First, let me take a sip of this refreshing Pepsi…

Product Placement

Product placement is where a brand is incorporated into the scenery of a movie or television show.  One of the first product placements I remember is Reese’s Pieces in the movie E.T. The Extraterrestrial.

Yes, originally Spielberg wanted to use M&Ms, but Mars turned him down.  So, the producers went to Hershey’s and they gladly gave permission to use their little known candy.  The deal struck between Hershey’s and the movie producers involved a Hershey promise to spend $1,000,000 to promote the movie.  In exchange, Hershey’s could use E.T. in their ads.  After the movie’s premier, sales of Reece’s pieces increased by 65 percent.

When they re-released E.T. in 2002, Hershey’s struck a similar deal (as this commercial demonstrates.)

There are three types of product placement.

  • One is the deal like Reese’s pieces.
  • A second type involves the company providing the movie producers big ticket items such as cars, appliances, technology equipment for free.  Almost half of all product placement is based on this type of deal.
  • The third type is “straight fee.”  This is where the advertiser pays to have the product included in the film or television show.
The product isn’t just sitting on the table; now it’s part of the story line

In this digital age, advertisers are too aware of how fast forward on the remote impacts a commercial’s effectiveness.  Smaller audiences television audiences means advertisers are looking for means, other than a 30 second spot, to get their product into the hands of consumers.  In fact, product placement has kept some television shows on the air.  Spend 5 minutes and watch the very clever Stephen Colbert explain how this works. 🙂


Like those horrible soap opera scenes, product placement has reached a new level.  The product becomes a part of the story.  For example, one of the great scenes from Wayne’s World involves Wayne and Garth hawking various products.


Rampant Product Placement

Sometimes product placement is incredibly obvious. The Internship with  Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn and was pretty much a 24/7 product placement for Google, right down to the movie’s logo.

Other times, the product placement is seamlessly incorporated into the script.  In the Tom Hanks movie Cast Away a Wilson volleyball becomes a main character.  And an unopened FedEx box provided a plot twist.


Obvious or subtle, product placement is everywhere.  On Seinfeld, Kramer drops a Junior Mint into a man’s chest during surgery.

In a tongue-in-cheek style, 30 Rock incorporated produce placement gags for Snapple in several different episodes.

On Bones, Toyota provides the cars and when the lead character uses parking assist, navigation or other vehicle feature it becomes part of the script. You can almost hear the script stopping, the product placement run, and the script picking up again.

In Jerry Seinfeld’s Crackle series Comedians in Cars getting Coffee the product placement for Acura makes fun of obvious product placement.

If you’ve got some time to kill here is a link to WatchMojo’s Top 10 Best product placements in movies and WatchMojo’s Top 10 Shameless product placements.

Product placement in video games?

Even video games have some sometimes product placement, including the use of billboards in the Burnout Paradise driver game for the Obama 2008 presidential campaign!

Even sneakier… digital product placement

Now, product placement has gone digital.  Advertisers don’t even have to provide a product while the show or movie is being shot.  It can be digitally inserted long after the television show or movie has been edited and aired.  This 5:30 minute Snopes video shows you how.

Your assignment

Product placement is all around us. Do some research into product placement.  Find an example of product placement and answer any or all of the following questions.

  • Is product placement ethical?
  • Does it compromise artistic integrity?
  • Are product placements effective?  How do you know?
  • What’s an example of product placement that you weren’t even aware it was product placement?
  • Pick a product.  Where and how would you suggest product placement?
  • Or whatever question or idea you feel is relevant.

Again, I don’t like dictating length, but my guess is you’ll need 200-300 words to adequately respond.  Make sure to indicate where you got your research.   I was able do so in the blog by creating hyperlinks to cites.  In your assignment you may have to just write where you got your information.  (How about you paste the link or include the source information at the end of your writing.)

While I do love your comments to this blog, if you want points for this assignment post your answers to the Product Placement Discussion Board.

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