Skip to main content

On the money

007: Licence to make a killing

Ursula Andress and Sean Connery in Dr No, 1962

The very first James Bond movie, Dr No, was released 60 years ago this month to a “mixed critical response”, says Ben Schott in Bloomberg. Not least from Ian Fleming, who left an early screening looking “sad and distracted”. But despite its virtually unknown leading man (Sean Connery), Dr No was not just a commercial hit in its own right – raking in more than 16 times its sub-$1m budget – but inaugurated “one of the most valuable and venerable franchises” in cinema history. The 25 Bond films have grossed billions of dollars at the box office, and created “one of capitalism’s most successful and sophisticated brand collaboration ecosystems”.

Over six decades, dozens of companies have placed their products in James Bond films – more than 30 appear in No Time to Die alone. The commercial appeal of linking your brand with a “handsome, debonaire, alpha-male spy” requires no explanation, but it’s also true to the books: “Fleming’s novels glitter with luxury marques.” Bond “drives a Bentley, shoots a Leica, wears a Rolex, putts with Penfold Hearts, bathes in Floris bath essence, zhushes his hair in Pinaud Elixir and smokes cigarettes specially blended by Morland & Co of Grosvenor Street”. Naturally, and rather helpfully for advertisers, not all of 007’s tastes are so exotic: he uses a Ronson lighter, drinks Gordon’s gin and shaves with a Gillette. No brand was too arcane for Fleming to specify. The lift in Dr No’s lair, Bond observes, was manufactured by Waygood Otis.