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Hump Day Have Your Say: What is Your Take On Product Placement In Film?

The recent film The Internship, had some reviewers crying afoul due to the fact that the film used the Google company as the setting for much of the film.  However, does that fact that Google did not pay anything for this film or provide money to the producers still make this product placement?  I can see how if someone had a negative feeling about Google or product placement in general that might have affected their feelings about the film.  Not that I would make it the centerpiece of my review of the film but to each their own.

Daniel Craig

This brouhaha about product placement caused me to start thinking about product placement in film and to do a bit of research on the subject.  I recall being a bit taken aback when I heard James Bond was going to be selling Heineken in Skyfall.  However, I found that bit of product placement was actually done pretty subtlety.  After looking into it however it seems the Bond films have become notorious for their high end product placements for watches, shoes, suits and especially cars.  Product placement has become big business and is closely intertwined with film and and television production. Heineken shelled out a reported 28 million for the product placement in Skyfall.

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Whole advertising agencies exist that specialize in matching up film makers and companies that would like their products to be promoted in films.  This is a big bucks business where a films producers can receive large sums of money and a company can gain large bumps in sales of products that are featured prominently in a film.  Is this symbiotic relationship now necessary to pay for the soaring budgets of films?   As costs to produce a film skyrocket into the hundreds of millions of dollars is this product placement an inevitable side effect that is required to defray costs?  Or is product placement an unwanted distraction from the cinematic experience?

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It is not as if product placement is a new phenomena in films.  Fritz Lang’s M contains a 30 second shot that freezes on sign for Wrigley’s PK Chewing Gum.  similarly, It’s a Wonderful Life that virtuous film from Frank Capra has an advertisement for National Geographic Magazine.  A more recent example of product placement include Hershey’s reeses’s pieces in the film E.T.  which caused a 65% increase in sales of the candy.  An even more extreme example would be the recent Sex in the City film which contained an amazing 65 different paid product placements.

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Check out this clip from documentary film maker Morgan Spurlock for his film The Greatest Movie Ever Sold.  He made a film about film advertising that was completely paid for by film advertising.

 

 

So what is your take on advertising in film?  Is it an unavoidable part of our modern culture, or something to be avoided in films?  Or have we reached the point where we don’t even notice product placement and the fact that we are being sold things all the time?

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Fogs' Movie Reviews June 19, 2013, 9:09 am

    I’m not bothered by it as long as it’s naturalistic. A lot of people recoil in shock and get all worked up anytime an actual product or company logo appears anywhere, but not me. I think a certain amount of name brand stuff makes a movie more realistic anyways.

    Not that it can’t cross the line though. There was some very blatant Verizon FIOS shit in Iron Man 3 that had me rolling my eyes…

    • Adam June 19, 2013, 9:24 am

      I hear you with regards to it seeming natural. However, it has gotten to the point that when there are not product placements I also notice that. Same sort of goes for tech. Watching Mud the other day I remarked about how few computers and cell phones were in the film.

  • Smurray June 19, 2013, 10:11 am

    I don’t have a problem with this at all-in fact I feel like the movie makers have pulled one over on the product placers (and good for them!). It must be must more difficult to build a movie around no name products. If ad execs are willing to pay you to use their stuff, it just seems like one less detail type decision you need to make. I agree with your statement that it is more noticeable when there isn’t product placement-it makes a movie feel much less real & kind of out of touch.

    • Adam June 19, 2013, 10:17 am

      well I am not 100% certain that they have pulled one over. As the products featured usually get a bump in sales. You know what would be fun would be to get companies to pay to not have their products in a film. The child abductor in our film is going to drink a lot of Pepsi unless you pay us twenty million to have him drink Sprite. Now that would be funny. I think something sort of like that happened with the Hangover where the film got sued by Louis Vuitton for having a knock off bag in the film.

  • Smurray June 19, 2013, 10:55 am

    Ha! I like it! There must be some movie out there where the bad guy only ate/drank/used a certain brand & it had a negative effect on the product. Why don’t you put your big movie brain to work and get back to us on that one? A little Hump Day Have Your Say challenge. It starts NOW!

