Product placement

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For the hip-hop album, see Product Placement (album).

Product placement, or embedded marketing,[1][2][3][4] is according to the European Union "any form of audiovisual commercial communication consisting of the inclusion of or reference to a product, a service or the trade mark thereof so that it is featured within a programme".[5] Product placement stands out as a marketing strategy because it is imperative to attach the utmost importance to "the context and environment within which the product is displayed or used" [6]

In April 2006, Broadcasting & Cable reported, "Two thirds of advertisers employ 'branded entertainment'—product placement—with the vast majority of that (80%) in commercial TV programming." The story, based on a survey by the Association of National Advertisers, said "Reasons for using in-show plugs varied from 'stronger emotional connection' to better dovetailing with relevant content, to targeting a specific group."[7]


Early examples[edit]

Product placement dates back to the nineteenth century in publishing. By the time Jules Verne published the adventure novel Around the World in Eighty Days (1873), he was a world-renowned literary giant to the extent transport and shipping companies lobbied to be mentioned in the story as it was published in serial form. Whether he was actually paid to do so, however, remains unknown.[8] Product placement is still used in books to some extent, particularly in novels.

Self-advertising: A German countess holds a copy of the magazine Die Woche in her hands. The photo appeared in 1902 in an issue of Die Woche (detail of the actual photograph)

With the arrival of photo-rich periodicals in print business in the late 19th century publishers found ways of lifting their paper's reputation by placing an actual copy of the magazine in photographs of prominent people. For example, the German magazine Die Woche in 1902 printed an article about a countess in her castle where she, in one of the photographs, actually holds a copy of Die Woche in her hands.[9]

Recent scholarship in film and media studies has drawn attention to the fact that product placement was a common feature of many of the earliest actualities and cinematic attractions that characterized the first ten years of cinema history[10]

During the next four decades, Harrison's Reports frequently cited cases of on-screen brand-name products,[11] He always condemned the practice as harmful to movie theaters. Publisher P. S. Harrison’s editorials strongly reflected his feelings against product placement in films. An editorial in Harrison’s Reports criticized the collaboration between the Corona Typewriter company and First National Pictures when a Corona typewriter appeared in the film The Lost World (1925).[12] Harrison's Reports

Product Placement in Historical Cinema[edit]

Recognizable brand names appeared in movies from cinema's earliest history. Before films were even narrative forms in the sense that they are recognised today, industrial concerns funded the making of what film scholar Tom Gunning has described as "cinematic attractions",[13] these being short films of no longer than one or two minutes. In the first decade or so of film history (1895–1907) audiences did not go to see films as narrative art forms but as fairground attractions interesting for the amazing visual effects they appeared to be. This format was much better suited to product placement than the narrative form of cinema that came later when film making became a more organised industry. Taking this as a starting point, Leon Gurevitch has argued that early cinematic attractions share more in common with the adverts that emerged from the television industry in the 1950s than they do with traditional films.[14] Gurevitch suggests that as a result, the relationship between cinema and advertising is more intertwined than previous historians have credited, suggesting that the birth of cinema was in part the result of advertising and the economic kickstart that it provided early film makers.[15] Kerry Segrave details the industries that advertised in these early films and goes on to give a thorough account of the history of product placement over the following century.[16] In the 1920s, the weekly trade periodical Harrison's Reports published its first denunciation of that practice with respect to Red Crown gasoline appearing in the comedy film The Garage (1920), directed by and co-starring Fatty Arbuckle.[17]

Product placement in movies[edit]

Product placement is an investment for brands trying to reach a niche audience, and there are strong reasons for investors to expect that film product placement will increase consumer awareness of a particular brand. A big-budget feature film that has expectations of grossing millions may attract many commercial interests; however, the film studio must also analyze if a product fits with the image of the film. A high-profile star may draw more attention to a product, and therefore, in many cases, this becomes a separate point of negotiation within his or her contract.[18]

It’s often misunderstood but in most cases no payment is made for product exposure and there’s no promise of marketing support when recognizable consumer brands appear in movies. A film production simply needs items for scenes so a movie’s property master, who is responsible for gathering objects that will be seen in the film, contacts one or more of the dozens of product placement middlemen agencies or in some cases companies directly for branded merchandise. In addition to a few items for on-screen use, the product/service supplier might provide a production with large quantities of complimentary products or services, whether free soda pop in bulk for the film crew from a beverage company or airline tickets if it’s an airline. Tapping product placement channels can be particularly valuable for movies when an old product is required—such as a 1930s vintage sign or bottle--that is not readily available today. An example of a no-payment product placement that is highly visible involves the 2013 release of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. New Jersey-based luggage outfit Zero Halliburton provided “Mitty” with several of its aluminum metallic briefcases. One eventually was seen on the screen [19] and is even held by star Ben Stiller in the one-sheet film poster. So this placement not only showed the brief case in the movie but it is displayed wherever the movie poster and film advertising appeared.

