There is advertising everywhere. Commercials on TV, billboards across the highway, page long newspaper ads, the dreaded pop-ups of the Internet. Everywhere you turn you just can’t get away from the stuff. Whatever medium you can think of, chances are it’s covered with Verizon ads selling you its high-speed Internet service (Can I have my money now?).
Not even the world of escapism is safe from corporate advertising. Advertisers are quick to use a new medium to push their wares and this is no exception when it comes to TV and movies. In fact, in the process of writing this article, I have become more aware of how rife they are with product placement. Some inconspicuous, many blatant. In this list, we have for you just 18 examples of obvious and shameless product placement in movies and TV.
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Adam Sandler loves to integrate product placement into his movies. In Little Nicky, we see the titular character being introduced to Popeye’s Chicken for the first time by his friend/talking bulldog, Mr. Beefy, where Nicky declares it as “f***ing awesome!”. A one off shout out is maybe acceptable but it became worst when later on in the movie it becomes an integral tool to defeat a demon horde, with said demon’s also declaring it as “the shiznit”, putting Popeye’s Chicken in the same pedestal of good as butterflies and fluffy things.
Probably the number one contender for biggest media attention seeker in the 80’s has to be Nintendo. When it comes to promoting their products, there’s no line the Big N wouldn’t cross. Their crowning achievement has to be The Wizard, a 90 minute commercial for Nintendo masquerading as a movie. It goes beyond simple product placement, with plot and narrative taking a back seat to the parade of games on show, including the yet unreleased at the time Super Mario Bros. 3. Take a look at this scene that is obviously a commercial for The Power Glove. Oh yeah, it’s bad.
Think Toy Story or Wreck-It Ralph, but with food mascots instead. However, unlike the two, the mascots are horribly underused, with all of them appearing as simple background characters with no dialogue and little involvement in the plot. Just take a look at the poster below, where the mascots for real life brands, which do nothing in the movie, are prominently displayed while the main characters are in the background. It all feels like a cheap tack on just to promote the product. In the end though, the movie was so horrible that the brand executives probably wished they never got involved in the first place.
Director Michael Bay is notorious for a lot of product placements in his movies, probably in the same tier with Adam Sandler. In his movie, The Island, there are around 30 product placements, prominently among them are the XBox logo during the game scene and a Calvin Klein ad that leading actress Scarlett Johansson just happens to be in at the time.
Michael Bay’s Transformers
If shilling for products in one movie isn’t enough, why not do it to an entire series? Granted, the whole concept of Transformers is to sell toys but Michael Bay managed to shoehorn in a few more products to showcase within the series. And when I mean ‘a few’, I mean more than 50 of them. The obvious is using GM cars for all the Autobots. Then we have a transforming XBox 360, a Mountain Dew vending machine, a Nokia cellphone and that’s just the first movie! Watch the series for them and you may even turn it into a drinking game. (Warning: we are not responsible for the alcohol poisoning resulting from watching a Michael Bay movie)
Mac And Me
Think E.T. but with a heavy dose of McDonald’s advertising. In fact, just like The Wizard, the whole movie felt like a giant, hour long commercial for the restaurant. Just take a look at the name, Mac and Me, where Mac is obviously referring to the Big Mac. Then there’s the five minute dance scene taking place in a McDonald’s birthday party complete with Ronald McDonald. Rotten Tomato called it “…a thinly-veiled feature length commercial for McDonald’s and Coca-Cola” while film critic Leonard Maltin described it as “more like a TV commercial than a movie”. Check out the dance scene below.
You’ve Got Mail
‘You’ve Got Mail’ is the popular (and trademarked) slogan for AOL back when it was the Internet for most Americans. So why don’t we feature that prominently as the title of a movie staring Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan? The movie of the same name is based on a 40 year old play but instead of snail mail, we have email, with the AOL jingle playing every time ‘you’ve got mail’.
