice that amount was paid by the 17 brands featured in Spectre, which then built substantial online and off line campaigns to promote their association with Bond. Heineken is spending $100m, for example. See also Sony: ‘Made for Bond’; Belvedere vodka: ‘Know the difference’ / ‘Excellent choice, Mr Bond’; Gillette: ‘Bring out the 007 in you.’
The glamour and longevity of Bond make it one of the most attractive destinations. First, the reach is truly global: no longer just Europe and anglophone countries but now, in addition, a growing middle class in places like China, Brazil and the Asia-Pacific region. In fact China will soon overtake the US as the biggest market for cinema-goers. Secondly, Bond’s appeal to marketers is cumulative. This is the world’s longestrunning franchise, and ranks third for total box office sales (almost $7 billion) behind Harry Potter and Marvel. Each new Bond adventure benefits from the loyalty of previous audiences – a model that is now widely imitated: 7 of last year's 10 biggest global films were sequels. Thirdly, as marketers lose confidence in traditional advertising-between- content, they spend more on embedded marketing: a total of $6.25 billion globally in 2009, $8.25 billion in 2012, and $10.6 billion in 2014 (Source: PQ Media). Product placement in film is unskippable, less forgettable, and the association can linger for weeks and months. Most important, it pays for itself. The value of product placement in 2010 was estimated at $14 billion (Source: Williams et al 2011, JMMR).
But this is a balancing act. Having spent a fortune on their link with Bond, marketers want the most visibility they can negotiate. The film makers need the money and Ian Fleming always used product choices to show Bond's refinement, so brands and Bond go well together. But 007 needs to choose with integrity, or his credibility is lost. For ardent fans the franchise has not always got this right. In Casino Royale they ridiculed the following exchange between Vesper Lynd and Bond: ’Rolex?’ ‘Omega.’ ‘Beautiful!’ Many were shocked to see 007 drinking lager as well as vodka martinis. And there was so much placement in Die Another Day that some renamed it Buy Another Day. But the worst crime for many was the three-film deal signed with BMW. It certainly worked for BMW: showing the Z3 in GoldenEye generated a reported $240 million in advance sales. But Bond cognoscenti were inconsolable. One distraught letter to Top Gear magazine read: ‘I thought James Bond was a SECRET agent, not an estate agent.’