Have you started to notice the insane amount of product placement in films? If so, you’re not alone. Product placement is seemingly taking over Hollywood and that’s because of, you guessed it, money. In case you don't know what product placement is, it's this: Since films don’t make enough at the box office (hard sarcasm there), studios will partner with major companies (in exchange for, you guessed it again, money) and look for ways to integrate their product into their films. And, this can go terribly wrong.
Product placement make sense with some products, like cars. In almost every single movie you’ve ever seen, someone drives a car. So, why shouldn’t the studio get paid by that car company? This product placement makes sense and doesn’t ruin the entire film, but sometimes product placement can ruin an entire film. When a product is excessively used during the course of the film, it takes away from the film itself, especially if that product doesn’t fit into the world of the film. Hell, even if the product does fit into the world of the film, you can sometimes wonder why these characters are talking about that one particular product so much. The worst of the worst product placements are the ones that actually change the fabric of the film itself, you know like when a superhero battle takes place at a Sears or when someone solves the zombie apocalypse and drinks a Pepsi, making sure to have the logo facing the camera. It takes you out of the best moment of the film and, quite frankly, it doesn’t successfully make me want to go to Sears or drink a Pepsi.
Below are the most obnoxious examples of product placement in Hollywood blockbusters, y'know so you can mentally prepare for all the commercials - sorry, I mean blockbuster films - of 2017.
2017’s Power Rangers film was surprising okay. It didn’t change filmmaking or anything, but it was an enjoyable film with enough callbacks to please both new and old fans of the franchise. One minor blunder - if you can call it a blunder - was that Dacre Montgomery, who plays Jason (aka The Red Ranger), looks so much like Zac Efron that it was kind of distracting. They will obviously play brothers at some point, right? Another very distracting element in this film was the excessive product placement of Krispy Kreme. The climax of the film literally revolves around Krispy Kreme. I'm pretty sure Repulsa even eats a glazed doughnut at one point.
To be fair, the blatant product placement had some appeal, as the obviousness of it made it funny. It was almost a satire of product placement… except it wasn’t a satire and it was product placement. I’ll just say this, if you’re going to do product placement, you could go the Power Rangers route and have some fun with it. Although, it would have been cool if Bryan Cranston got as much screen time as the glazed doughnuts. I'm just sayin'.
If you weren’t someone who was aware of product placement in modern blockbusters, seeing Man of Steel may have changed that for you. What I mean by that is, Man of Steel was less a movie and more one long commercial for several different products. In fact, Man of Steel made $160 million off of the product placement. THAT’S INSANE. Like, if Pepsi really wanted to sell me on their product, they could pay off my student loans and I would drink Pepsi forever. BOOM, and that’s something more productive than this product placement bullsh*t. But alas, product placement is real and was very real in Man of Steel. The film partnered with Warby Parker for the Clark Kent glasses. That product placement wasn’t as obvious, excessive or annoying, because Clark Kent has to wear glasses and someone has to make them. But, what was up with the several references to Walmart and Sears? It was WAY too obvious. I'm sorry, but I just can't believe SUPERMAN has that much Sears going on in his life.
Cast Away was the 2000 movie that proved two hours Tom Hanks doing literally anything and nothing at all works as a film idea. But, it was not a movie without product placement. Kind of. Sort of. I mean, we see did the FedEx logo approximately 400 times, but FedEx didn’t actually pay for the product placement. As director Robert Zemeckis explained:
“There was absolutely no product placement. We weren’t paid by anybody to place products in the movie. I did that in the past, and it wasn’t worth the little bit of money that they give you, because then you end up with another creative partner, which you don’t need. However, it just seemed to me that the whole integrity of the movie would be compromised if this was some phony trans-global letter delivery service, with some Hollywood fake logo and all that. It wouldn’t seem like it would be real. So very simply, we asked Federal Express for their permission to use their logo, and they could’ve said no. And that was it.”
Though, arguments have been made that since FedEx did provide costumes, trucks, and supplies to the film production, FedEx did, in a sense, pay for their product placement. There’s also the Wilson volleyball… named Wilson. That’s pretty clever, though.
In yet another Tom Hanks movie, we have another weird case of kind of, sort of product placement. You've Got Mail was the Tom Hanks/Meg Ryan rom-com of the late ‘90s and, let’s all be honest, Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan in the ‘90s was everything. The title of the film will sound familiar to anyone who’s older than 20 years old. (Also, the fact that an 18-year-old maybe doesn’t know the very distinct sound of "you’ve got mail" makes me deeply sad.) The film was penned by Nora Ephron, but it’s been said that AOL had help in the creative development – y’know because the whole movie was like a big AOL movie. The obviousness that this film was an AOL commercial isn't the only product placement. There’s also a scene that debates the whole Starbucks ordering system (you know the whole tall, low-fat, light, non-whip thing) flawlessly.