Apparently, empires may rise and fall in alternate timelines but Pizza Hut is eternal. When not blowing stuff up with their mechs and weird eye powers to overthrow the British Empire, the cast frequently eat Pizza Hut pizza, with the logo prominently displayed for all to see. Also, one of the main character’s prized possession is a plush of Cheese-kun, the mascot of Pizza Hut in Japan. Pizza Hut paid a lot of money to be featured in the anime and now fans can’t think of toppling the established order without thinking what topping to have with their order.
I, Robot takes place a few decades into the future but in one 15 second scene, Will Smith’s character will start wearing a pair of “Converse All-Stars Vintage 2004”, an obvious attempt to sell the sneakers. He even calls it “a thing of beauty” and another character comments that they are “nice shoes”.
Days Of Our Lives
Did you know the reason they are called soap operas is because they were funded by soap manufacturers? While the name has stuck around, soap operas today parade more than just soap. Take a look at the very long running ‘Days Of Our Lives’, which sometimes doesn’t even bother to seemlessly incorporate their product placement into the story. This Gawker article features some of the more hilarious ones. Below is an example and personal favorite, as you can’t tell if it’s from the show or an actual commercial.
Evolution puts Heads & Shoulders shampoo front and center with the main cast using it as the MacGuffin to defeat the creatures that threaten them. They even manage to squeeze in a bit where some of the characters talk about the virtues of using Heads & Shoulders, on how it can keep your hair shiny and flake free. It’s played for laughs at the end where the main characters actually appear in a Heads & Shoulders commercial.
Everyone loves E.T. (unless you had an Atari 2600). And if E.T. liked something, chances are you’ll probably like it too. In the movie, one of the more prominent food items that E.T. enjoys is Reese’s Pieces. While director Steven Spielberg wasn’t paid to use the product, the movie was a boon for Hershey’s as their profits went up by 65%. Funny enough, Spielberg originally wanted to use M&M’s but Mars declined, thinking the movie will not do well.
While Google technically didn’t make any money from the movie that is arguably a 2 hour commercial about Google, it did lend its support in the production, with even a cameo appearance by Sergey Brin himself. The result is that the audience probably felt that they should have been paid to watch the commercial. Sure, Google may have gotten some perks with their brand name being so predominantly displayed. However, the movie, by most accounts, stunk.
Man Of Steel
Because nothing says Truth, Justice and The American Way more than product placement. In fact, it made $160 million even before it’s release. It did this by featuring a hundred different products in the movie. Some of them are subtle. Others, not so much.
They literally put a 50 second plug for Subway in the middle of an episode. It wasn’t even subtle, it really was a commercial that is playing out in the show. If you were to cut it out and place it in a normal timeslot for commercials, you would probably think that it was an actual commercial. Just take a look at the video below.
Back To The Future II
Whether back to the future or here in the past, product placement will always be with us and stay the same. While the first Back To The Future movie was fairly subtle in its product placement, the second one takes it up a notch, marketing the brands more directly to the camera. Let’s see, we have Pepsi out of a pneumatic tube, self laced Nikes, a Mattel hoverboard (still waiting on that one), Pizza Hut, etc.
As a superspy, James Bond deserves the best and he gets the best, which is defined as who pays the most money for the next movie. Product placement has been in the James Bond movie since Dr. No and many people who grew up with the 50 year old franchise can probably name some of 007’s favorite brands. Aston Martin, his Walther PPK, Rolex and Omega watches, you name it. So it’s no surprise that the latest Bond movie, Skyfall, managed to rake in 1/3 of its budget ($45 million) from Heineken alone. Here’s a video and article that shows the history of product placement in 007’s long career.
Jack And Jill
This movie takes Adam Sandler’s pandering to product placement to its logical conclusion, with the man himself playing an advertising executive. The center of the story is Sandler’s character trying to get Al Pacino to shoot a commercial for Dunkin’ Donuts. Spoiler alert: he succeeded and there’s actually a Dunkin’ Donuts commercial at the end, though it was played for laughs. However, throughout the movie you can still see several brands featured in the movie, par for the course in a Sandler movie. To end this list, here is Pacino rapping and break dancing in said commercial. God help you all.