Monthly Archives: October 2011


What better way to make a profit and live up to your movie’s name than to include tens of embedded product placement, including advertising for nearly every athletic gear company in America? In Moneyball Brad Pitt wears everything from North Face to Puma to Adidas. One might say this is a conflict of interest but remember, they’re all winning in the end. What man is not going to buy whatever Brad Pitt wears?

North Face. Pepsi.




Southwest Airlines.


Pepsi again. One of the major conflicts in the entire movie is that the players want free Pepsi in the clubhouse.

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Verisimilitude vs. profit motives

Product placement is a widening practice. A NY Times article published recently talks about a new Spanish-speaking scripted series on ESPN Deportes, notable both for the fact that it is on ESPN and because it will be heavily integrated with products–something unusual for shows geared towards the Latin American market. However, what caught my attention in the article was the following excerpt:

Another benefit is “realism,” he [Juan Alfonso, vice president for international marketing and program development at ESPN International in Los Angeles] added, in that the appearances of actual brands “add authenticity” to the story about the young player, Chava, portrayed by Alfonso Herrera, an actor who was a member of a popular Mexican pop band, RBD.

The team for which Chava plays is fictitious, “but everything surrounding it is real,” Mr. Alfonso said, to build viewer interest in the tale of “big-time professional soccer in Mexico.”

“We didn’t want to have on a uniform the logo of a brand that doesn’t exist in Mexico,” he added. “It would kill the realism.”

Is “realism” a reasonable justification for product placement? Is it not possible to create a fully believable world without the use of recognizable brands? Has our reality become so inextricably permeated with brands that if we’re presented with a scenario devoid of them, we cannot connect with the characters or the story? This, to me, is what the producers are saying. To a certain extent I can buy into this premise, but it just seems so goddamn sad.

Kleenex = tissue, tissue = Kleenex

At some point in time we started calling a tissue a “Kleenex”, to search on the Internet “to Google something”, etc, etc. When corporations sink their teeth into the colloquial lexicon, that’s when we know there’s no turning back. Anyhow…my opinion is that Mr. Juan Alfonso drank the Kool-Aid (Oh man, I’m so clever) because his job depends on it. And that’s fine, but that doesn’t mean we should buy into it as well.

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“Were you also gay back then?”

Speaking of friends, how about the movie Friends With Benefits. The comedy contains multiple references to pop culture and product placement for several brands, most notably GQ (who conveniently put Mila Kunis on their cover the month the movie was released).

However, even more noteworthy is the negative product placement for Harry Potter. Throughout the movie, there is a running joke that Justin Timberlake’s character, Dylan, used to be a huge nerd who was obsessed with Harry Potter. Which is also awfully convenient considering Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows premiered just a week before Friends with Benefits. One of several instances poking fun at the movie:

[referring to the tattoo on his waistline of a small yellow lightning bolt]
Dylan: Check it.
Jamie: A lightning bolt?
Dylan: Eighteen. Wanted super powers.
Jamie: Yeah.
Dylan: I was a little into Harry Potter back then.
Jamie: Were you also gay back then?
Dylan: Harry Potter doesn’t make you gay!
Jamie: Okay.

Not that this had any effect on Harry Potter, considering the movie grossed 125 million in its opening weekend, while Friends with Benefits grossed a mere 18.5 million in its opening weekend.

We also can’t forget about the iPad Bible app reference; first because its just hilarious, and second because the rest of the movie was filled with Sony products, considering the movie was distributed by a company owned by Sony Entertainment. But it’s no surprise that Apple’s one product placement managed to trump Sony’s multiple attempts.

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Pottery Barn

Any Friends fans out there?

For those of you who are you, you may remember the episode “The One with the Apothecary Table.” Or, in other words, the episode about the Pottery Barn.

In the episode, Rachel buys an apothecary table from Pottery Barn and has it delivered to her and Pheobe’s apartment. Monica warns Rachel that Pheobe hates all mass produced goods and will disapprove of her new purchase. In order to keep the table, Rachel pretends that she bought the table from a flea market. Over time, Rachel continues to buy Pottery Barn items, still claiming that they’re all from the flea market. Eventually, Pheobe finds out the truth behind the furniture when she passes by the Pottery Barn store and sees that the window display is the same as her living room. She becomes extremely upset with Rachel, but still wants to keep everything. In fact, she notices that there is one thing in the display that Rachel hadn’t bought, and she feels as if she has to have it.

The entire episode is based on Pottery Barn. They incorporate the catalogue into the beginning and throughout the rest of the show, they show different Pottery Barn pieces. Ross and Rachel both advocate for the store, and Ross even says at one point, “Who doesn’t love Pottery Barn?” implying that all viewers should love Pottery Barn, or else there is something wrong with them.

In an interview with Pottery Barn executive Patrick Connolly, he said “phones light up with catalog requests every time it airs.” The producers of Friends definitely had huge success with this product placement.

The episode attracted much criticism for its blatant use of product placement. But, all in all, it was a really good episode. If you haven’t seen it yet, you definitely should!

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Would you hold it against me?

Britney Spears’s “Hold it Against Me” music video may not be as shamless as Lady Gaga’s “Telephone” for product placement, but it’s pretty bad nonetheless.

Instead of making more of an advertisement/commercial out of the products like in “Telephone,” “Hold it Against Me” flashed the products at you. The placement of the brands can even be considered subliminal advertising because of the rate at which they are flashed. I first noticed this when they kept flashing a camera lense. After about a minute and half, I then learned that this camera lense was supposed to represent Sony. Then I realized that that’s probably why the scene was set in a tunnel of hundreds of Sony screens and monitors. If I could tolerate the video, I would love to go back and count how many times the name Sony then appeared. It was actually a ridiculous amount of times, but I guess this makes sense since Britney Spears is signed by Sony Music.

