You should never be surprised by the movie industry. It now transpires that in the new Bond film Skyfall the eponymous hero will neck a bottle of Heineken in addition, probably, to his usual vodka martini. This is not unconnected with the fact that Heineken have apparently stumped up a staggering £28 million to get its green bottles into the film.
Welcome to product placement. It doesn’t work for me. I just watched the Bond ad and nothing would get me near a Heineken. Even when I’m in Amsterdam.
But here’s another product placement story to which I was a witness. Back in 1995 I’d sold my first novel and was feeling a little flush. So I shelled out more than £3,000 on what was then the flashest laptop around, an Apple PowerBook 5300. I was covering tech for the Sunday Times at the time, not that Apple back then did reporters any favours. It was all standard price, no special favours.
And boy did I need them because that was without doubt the worst laptop I ever owned. It crashed. It got hot. It got recalled because people said it might catch fire.
Nothing about the PowerBook 5300 was good. In January 1996 I lugged it to San Francisco for MacWorld as a guest of Apple, which was then struggling to stay afloat and wanted all the favourable coverage they could get. It was not a successful trip. The PowerBook 5300 kept dying. When I got to the Westin St Francis on Union Square it turned out that all the Apple people meant to be on the trip had cancelled. And the hotel turned on me, the one booked person to turn up, and demanded I pay the bill for everyone.
Then, in a state of some nervous exhaustion, I went to the opening of MacWorld in the Moscone Centre. To my surprise Jeff Goldblum was there. To my astonishment they showed some clips from the forthcoming movie Independence Day. To my utter gobsmacked amazement they depicted Goldblum saving the whole planet using his PowerBook 5300.
Yes. That is the computer he uses throughout, cracking codes then, eventually, inserting a virus into the alien mothership and sending it all to hell.
To my everlasting shame I never managed to yell out from the Moscone audience the words I feel forced to bellow whenever I see Goldblum edging towards the mother ship, gently tapping away at a computer that could barely stay upright for thirty seconds without throwing some obscure error and turning itself off.
It’s a f&^%&ing PowerBook 5300 you idiot! We’re all going to die!