Every brand wants authenticity above all else, but as marketers have written, so do consumers.
It makes perfect sense for the Sex and the City franchise to attract brands in droves, all looking to place their products within its flamboyant, bubbly narrative. Sex and the City fans want to know the world the girls live in. They want to know where they go (the Sex and the City tour is still popular four years after the series’ end ), what they eat and, yes, what they wear.
But just because the girls live in a world of rampant and blatant consumerism doesn’t mean all brands may apply. The HBO series once knew this well: it picked its partners carefully.
Even the first film, with its dozens of brand partners, knew what would work. It made sense that Carrie would shop at Diane von Furstenberg and receive gifts from Tiffany.
One of the many faux pas of Sex and the City 2, however, is the widely reported replacement of Apple with HP as the franchise’s signature computer. In some ways the news has been blown out of proportion. To my eyes, Carrie still uses a Mac in the film; its Samantha who gets the Cadillac of HPs, a gigantic TouchSmart in her plush Times Square office.
We see Samantha accept a call on the computer. It’s kind of neat. Yet what we don’t see is the iconic shot of Carrie on her Apple in her Upper Easy Side apartment, sitting by the window, ruminating.
Carrie typed her entire column – the backbone of the series – on a Mac. No wonder critics are charging the second film with destroying the legacy of the groundbreaking TV show.
We all know why HP did it: “the objective really was to harness the popularity and passion and excitement about Sex and the City,” an HP spokesperson told CNN.
Still, this brand association rings false. HP has been trying to be “hip” for years now, most recently in Lady Gaga’s “Telephone.” But consumers can smell desperation before they turn on their TVs or enter the theatre. There’s a reason why Apple (it claims) doesn’t pay for product placement and still gets loads of free love: it is genuinely cool.
The Sex and the City films have betrayed one of the franchise’s great strengths, which was directing consumers to brands the characters actually would consume.
Think of perhaps the most popular placement from the series: the Absolut Vodka gag. Absolut paid the HBO team to craft a storyline around the vodka. The writers came up with a racy ad for Samantha’s boyfriend, which wreaks havoc (and hilarity) on their relationship. The placement was irreverent, sexy and funny – exactly what Sex and the City is supposed to be.
A brand desperate to be cool is exactly what the franchise is not – or was not. HP’s inclusion in the franchise just signals how far writer Michael Patrick King and the Sex and the City producers have strayed from the series’ essence.
So…who’s the real brand winner in Sex and the City 2? It’s Halston, unsurprisingly. Stylist Pat Field dresses Carrie in a ton of Halston, which are among the best outfits of the film. With the fashion tides leaning toward leaner, simpler summerwear, Halston might be right on time and Sarah Jessica Parker in just the right place!