Driving the Future: Cars, Sci-Fi and Product Placement

“Where we’re going, we don’t need roads,” announced Dr Emmett Brown during the closing moments of Back To the Future, as his garbage fuelled aluminum car speed into the skyline. Tarmac notwithstanding, we’ll certainly still be seeing a lot of big automotive brand names in our far-flung future if movie & TV series product placement is anything to go by. 

The future - whether it’s a shiny tech driven paradise or a zombie infested dystopia - is packed full of automobiles, as the leading brands look to position their vehicles (whether existing models or concept cars) as the must have transportation for luxury future travel or post apocalyptic survival.

Automotive brands have something of a legacy for integrating product into future focused content. Whether it’s Tom Cruise stealing a concept Lexus in Minority Report, Will Smith battling disenfranchised robots from the comfort of an Audi or even that most unlikely of ScFi action heroes, Woody Allen, discovering a 200 year-old Volkswagen in Sleeper, auto brands play a major role in shaping our on screen future.

From the luxury vehicles of tomorrow to the most reliable for outrunning aliens and the undead, here’s three recent examples of smart product placement.

Bugatti - Elysium

Luxury automotive company Bugatti (part of the wider Volkswagen group) nets a starring role at the heart of the luxury market of the future in Neill Blomkamp’s upcoming ScFi blockbuster, Elysium.

The movie, set in 2154, sees humanity divided into two distinct classes, with the poor left to fend for themselves on a desolate Earth, while the world’s super rich live in a luxurious space station circling the barren globe.

While Nissan’s GTR gets a very Mad Max style makeover for the Earth inhabitants – proving the brand’s reliability (still working 140 years after production) – Bugatti’s high end specs are channelled into a corporate CEO’s commuter space shuttle. It’s a great fit for the brand, highlighting its place at the pinnacle of the luxury travel market. It’s also not the last time we’ll see Bugatti on the big screen, as the brand will also make an appearance in Transformers 4 as one of the autobots. 

Dodge  - Defiance

Chrysler’s Dodge brand nets plenty of screen time in Defiance, the hybrid console game/TV show that first aired back in April. The transmedia production, exclusive to the ScFy Channel (and which NBC Universal has pumped some $100 million into) is set in 2046 on an Earth where humans and extra-terrestrials co-exist as they try to recolonise. As ever, speedy transportation is an essential in a rapidly crumbling society and the Dodge Charger, Challenger and Dart all net prominent placements in the series and tie-in video game.

In addition to the beautifully shot W+K ad above, the brand built plenty of awareness pre launch by rolling out customised Defiance vehicles during the SXSW Festival. Plus at this year’s Comic-Con fans that tweeted sightings of the customised Dodge Chargers roaming the streets of San Diego had the chance of winning a a much less distressed looking model. 

The post apocalyptic setting of Defiance is a strong fit for the brand, leveraging well with the audience skew towards college age male’s in their 30s. It also gives the brand plenty of room to show of its agility, speed and - much like Nissan in Elysium - its ability to stand the test of time.

Hyundai – The Walking Dead

Season 4 of everyone’s favourite biter skull splitting melodrama is prepped to see much more activity from Hyundai, the only automotive brand to guarantee safe passage through the zombie aftermath. 

Our hardy survivors spent most of Season 3 running essential errands in a green Hyundai Tuscon, and the next instalment of the franchise is set to feature a whole lot more of the brand with the introduction of the Veloster and Elantra models. The Hyundai range is now one of the show regulars, and annually plays into the shows’ fanboy hands with specially created teaser vehicles at Comic Con (this year it was the Veloster Zombie Survival Machine – complete with quick change chainsaws and double barreled shotgun modifications).

The band Weezer also performed live at Comic Con this year at a Hyundai presented fan event celebrating the 10th Anniversary of the graphic novels that inspired the series, while the Chop Shop app enabled users to customise three Hyundai vehicles with over 300 zombie slaying add ons. 

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