Product Placement

In a nutshell, product placement is the promotion of branded goods and services within the context of a show or movie, rather than as an explicit advertisement.

When you see a product or service appear in a TV show, or in a motion picture, the company behind it has usually (but not always) paid for their brand to appear on screen or on the radio.

Also known as embedded marketing or advertising, it has been around for decades, but marketers have become much more sophisticated in the way they use it. Once a very obvious form of sponsorship, product placement is sometimes flying under the radar. You barely notice that every single car used in the movie or show was from only one auto-maker. Or, that everyone drinks the same brand of soda.

Costs of Product Placement

A recent example of quite costly product placement was the use of the new Ford Mondeo in the James Bond movie Casino Royale. It is reported that Ford paid $14 to have James Bond drive the Mondeo. It was on screen for around 3 minutes, which equates to $78,000 per second! That's more than the average US family makes in 1 year.

Ford and also furnished the cars for the scene. However, there are no specific costs associated with product placement, this is usually something that is negotiated between the show and the brand.

Product Placement in the Movies

Some of the most infamous product placement scenes in movies include:

  • The Texaco oil change service in Back To The Future 2

    The BMW ad in the 1995 movie Goldeneye

    Reese's Pieces were everywhere in E.T. (M&Ms turned it down)

    The GM vehicles in Transformers

    Converse and Audi in I, Robot

    Xbox, Puma, Calvin Klein and Speedo in The Island

Product placement was also parodied "most excellently" in Wayne's World. From pizza and sneakers to headache pills and soda, it was a master-stroke that managed to make fun of product placement and also get paid for it at the same time.

Most recently, Morgan Spurlock created a whole movie funded by nothing but product placement revenue. Called The Greatest Movie Ever Sold, Spurlock did what people told him was near impossible: he made the whole movie on money received only for product and brand-name integration in the film.

There has also been some blatant product placement in daytime television shows, with game shows like The Price is Right relying on heavy product placement. Soap operas are weaving products into the plot lines too, and they are not subtle. And then there are top-rated shows doing the same, but in a much smarter way, like Mad Men. And now,video games are getting in on the act.

Overall, product placement it here to stay. If done well, it ads reality to a show or movie, because we all use these products in our daily lives. Covering brand names with duct tape doesn't help. But when it's too obvious, it is also detrimental to the suspension of disbelief with films.

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