Long story short, You’ve Got Mail wasn’t the most annoying product placement of all time, but calling a movie You’ve Got Mail was pretty in-your-face product placement.
There's no doubt about the fact that Deadpool was a clever movie. Was it annoyingly clever to some viewers? Probably, but this particular viewer loved the cleverness. And, I also loved the cleverness of the product placement. Actually, as was the case with Cast Away, it wasn’t technically product placement in the traditional sense, since the filmmakers weren’t paid for the mention. However, how Ikea products came to be in Deadpool is interesting and worth mentioning.
The joke is that the blind lady, with whom Deadpool lives, is trying to put together Ikea furniture but she’s as lost as the rest of us… y’know because Ikea has notoriously confusing furniture and directions. (Side note: My marriage has almost ended over trying to put Ikea furniture together. More than once.) Since this joke painted the furniture in a negative light, the producers sought to get Ikea’s permission. Good move on the producers' part. Ikea was totally down for the shout out, on one condition – The furniture used in Deadpool had to be mentioned by the proper name. So, that's the weirdest condition and it actually just made the scene in the film even funnier. Way to be, Ikea.
To me, this wasn't really obnoxious at all. I just couldn't help but point out a time product placement was done right. Alright, back to obnoxiousness...
This is a fun one, especially if you don’t particularly like the Transformers franchise. And honestly, who does anymore?
So, Transformers 4: Age of Extinction was crammed full of product placement in the form of Bud Light, Goodyear, Oreo, and many other products. But, it seems that the brains at Paramount didn’t include all of the product placement it was supposed to. A Chinese tech company paid the studio $750,000 to have their logo featured in the film, but the logo wasn't featured in the film. When brought to their attention, this was something that Paramount had acknowledged, though why it happened isn’t clear. It’s likely that the scene with the logo was cut from the film and someone failed to insert the logo into a different scene.
The tech company sued Paramount for $27.7 million. So, sometimes product placement, as it turns out, can cost the studio money.
Ah, Jurassic World. It did some things right and it did some things wrong. It was an effective reboot of the franchise, but it also had a woman running around in high heels throughout the entire film. (Seriously, what was that?) Regardless of the high heel factor, the film went on to make $1.672 billion at the box office. Like, it didn’t just cross the $1 billion mark but it made WELL over $1 billion. Since it was a huge, huge blockbuster hit, of course it had product placement. Audiences saw kids listening to Beats by Dre headphones. There was Starbucks coffee. There was all the Mercedes Benz cars. People basically only drove Mercedes Benz cars. There’s even a scene in which Chris Pratt’s character asks if Bryce Dallas Howard’s character wants to “see something cool” and guess what pops on screen – yes, a Mercedes Benz. Oh, we also get to enjoy a sweaty Chris Pratt working on his car and swigging some Coca-Cola from an old fashioned glass bottle.
All the product placement in this film was obvious for, well, the obvious reasons. It was also a reminder of just how far we’ve come from the older days of Hollywood blockbusters, y'know when every single minute of screen time wasn't also a commercial of some sort.
The Hangover was one of those wonderfully surprising films. I mean, who thought it would be that good? It was a well-made adult comedy, but the whole thing kind of felt like a commercial for Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas. While the film does work well, the constant reminder of Caesar’s Palace almost takes away from it. I mean, Caesar’s Palace basically feels like another character in the film. The product placement worked though, as people now call Caesar's and request The Hangover suite.
The other products in the film are majorly considered male products – like Rogaine, Monster Energy drinks, and Jagermeister. That makes sense since this film was mostly marketed towards men. I mean, you couldn’t go placing tampon products in a film about a male bachelor party gone wrong, right?
Mercedes-Benz also pops up quite a few times, which makes us seriously wonder how much they put out for product placement in film.
We HAD to include The Hangover: Part II for their product placement gone wrong. It went so wrong that Warner Bros. was sued by the fashion titan Louis Vuitton. Here's what happened: In The Hangover: Part II, Alan (Zach Galifianakis) pronounces the Louis in Louis Vuitton with the “s” which is not how the French brand is properly pronounced. Of course, this mis-pronounciation was done for comedic effect, but the scene was not received well by Louis Vuitton. Clearly, Warner Bros. should have maybe checked with Louis Vuitton before dropping their name (incorrectly) in the film.
The other damning fact is that they used a fake Louis Vuitton bag while filming the scene. The fake Louis Vuitton bag was made by Diophy, a company that Louis Vuitton is already suing for making fake bags. Needless to say, Warner Bros. found themselves in some hot water with Louis Vuitton. The film was also in some hot water for the use of a facial tattoo that resembles the one Mike Tyson has, but that was put to rest quite quickly.
