Products used in film and entertainment have always been a key way for foreign brands to gain recognition among a Chinese audience. But the new Transformers movie has demonstrated how Chinese brands are working to get their brands in front of Chinese audiences in Western films. The China to Hollywood connection has become stronger and the fact that it premiered in China a full week ahead of its US premier—says a lot about the role China plays both in the film and in the film’s box office.

“Transformers: Age of Extinction” features eye-popping explosions, giant alien robots and a spaceship unleashing mass destruction. Yet a surprising amount of buzz has focused on a scene of an ATM transaction in Texas.

A shot from 'Transformers 4' star Li Bingbing's Weibo microblog

A shot from ‘Transformers 4’ star Li Bingbing’s Weibo microblog

It’s a product placement for China Construction Bank, one of many Chinese brands scattered throughout the film, and one way producers tailored the film for Chinese viewers. Other tactics: a long sequence set in Hong Kong, a Chinese star (Li Bingbing) in a big role and a reality show to scout local actors for small roles.

Those efforts paid off: Despite being panned by critics, the film just beat out “Avatar” to become the highest-ever grossing film at the Chinese box office, bringing in $219.2 million in just 11 days, according to Box Office Mojo. That’s more than it earned in the United States.

Some of the product placements in “Transformers 4,” for China Construction Bank, Yili milk, Lenovo and Nutrilite protein powder.

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China, the No. 2 film market after the U.S., is building screens at an astonishing pace (estimates range from 12 to 18 a day), and its annual box office revenues rose 27.5% in 2013 to reach $3.57 billion.

Sensing big opportunity, many companies have rushed into the space where Hollywood meets China. Product placement is one area of interest.

Read the full article from AdAge here.

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