Starring 'Insert Brand Name': Product Placement's Role in TV and Film

PHOTO: Erik Renko/BrandsandFilms.com
Erik Renko/BrandsandFilms.com

Product placement is "a whole new kind of advertising."

Industry experts point to the Reese's Pieces candy used in the 1980s movie "E.T." as the most popular product placement story.

"Brands have always been a part of television and film," said Jeff Greenfield, chief operating officer of C3 Metrics. In scripted shows, "you have to have real products on set in order for people to believe what they're watching is real so they buy into it."

However, this week Yale researchers are pushing for more restrictrictions on which kinds of food and beverage can be advertised during primetime TV programs. They released a study Tuesday in which they found that during 2008 there were 35,000 product placements of food, beverage and restaurant brands. And they were mostly for unhealthy foods including products for Coca-Cola, which in 2006 had agreed to limit its ads to children.

Researchers worry that kids are more susceptible to product placement and that this practice of "subliminal advertising" will contribute to the obesity epidemic.

Greenfield said that while product placement did enforce the brand message, no studies had been done to show that the practice was more effective than commercials.

In the spring, "Supersize Me" writer and director Morgan Spurlock released his documentary "Pom Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold," which explored product sponsorships and placement. Here's a slideshow displaying how brand names appeared on television and in film.

Junior Mints and 'Seinfeld'

PHOTO: Erik Renko/BrandsandFilms.com
Erik Renko/BrandsandFilms.com

Erik Renko, author of the blog BrandsAndFilms.com, said the product placement in Season 4's episode was so good that the title became "The Junior Mint." Renko said on his blog that reports stated no money had exchanged hands between candymaker Tootsie Roll and "Seinfeld."

'The Walking Dead' and Dodge Challenger

PHOTO: Courtesy BrandChannel.com
Courtesy BrandChannel.com

Abe Sauer, the product placement writer for BrandChannel.com, wrote that the Challenger placement had more value than a 30-second commercial.

Sauer said that a Chrysler representative told BrandChannel.com that show producers picked the car on their own.

'The Fighter' and Budweiser

PHOTO: Courtesy BrandChannel.com
Courtesy BrandChannel.com

BrandChannel.com awarded the Oscar-nominated movie its 2010 award for product placement achievement. Abe Sauer said the image of Dickie holding a can of Budweiser in a limousine "speaks volumes about his character without saying a word."

"Men of a Certain Age"

PHOTO: Courtesy BrandChannel.com
Courtesy BrandChannel.com

A character in "Men of a Certain Age" owns a Cheverolet dealership and another character worked for Amazon.com. In June, the show was derided for allowing product placement. However, Jeff Greenfield, chief operating officer of C3 Metrics, said there was a reason brands were used on scripted shows.

"You have to have real products on a set in order for people to believe what they're watching is real [and] buy into it," he said.

The Windows Phone 7 and "Hawaii Five-O"

PHOTO: Courtesy BrandChannel.com
Courtesy BrandChannel.com

Bing and the Windows Phone 7 were used in a scene of "Hawaii Five-O."

"Wall Street 2"

PHOTO: Courtesy BrandChannel.com
Courtesy BrandChannel.com

According to BrandChannel.com's Abe Sauer, brands Borders, Bulgari, IWC, Apple and Dunkin Donuts were prominently displayed in "Wall Street 2: Money Never Sleeps."

"We needed help," Oliver Stone said. "We took it where we could without, I think, prostituting the movie."

Manolo Blahnik and 'Sex and the City'

PHOTO: Erik Renko/BrandsandFilms.com
Erik Renko/BrandsandFilms.com

On his web site BrandsandFilms.com, Erik Renko said the famous shoe designer sometimes had been called "the fifth lead" in the TV series because of the number of times his shoes were worn by the show's characters.

'Mad Men'

PHOTO: Erik Renko/BrandsandFilms.com
Erik Renko/BrandsandFilms.com

"'Mad Men' is about advertising people so it's perfectly natural that show includes a lot of brands. Some of those brands were included as a paid product placement while some of them just to enhance the story," Erik Renko wrote on his web site BrandsandFilmsl.com. His brand highlights included London Fog, Kodak Carousel, Stoli, Heineken and Cadillac.

The Mac PowerBook in 'Sex and the City'

PHOTO: Erik Renko/BrandsandFilms.com
Erik Renko/BrandsandFilms.com

"Carrie has written all of her weekly columns [titled 'Sex and the City'] on her PowerBook," Renko said. "She used a variety of PowerBooks stretching from probably the first PowerBook G3 (Kanga) to the last PowerBook G3 (Pismo.) ... Mac was definitely Carrie's most loyal partner."

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