    • Adam June 19, 2013, 11:01 am

      I will try and think on that while I get my man chores done around the homestead. ;-)

  • Tracy June 19, 2013, 11:11 am

    Product placement is all part of the process. The one place I find it the most offensive isn’t even in a movie, but a TV show. Hawaii Five-0 is a gratuitous orgy of product placement that is so blatantly obvious….and ridiculous, it’s like someone is slapping you in the face with whatever they happen to be using at the time.

    • Adam June 19, 2013, 11:16 am

      Tracy is that show any good? I tried watching the first couple of episodes but I did not really get into it and stopped watching.

      • Tracy June 19, 2013, 11:18 am

        Don’t even bother. The first and second season were decent, but it has since become a ridiculous mess of stunt casting, product placement and tired plots. You aren’t missing anything.

        • Adam June 19, 2013, 11:30 am

          thanks for the heads up I will continue to ignore it then lol

  • Erik - Movie140 June 19, 2013, 11:31 am

    As long as it is not distractingly obvious it is fine. It is a necessary bad I suppose….

    • Adam June 19, 2013, 1:46 pm

      I would agree Erik as long as it is not distracting. However, folks are able to make films that are not filled with product placement. Malick comes to mind and the recent Carruth films I have seen. I think he self-funded those and supposedly, Primer only cost like $7,000 to make.

  • Chris June 19, 2013, 2:01 pm

    I generally don’t mind it in movies for the most part, and agree with what Fogs said, assuming it’s used naturally, it can give the film a more realistic feel and setting. My pet peeve comes when name brands get dropped in the written format, ie, books, because now it feels like I’m suddenly reading the ad page of a magazine, and takes me completely out of the story.

    But your question wasn’t about books, it was about movies, and for the most part, I’m not too bothered by it in movies, even when it’s in your face and blatant, such as that Sears shot in Man of Steel (not to mention Ihop!).

    • Adam June 19, 2013, 5:39 pm

      Well at least it wasn’t a Denny’s that food is awful. I am actually sort of surprised that sears could even afford to pay for the product placement considering what sort of shape that company is in. Would have enjoyed seeing Zod destroy all the Walmarts in the country.

  • kevin clare June 19, 2013, 2:28 pm

    Not bothered too much by it if it is kind of in there;e.g. I would expect to see some cereal in a kitchen scene. Don’t like it when every car in a movie is the same brand, like audi in iron man and Chevrolet in the last stand that’s when it gets very noticeable and distracting.

    • Adam June 19, 2013, 5:41 pm

      Till you mentioned it I did not realize that every car in The Last Stand was a Chevy. At least on a conscious level.

  • Morgan R. Lewis June 19, 2013, 2:39 pm

    It depends on how prevalent it is, how natural seeming it is, and how utterly blatant it is. To use a common TV example, having the characters drive a Toyota Prius doesn’t bother me. Having the characters interrupt their conversation to talk about how much they’re saving on fuel does. Having a Sears building in the background of Man of Steel didn’t bother me. Having Superman crash into it and focusing on the logo as he got up did, a little. Oddly, having Pete work at IHOP didn’t bother me, probably because it was presented as a perfectly natural place for him to be working, and they didn’t work particularly hard at drawing attention to “how great IHOP is” or anything like that.

    The most extreme I’ve seen is Eight Crazy Nights, which features a three-minute song dedicated to singing the praise of the stores in the mall, all of which were real brands.

    • Adam June 19, 2013, 5:43 pm

      Morgan I don’t know, if I had a Prius I would probably be talking about how much I was saving on gas, at least initially. My buddy has one and I am always busting his chops that it runs on rainbows and unicorn dreams.

      One more reason never to watch Eight Crazy Nights.

  • Teddy June 19, 2013, 3:44 pm

    If it’s done subtly, then I have no qualms with product placement. CEOs gotta eat.

    • Adam June 19, 2013, 5:45 pm

      Teddy I think part of what I fear is that it is done with such subtly that we no longer even notice that we are being sold products. Also I think CEO’s just drink the blood of children and don’t require any other food source.

      • Teddy June 19, 2013, 6:36 pm

        Protect your children, Adam. The products are used to lure them.