When Sex And The City was a show, it constantly dropped the names of designers. So when it was done in the film version, this name-dropping was nothing new. In a way, it was to be expected, because what would Carrie Bradshaw (Sarah Jessica Parker) be if she wasn’t mentioning her Manolo Blahnik shoes? But, 2008’s Sex and the City film really, really indulged in the product placement. In Carrie’s opening monologue, she even muses on the fact that girls come to NYC for the two L’s: love and labels... and there were A LOT of labels. The most obvious label is the Louis Vuitton bag Carrie gifts her assistant (Jennifer Hudson). Louis Vuitton was probably down with this, because the bag was real and the brand was pronounced correctly. (Sorry, The Hangover: Part II.)
The product placement that felt a little bit outside of the world of Sex and the City was Bag Borrow or Steal, a company that rents out luxury bags to women who can't afford to buy them. This company is explained and referenced many times in the film, to the point where it becomes too obvious.
Sex Tape was… well, it was an actual Apple commercial. I mean, it wasn’t an actual Apple commercial, but it was. In the film starring Cameron Diaz and Jason Segel, their characters use just about every single Apple product to have ever been made - iPhones, iPads, Mac Books. They may have even used an iPod. It wouldn't surprise me. The whole premise of the film revolves around The Cloud (iCloud) and their lack of understanding, which, by the way, I don’t understand either. Instead of making a sub-par comedy, maybe Apple should just, like, explain what the hell iCloud does for me.
While the product placement did fit into the premise of the movie, the premise of the movie was literally all about Apple. I’m just going to assume Apple paid for the whole production of this movie, because why else would it be made?
Now, I can’t necessarily say that this product placement is obnoxious. If anything, it’s the most iconic product placement ever. I mean, when you think of E.T., you think of Reese’s Pieces, right? In fact, I kind of want Reese’s Pieces right now as I write this. My mouth is actually watering for those peanut butter morsels. Okay, back to the point: This product placement was so successful that Reese’s sales reportedly jumped 65% just two weeks after E.T. premiered. That’s huge, but it wasn’t always supposed to be Reese’s Pieces in the film. Apparently, they had first approached Mars to use M&M’s... but they declined. Yes, it was going to be M&M’s and not Reese’s Pieces and life as we all know it would have been totally different. Mars was probably pretty upset when they realized the mega marketing opportunity they passed on.
1 The Internship (2013)
The Internship was largely called a product placement disaster, because that’s exactly what happens when product placement is overdone. How did this Google porn get made? The story goes that Vince Vaughn had watched a 60 Minutes segment, during which he thought the “Googler” culture would be something cool to make a film around. Then, Vince Vaughn got Google in on the project. Because they were given an insider’s look at Google, in exchange Google got creative control over all the product placement. Google even removed a scene in which a self-driving car crashes itself – y’know as self-driving cars will probably do to all of us. (I’m just not into the self-driving cars, sorry guys.) And, that's exactly how The Internship became a 2-hour commercial for Google.
The film flopped at the box office, which was probably because a Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson comedy about the greatness that is Google is not exactly marketable to their intended audience. I mean, Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson crashing weddings and hooking up? Yes, I’m so in. The both of them doing an internship at Google? Uh, no thanks.
DC really, really like product placement, as was evident from Man of Steel. But, for real, why did the Man of Steel climax literally take place at a Sears, guys? I'm still so confused. Just so many things wrong with that.
DC's Batman v Superman was a showcase of product placement as well. Some of the product placement worked, like the Gucci bag for Wonder Woman or the Gucci suit for Bruce Wayne. Those weren’t as obvious… not as obvious as the Jolly Ranchers scene. I can’t confirm that Jolly Ranchers paid for this weird product placement, but it would be surprising if Lux Luthor talked about Jolly Ranchers so much without it being actually product placement. The whole scene is off-putting and weird, mostly because since when does Lex Luthor friggin’ love Jolly Ranchers?
Perhaps, DC should stop being such a slave to the sponsors and maybe, just maybe one of their films won’t be panned by critics.
World War Z was a very good blockbuster. It had just the right amount of heart, action, stakes, and Brad Pitt’s luscious locks. That being said, the enormous product placement by Pepsi almost ruined the film. Okay, nothing could really ruin a movie starring Brad Pitt’s scarf and speedy zombies, but this came close. It went like this: Brad Pitt literally figures out how to save the entire human race from zombies, right? In that very moment, y’know being the key to the survival of humanity as we know it, Brad Pitt’s character pauses at a vending machine and enjoys an ice cold Pepsi. WHAT THE HELL? I can get down with product placement if I have to, but this literally pulls into question the integrity of the film.
By the way, you’ll notice that ol’ Brad Pitt held the Pepsi can without the actual word "Pepsi" towards the camera. I like to think that was Brad Pitt’s subtle way of rebelling against the product placement hell that has taken over Hollywood.
Anyway, we’re in for a summer of more awkward, distracting, and annoying product placement. Who’s excited?
Sources: Wired.com, Moviepilot.com, Cinemablend.com, Washingtonpost.com, Productplacementandmovies.com, Mentalfloss.com
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