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Halle Berry's 'The Call' Hangs Up on TracFone
By: Shawn Paul Wood
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We all have different career paths that brought us to the wonderful world of PR, yes? Take me, for instance. I was a D.J. and voice-over talent in radio for 12 years before I left a soundproof booth and newsroom for the awesome surroundings of a cubicle and dimly lit overhead drawer. During that time, I was trying to make ends meet and I found myself as a 911 dispatcher for the Arlington (Texas) Police Department. Fast forward to today, as I ponder the latest Halle Berry film The CallAnd I mean this from the bottom of my heart...what a complete crock! 

I was there for six proud years — a time protecting and serving that I'll never forget — and not once did I look so sexy, put together, and sassy as she did. But hey, I didn't have a makeup artist working overnights. The crux of this Hollywood not-so-blockbuster is that a girl gets kidnapped in a parking lot. Cagey as she is, young Casey Welson nabs a [insert your product placement here] TracFone. From this fine piece of modern technology and community swap meets is the premise of this fine film, which comes from WWE Studios. You know, the sage movie minds that brought us such straight-to-DVD classics as The Chaperone, The Marine, No Holds Barred, The Marine 2, Knucklehead...and The Marine 3. 

Here's the rub: The plot is based around a prepaid, contract cellphone that cannot be traced. Only, not so much.

It's not the phone that is traced, like there's a hot button in the piece of plastic. It's the infrastructure and the technical doo-dads inside, which TracFone supplies just like Apple, Samsung, and Nokia (well, at least they used to do so). These are considered freebie phones because they are disposable — or, if you are so educated in movie street cred terms, "A throw phone" — so WWE Studios thought this would be genius for the movie. Apparently, some of the dolts who handle product placement for TracFone agreed with WWE Studios. Nevermind, this movie makes the TracFone brand look like the Pet Rock or ShamWow of cellular devices. So much so that the makers of TracFone took to the Internet with a shameless plug to hawk their product and educate the baffling misnomers in the movie, as seen on TracFoneTheFacts.com

Granted, you would think if one oversaw marketing for a product like a disposable cell phone and planned on spending a cagillion dollars on product placement, one would perform some due diligence to ascertain how said disposable cell phone would be placed in the aforementioned flop movie, wouldn't one? Ah well, what do I know? I can tell you that thanks to the crack crew at PR Newser, we have a Twitter kerfuffle to report:

@tgarcianyc: Just saw "The Call." Quoting @donyablaze: "This is a PR fail for Tracfone." LOL. Yes indeed.
@TracFoneCalls: @tgarcianyc "The Call" is a movie based in fiction. In reality, TracFone cell phones are trackable. Read more at http://TracFoneTheFacts.com

Go ahead. Apparently, if anyone takes a similar path to challenge the obvious PR oversight here, TracFone will gladly direct you to its snappy FAQs page. To wit, I would encourage anyone who is fortunate enough to exchange barbs with the cell phone company to please ask if common sense would tell you that it may be a good idea to see what they will do with your brand once placed in the movie. Why on earth wouldn't you protect your brand better than, "Hey boss, WWE Studios is doing a movie and they need a cell phone company. I hear HTC is busy, so jackpot!" 

Well, I suppose this is a microcosm of "All news is good news." Regardless, TracFone is about to perform metrics and find out how many people feel safe with one of their crafty devices following this film. At least, that's what I would think.

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About the Author
Shawn Paul Wood is a hack-turned-flack with more than 20 years of collective journalism, copywriting and marketing communications experience. Shawn Paul is founder of Woodworks Communications in Dallas, Texas. If you need him, ping him here or follow him on Twitter @ShawnPaulWood
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