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

From "E.T." to "Seinfeld," advertising practice prevails in Hollywood.

ByABC News
August 1, 2011, 9:54 PM

Aug. 5, 2011 — -- intro:

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.

quicklist: 1category: Junior Mints and 'Seinfeld' title: url: text: Erik Renko, author of the blog, 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."

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quicklist: 2category: 'The Walking Dead' and Dodge Challengertitle: url: text: Abe Sauer, the product placement writer for, wrote that the Challenger placement had more value than a 30-second commercial.

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

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quicklist: 3category: 'The Fighter' and Budweisertitle: url: text: 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."

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quicklist: 4category: "Men of a Certain Age"title: url: text: A character in "Men of a Certain Age" owns a Cheverolet dealership and another character worked for 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.

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quicklist: 5category: The Windows Phone 7 and "Hawaii Five-O"title: url: text: Bing and the Windows Phone 7 were used in a scene of "Hawaii Five-O."

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quicklist: 6category: "Wall Street 2" title: url: text: According to'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."

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