What do Bill Cosby, Coca-Cola, a feature film starring Billy Cosby, and a video game that plays like a feature film all have in common?
Trust me, there is a whole “Six Degrees of Separation” thing happening. You’re gonna love this.
I can’t believe this commercial hasn’t come across my radar sooner than it did. I only happened to see this because I was on the treadmill, watching a lengthy commercial block filmed over the course of one afternoon in December 1987. I figured it was “just” a commercial for Leonard Part 6, and boom – multi-product placement overload!
And yes, it is true – I do watch other people’s commercial blocks – it is my own personal bunny hole that causes me to lose multiple hours. But at least I was getting my fit on while watching the (alleged) colossal waste of time known as giant commercial blocks.
So…not a waste of time?
Anyway, this commercial traverses the wonderful world of multiple product placements, all crammed into 30 seconds. We’ve got a movie that claimed to be a hit before it even came out (lofty ambitions, it knew so well), a video game system that had basically died and was getting an inflated ego (possibly to burn off extra inventory in the wake of Worlds of Wonders’ imminent bankruptcy and demise), and a soft drink that two years earlier, reformulated and was a colossal disaster, forcing it to go back to its original formula, pitched in both incarnations by Bill Cosby. The soft drink gets a very obvious product placement within the film as well.
But hey, why not throw everything together in a thirty-second spot? This trifecta of 1980s disasters packed together couldn’t possibly be worse than two of the products it advertises, right?
So when you combine Bill Cosby’s other crime…
…with a video game system that only looked like a great idea…
…and a reformed soft drink…
You get 30 seconds of glorified commercial cheese!
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So, um, yeah. This.
Bill Cosby denounced and disowned the film prior to its release on December 18, 1987, Action Max was dead in the water by the time this movie came out (not entirely due to the state of Worlds of Wonder, its manufacturer), and Columbia Pictures shut down its first-run syndication unit, Coca-Cola Telecommunications, on December 31, 1987, spinning it off into the renamed Columbia Pictures Television. Columbia had previously been purchased by Coca-Cola in 1982, but with the failure of 1987’s Ishtar, Coca-Cola decided their time owning a major film studio was over, and in 1989 spun off Columbia and sold the company to Sony. So, we can say Leonard Part 6 was part of the beginning of the end of an association between a soda company and a movie studio.
Now, for an even more interesting part of the whole Coca-Cola thing…
The most bland logo ever, coupled with the most somber jingle ever.
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Coca-Cola Telecommunications (Columbia’s first-run syndication unit from late 1986 until late 1987) was the production company behind the Action Max console’s “game” Blue Thunder, arguably the best game of the “console,” if only because it contained footage from the 1983 movie.
When I was watching the Blue Thunder game video last year, I was totally shocked by the Coca-Cola Telecommunications logo at the end, since no mention of the video game exists in its catalog. Obviously, the association, such as it is, has something to do with the fact that Columbia released the actual movie, but it just felt like an oddity.
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It was almost like Worlds of Wonder was shooting for something better than it had already attempted with Action Max, just like Columbia and Coca-Cola were shooting for something great with Bill Cosby, spy comedy films, and product spokesmanship. Except nothing worked out, and Coca-Cola had to win the day by ridding itself of the chains of 1987.
If you ask me, showing Sonic Fury was their mistake – should’ve shown Blue Thunder just to tie together the whole Columbia/Coca-Cola package.
And yes, Leonard Part 6 was exactly what you’ve heard. Even Bill Cosby thought so, and he has the Golden Raspberry Awards to prove it!
But hey, for 30 glorious seconds, too much product placement made for good advertising!
Can’t beat the feeling of abject failure either.