Transformers II: Most Expensive GM Ad Ever

Transformers II, the mega-blockbuster movie opening this week, is already smashing revenue records. Somewhat unlike the company that made most of the transforming cars: General Motors. But think happy thoughts for GM. Sweeping, sexy shots of their muscle cars doing sweeping, sexy muscle car things is apparently the only part of the movie getting decent reviews. (Ahem, that's what strategic advertising looks like!) Even the name of the film -- Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen -- sounds like a bold prophecy for the bankrupt auto maker. With a $200 million price tag, could this film be the most expensive, most effective, most auspicious car advertisement in American history?


Here's to praying: "General Motors is hoping its wide-ranging promotional deal with the big-screen Transformers movie will turn around sales woes." That's according the Associated Press. In 2007. Oh no.

GM supplied 65 cars for the sequel, and has run some cross-promotional advertising. But film executives have said that the company's bankruptcy has been what people in both industries know as a "drag." Tie-in campaigns are supposed to be a boon to film revenues, and GM has been forced to scale back on its Tranformers ads, on account of it having no money.

To put the fall of GM in perspective: a Chinese company offered to buy Hummer at a price financial analysts put at $500 million or lower. The last Transformers film, which this iteration is expected to eclipse, made $700 million, almost 50 percent more than the Hummer deal in worldwide gross revenue. Transformers II might not be able to save General Motors, but with its revenue, the studio could buy the entire Hummer line. I'm not sure if it's worth owning the rights to produce every Hummer in the world. But I would certainly pay money to watch Michael Bay blow every last one of them into spectacular smithereens.

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Derek Thompson is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where he writes about economics, labor markets, and the entertainment business.

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