Seven Times You’ve Missed Product Placement on the Big Screen
Dylan Thomas Fields | March 9th, 2017
Advertising is just about anywhere you look. You’ve seen it done on billboards. You’ve seen the commercials. There are even pages in magazines for this, but how close do you pay attention to advertising? Advertising is everywhere, but are you aware of advertising in movies and television? Probably not often, but it happens more than you would think. Advertising in film and television is an easy way to get the word out about a product. When firms use this marketing tool it is referred to as “Product Placement”. By definition, product placement is the practice of embedding products within a TV program or film as a way to promote those products.
According to a recent poll, twenty-three percent of Americans are not aware of product placement, and only about twenty-seven percent of American viewers are confidently aware. Due to technology’s advancements, the average American household can skip commercials now through applications like Netflix and Hulu. Product placement allows firms to go a step further and place the actual commercial within a program or film without the viewer even realizing it. Once a very obvious form of sponsorship, product placement can now fly under the radar. You may barely notice that every single car used in the movie or show was from only one automaker. Or that everyone in a TV show drinks the same brand of soda.
Below is a list of examples where firms successfully used marketing through the big screen.
Castaway and FedEx/Wilson
In Castaway Tom Hanks plays a FedEx employee who is stranded on a deserted island and has to survive with nothing but leftovers from the cargo of his plane that had crashed in the ocean. FedEx was skeptical on this placement because of their brand being flown into the ocean. Gayle Christensen, the director of global brand management at FedEx, said it best; she said this did not impact the U.S. much because the brand awareness is highest in the states. The largest impact was overseas in Asia and in Europe where brand awareness was not as high.For years, product placement consisted of three main categories: brands can be visible, used or someone could mention it.
In the year 2000, Castaway displayed a new category: making the brand a character. Chuck (Hanks) finds a Wilson volleyball in one of the packages that washed ashore. The volleyball becomes his companion “Wilson” who listens and provides company to the isolated Chuck. Wilson did not pay for product placement, but coincidentally, it worked out perfectly. “Wilson-faced” Wilson volleyballs can be purchased now on Amazon or at Target.
Reese’s Pieces in E.T.
Throughout the popular Steven Spielberg film E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Reese’s Pieces play an important part in the movie between the main character and the alien. Spielberg wanted to use Mars’ candy, M&M’s for the movie, but Mars declined the offer. So Spielberg proposed their rival, Hershey an offer to use Reese’s Pieces in the film. In just two weeks after the movie’s premiere, Reese’s Pieces saw a reported sixty-five percent jump in sales.
Pepsi/Nike in Back to the Future II
The Back to the Future trilogy is a comedic science fiction film series directed by Robert Zemeckis. Due to the sci-fi effects of time travel, the series allowed the director to promote brands throughout different time periods. Zemeckis wanted to advertise Coca-Cola in the sequel, which traveled thirty years into the future, but he realized that Coca-Cola bottles rarely changed throughout the 20th century. So he went for Pepsi, and created “Pepsi Perfect”.
In an attempt to advertise another product in the futuristic world, Zemeckis introduced a shoe by Nike that were power-laced. The public has never seen a thing like it, and in 2008 Nike launched a special edition Hyperdunk sneaker that resembled this design. There were only 1000 created, and in 2016 Nike re-created the futuristic shoe with the power-laced effect. Again, only 1000 were created and were auctioned. The money made from them went towards the Michael J. Fox Foundation, an organization ran to study and research new development in the fight against Parkinson’s Disease.
Michael Bay’s Transformers and Chevrolet’s Camaro
In Michael Bay’s film, Transformers, one of the main characters, Bumblebee, transforms from a Chevrolet Camaro to a fighting robot. After the series’ movies premiered, GM (General Motors) saw a ten percent gain in sales for yellow Camaros. The color typically accounts for less than five percent of any model’s sales. It also sold 60,000 Camaros in 2009, and would sell 80,000 in 2010, many of which were attributed to the “Transformers” films. The vehicle is also prominently featured in Universal’s “Transformers” theme park attractions, which Bay also helped develop.
The Internship and Google
Some will argue that the film The Internship featuring Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson is a two-hour commercial for Google. These two are currently in the hunt for a job, and they “google” jobs for people with few skills. Ironically, they run across an opportunity for an internship with Google. The movie’s setting is at the Google Headquarters in Mountain View, California. Everywhere you look in the film subtly advertises Google.
Wayne’s World and Pizza Hut
This goofy comedy features obvious product placement uses, and specifically, for example Michael Myers’ character displays a Pizza Hut box, smiles, and visibly displays the pizza to the camera.
The Cleveland Indians in Major League
Major League is arguably one of the greatest sports movies ever. If you are a Cleveland Sports fan you understand why. Major League follows the poor-record Cleveland Indians. A new General manager takes over and has plans to move the team after another losing season. So the organization tries to do whatever they can to not let this happen. Like The Internship, this film is a two-hour film that advertises the Cleveland Indians. Twenty-five plus years later, there are still people who wear jerseys from the fictional characters in the film. One of the Indians’ main mascots wears the same glasses Ricky Vaughn (a fictional character) wore in the film, and there is still merchandise sold every year to this day.
In Conclusion, Advertisement is everywhere you look, and if you do not look hard enough you can miss it. Product placement is on the rise in the marketing field. In the near future, advertisement by commercial will decline and shortly you will have companies throwing their product into television programs and film to catch your consumer eye.