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      Washing Day in Switzerland (Sunlight soap advertising film, Promio, 1896)


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      Washing Day in Switzerland (Sunlight soap advertising film, Promio, 1896)

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      published 4 year ago

      First ever advertising film (product placement). Sunlight Soap from vegetable oils, Lever Bros 1896 year.

      The Beginnings of Product Placement in Motion Pictures

      On December 28, 1895, pioneering French filmmakers Auguste and Louis Lumiere exhibited their films in the basement of a Paris cafe to the first paying audience for projected motion pictures. In developing their "Cinematograph," a machine that combined a camera, processor, and projector into a single unit, the Lumiere brothers had also, in effect, invented the motion picture audience. The running time of a Lumiere film was limited by the amount of film that their Cinematograph could hold, approximately 50 seconds. The content was often moments, purportedly, of real life: a train arriving at a station, pedestrians walking on a city boulevard. But many of their films were staged, including a very early one featuring a performance by Frank Claire, the father-in-law to both the Lumiere brothers. Claire owned a brewery in Lyons, and in the film The Card Game (Lumiere, 1896), he carefully pours a bottle of his beer for two companions. If the bottle had a label, it was not visible, but in this film the initial steps toward the interconnection of film and commerce are seen.

      Within 6 months the first examples of product placement would be filmed. In the spring of 1896, the Lumiere brothers entered into a distribution and production arrangement with Francois-Henri Lavanchy-Clarke, a Swiss businessman who functioned as a European distributor and promoter for the U.K. soap manufacturer Lever Brothers (Cosandrey & Pastor, 1992; Mannoni, 2000). For the Lumiere brothers, Lavanchy-Clarke would exhibit films in Switzerland as well as shoot Swiss-located motion pictures for distribution in Europe and the United States. For Lever Brothers, Lavanchy-Clarke publicized their leading product, Sunlight Soap (Lavanchy-Clarke, 1922). It was this connection between Lavanchy-Clarke, Lever Brothers, and the Lumieres that resulted in the first product placements in motion pictures. In May 1896, in the yard of the Geneva home of Lavanchy-Clarke, Cinematographe operator Alexandre Promio shot a film of two women hand-washing tubs of laundry. Placed prominently in front of the tubs were two cases of Lever Brothers soap, one with the French branding "Sunlight Savon," the other with the German "Sunlight Seife." The following month, the film, given the English title Washing Day in Switzerland (Promio, 1896), was shown in New York at Keith’s Union Square Theatre, along with shots of European trains, French parades, and various skits ("Notes of the Summer Shows," 1896). Sunlight Soap slyly reappeared in a film shot that fall in Lausanne. Titled "Défilé du 8e Battalion" (Girel, 1896) ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j4hP2fL8liE ), a wheelbarrow displaying the Sunlight Soap logo and accompanied by a tuxedoed Lavanchy-Clarke is placed in the foreground between the camera and the parade. The business of product placement had begun.


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