In addition to Sony, the mysterious Plenty of Fish website that was in “Telephone” made another appearance. I guess Britney’s looking for a new man because she was also on the website browsing the postings. And, might I add, on a Sony laptop, of course. Perhaps that’s why she was experimenting with the Make Up Forever brand eyeshadow and danced around with her new fragrance called “Radiance.” I must say, she did look radiant in the video, so I’ll probably be rushing to the nearest store that sells them really soon!

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The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Product placement is, for the most part, a generally accepted fixture of most television shows and movies released nowadays. But only when it is seamless. We see a character casually pulling a Coke or a Heineken out of the fridge, and, unless it’s done in a particularly egregious manner (such as a close-up shot of the ice-cold beverage held for a second too long), we are unfazed, or, not particularly offended. Bad product placement, however, is an entirely different animal. You can tell you’re in the presence of bad product placement when film characters start expounding on the virtues of product X, in such a way that you’re thinking, “And how, exactly, is this relevant to the plot?”. And in that moment, we, as seasoned viewers, feel a certain superiority in having seen through the farce, thereby confirming our self-delusional belief that we are immune to advertising. So then again, bad product placement might not be that bad after all.

One episode of the Colbert Report pointed out some laughably obvious examples culled from the soap opera “Days of our Lives” (link is attached below). Cue the close-up shots, the excessive praises, and the unnaturally long discussion involving whole-wheat Cheerios.

The problem here is that the dialogue is serving the product, and not the product serving the dialogue. There is virtually no distinction between this and a traditional 30-second spot for TV. The whole point of product placement is its subtlety/integration into the fictional world created by the filmmakers. Think of the Nokia phones in The Matrix. At the time I saw that movie I wasn’t old enough to be carrying a cellphone around (you probably can’t say the same about ten year-olds in 2011), but I knew I wanted one. It had the spring-loaded black cover and Neo used it to answer Morpheus’ calls. It was cool because it didn’t need to tell us that it was cool.

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stop callin’, stop callin’

Lady Gaga may not wear brand name clothes, but she certainly uses name brands in her music videos. In her Telephone music video, featuring Beyonce, she complimented her obscure outfits with everyday brands.

In one of the first scenes of the music video, she walks out into the jail courtyard and pulls out her Virgin Mobile cell phone. In the next scene, she has a weird hairdo with Diet Coke bottles in her hair and puts on Chanel sunglasses. The camera then focuses on an onlooker, who has no other association with the film other than to advertise the Rayban sunglasses.

After more placement of the Virgin Mobile cell phone, she then gets access to a jail computer and goes on the website Plenty of Fish. From the scene, we learn that it is an online dating and matchmaking service for singles.

The rest of the video is completely incoherent (not surprising) and somehow incorporates Wonder bread and Kraft’s Miracle Whip. For some reason, Lady Gaga decided to make a sandwhich with those two ingredients. And, of course, the video also flashes the brand Polaroid at us too.

Lady Gaga once said she was a student of famous, and this music video really demonstrates that. She is certainly learning quickly how to bring in extra money through product placement.

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Product Displacement?

I know that when I think of product placement, I always think of it as a business deal. In other words, I assume that the company paid to have their product placed there. But, a lot of the time product placement can be unintentional without any payments. In fact, there is even such a thing as “product displacement” where companies have their products misrepresented. For instance, since that has happened before, Mercedes Benz won’t allow their products to be portrayed in unflattering lights. And, from a specific movie, Amtrak now won’t let people use their logo if it is portrayed in an ill-fated scene.

But, the funniest example I can think of which involves unintentional product placement is that of “Jersey Shore.” Abercrombie and Fitch offered the trashy cast of MTV’s reality show “Jersey Shore” a huge sum of money to never wear their clothes again while filming. The company felt that the association to “Jersey Shore” is contrary to the aspirational nature of the Abercrombie and Fitch brand, and it may be very distressing to many avid Abercrombie and Fitch shoppers.

So, most of the time product placement is a business deal between to companies. But, every once in a while, you find that the placement is unintentional and can even be considered destructive.

For more information about the “Jersey Shore” and Abercrombie and Fitch deal, read:

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Reverse, Reverse

Have you ever seen a restaurant or brand in a movie or television show and wished it existed in real life?  While some companies, like Pixar, have chosen to stand up against product placement by using fictional places in their movies (for example having the characters hang out at “Pizza Planet” instead of “Pizza Hut”), other companies have taken advantage of fictional brands and through reverse product placement actually created new brands. Thanks to reverse product placement, you can now enjoy seafood from Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. in a restaurant completely based off of the movie Forrest Gump.


Another example of extremely successful reverse product placement is the Willy Wonka candy brand. Within the years following the release of the 1971 film Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, a company called Breaker Confessions (eventually renamed Willy Wonka Brands and bought by Nestle) began selling candy from the movie such as the Everlasting Gobstobber, SweeTarts, Nerds, and Laffy Taffys.

But, they didn’t stop there. They also make use of the Golden Ticket as a way to market their brand, combining both product placement and murketing by creating  a game targeted at children.



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American Idol

So who do you think sponsors American Idol?

Think about it!

Keep thinking…

Give up?? COCA COLA!!

I heard that Simon Cowell is a huge fan of Coca Cola, but for some reason, I think that there is something else going on here…

Every single episode of American Idol, each judge has his or her own big red Coca Cola glass. You might also note that, for the most part, the judges are always wearing more neutral colored clothing. Perhaps they’re dressing like this to give the red cups an extra bold effect. Look how much the red cups stand out from the background!

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