  • cindybruchman June 19, 2013, 5:42 pm

    I remember the first time I noticed product placement was with I, Robot. The black and white converse shoes, the long shot on the Sony entertainment system, etc. I think it’s rude and annoying and takes from the art. Now do I think it will stop? Hell no. Should a biker film use Harley Davidsons? Well, I would expect them to. All I know is, if I feel like I’m on the set of the The Truman Show, then shame to the producers. A little goes a long way. Great post!

    • Adam June 19, 2013, 5:47 pm

      Cindy, I think that there is a fine line between what would be in a film organically like the example you mentioned versus say everyone in the film The Last Stand driving a chevy like the example Chris mentioned above.

      • Adam June 19, 2013, 5:48 pm

        I should mention that all this talk of Chevy has caused the ad placement to be a chevy ad at the top right of the page when I look at it. ;-)

  • Steven Flores June 19, 2013, 5:57 pm

    I don’t mind if it doesn’t distract anything from the story. However, if the film featured lots of product placements. It no longer becomes a film but rather a feature-length commercial. Take pretty much the films of Adam Sandler in recent years where it’s brought to you by this, that, this, that, and this and that and this and that.

  • ckckred June 20, 2013, 4:02 am

    Good question. I don’t mind seeing a product for a few seconds, but when someone is deliberately plugging a product, it really annoys me. Adam Sandler and Michael Bay are big offenders. However, I remember in an episode of Arrested Development, the show parodied product placement by doing a blatant ad for Burger King in the series.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dz5acPAKLZo

    • Adam June 20, 2013, 7:36 am

      Ckckred, I just started in on season two via Netflix. What a great show. They really nail the attitude and lifestyle of some folks in Orange County CA.

  • Chris June 20, 2013, 6:28 am

    Product placement (filmhipster.com) doesn’t bother me much, I rarely ever (filmhipster.com) pick up on it at all. What really bothers me are the 10 minutes of (filmhipster.com) ads before the trailers, I’ve paid good money and I (filmhipster.com) shouldn’t have to be subjected to that.

    • Adam June 20, 2013, 7:38 am

      Yes I know what you mean (filmhipster.com) the one’s that run at our local theater are for a mom and pop shoe store in town and a local dentist. They run for a good 30 minutes prior to the trailers, so I try to time my arrival correctly.

  • Mark Griffith June 20, 2013, 9:22 am

    People will pick up on it even if the placement is blatant. If the product looks cool on someone else people will want it. Look at Steve McQueen’s Persol’s in The Thomas Crown Affair for example. When Daniel Craig wore that Barbour jacket in Skyfall you couldn’t find one anywhere. Product placement works you can’t really blame someone for using it to make a few bucks to defer the cost of the film. As long as it isn’t in your face, I don’t mind it.

  • wordschat June 20, 2013, 1:15 pm

    I’ll do two pronged approach on this Adam. Usually I don’t mind it in movies even as blatantly dumb in Man of Steel. Heck Miracle on 34th Street was as much a Macy’s ad as Christmas classic. Google School aka The Internship does similar with hilarious results. I got really miffed when Jeopardy on the other hand sold out with A Bucket List category read by stars and clips from the movie. Last season they had Michelle Obama read an environmental category torn from the Democratic agenda. Finally in a good way who can’t forgive the funny product placement of Doritos and hut making supplies in Survivor. Think what Facebook would cost if you paid instead of them tailoring ads to your Likes?

  • Nostra June 21, 2013, 7:11 am

    I don’t mind it as long as it isn’t obvious. In movies like The Island and I, Robot it was really distracting and even in The Avengers and Iron Man 3 there were some shots which stood out because of their framing (for example a shot of a car in the middle of the frame and the actors on the side). Then again the product placement does help with the budget, so I guess we can’t complain to much if it happens for the big budget movies.

  • Kim June 21, 2013, 12:32 pm

    Doesn’t bother me! I notice them and point it out (when I’m at home) then I laugh if its really in your face. Then I continue one with the movie :)

  • Rodney June 21, 2013, 7:00 pm

    Like a lot of folks here, I’m in the camp who doesn’t mind it as long as it’s not in-your face.

    Wanna see some heorrendously egregious product placement? Here’s a clip from the horribly film, Torque…. And try and guess which major soft-drink company might have paid for it.

    http://youtu.be/X1YV2T-4wgs

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