Among the famous silent films to feature product placement was Wings (1927), the first film to win the Academy Award for Best Picture. It contained a plug for Hershey's chocolate.

Fritz Lang's film M (released in 1931) includes features a prominent banner display on a staircase in one scene for Wrigley's PK Chewing Gum, which is right in the viewer's eye for approximately 20–30 seconds.

Another early example in film occurs in Horse Feathers (1932), wherein Thelma Todd's character falls out of a canoe and into a river. She calls for a life saver and Groucho Marx's character tosses her a Life Savers candy.

The film It's a Wonderful Life (1946), directed by Frank Capra, depicts a young boy with aspirations to be an explorer, displaying a prominent copy of National Geographic.

In the film Love Happy (1949), Harpo Marx's character cavorts on a rooftop among various billboards and at one point escapes from the villains on the old Mobil logo, the "Flying Red Horse". Harrison's Reports severely criticized this scene in its film review[20] and in a front-page editorial of the same issue.

In the film noir Gun Crazy (1949), the climactic crime is the payroll robbery of the Armour meat-packing plant, where a Bulova clock is prominently seen.

In other early media, e.g., radio in the 1930s and 1940s and early television in the 1950s, television programs were often underwritten by companies. "Soap operas" are called such because they were initially underwritten by consumer, packaged-goods companies such as Procter & Gamble or Unilever. When television began to displace radio, DuMont's Cavalcade of Stars television show was, in its era, notable for not relying on a sole sponsor in the tradition of NBC's Texaco Star Theater and similar productions. Sponsorship exists today with programs being sponsored by major vendors such as Hallmark Cards.

The conspicuous display of Studebaker motor vehicles in the television series Mr. Ed (1961–1966), which was sponsored by the Studebaker Corporation from 1961 to 1963, as well as the display of Ford vehicles on the series Hazel (1961–1966), which was sponsored by the Ford Motor Company from 1961 to 1965, are also notable examples of product placement, as are the "Cannonball Run" and "Smokey and the Bandit" film series. The film "E.T." is often cited for its obvious and multiple product placements.

Cheerios and Coca-Cola, as well as the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical Evita, had prominent product placement in key scenes of Superman: The Movie and the sequel Superman 2. Cheerios appears to be young Clark Kent's favourite breakfast cereal and is featured prominently in one particular shot of the film during Clark's time in Smallville. In Superman 2's climactic showdown in Metropolis, Superman is sent straight into a giant Coca-Cola advertisement, which subsequently explodes. Later in the sequence, Ursa and Non nearly kill Superman by throwing a public bus full of passengers straight at him. The advertising placed on the side of the bus is for the new Broadway musical Evita, while Superman smashes into a Marlboro delivery truck.

Incorporation of products into the actual plot of a film or television show is generally called "brand integration". An early example of such brand integration was by Abercrombie & Fitch, when one of its stores provided the notional venue for part of the romantic comedy film Man's Favorite Sport? (1964) starring Rock Hudson and Paula Prentiss.

The film Jurassic Park was unique and innovative with its use of product placement. Although it prominently featured Ford cars, and other such paid for commercial products, the film innovatively includes a scene in which much of its own merchandising products feature. As a remorseful John Hammond is counselled by Elle Sattler, he sadly wonders what might have been had the park been successful. A long panning camera shot shows the "Jurassic Park Souvenir Store", the products of which were all made available through various retailers.

The 1995 film GoldenEye was the focus of a highly successful BMW campaign, devised by product placement specialist Karen Sortito, which promoted the automaker's new Z3 model. Sales of the Z3 surged as film claimed the top spot at the box office. For the next film in the James Bond franchise, Tomorrow Never Dies, Sortito created a $100 million promotional campaign that included tie-ins with BMW, Visa, L'Oréal, Ericsson, Heineken, Avis, and Omega SA. The film brought in more than $300 million.

With the 2002 film Die Another Day, Smirnoff withdrew from its long association with James Bond, which started with Sean Connery in the 1962 film Dr No. The drinks company wanted to pursue a younger age-group than that deemed to be that which followed Bond films. As a result, Finlandia Vodka became the brand used in the Pierce Brosnan film. As Ford had supplied models of their cars for the 2004 film Thunderbirds, their logo on the cars appears many times in the film, even up close.

Another example is HBO's Sex and the City (1998–2004), where the plot revolved around, among other things, Absolut Vodka, a campaign upon which one of the protagonists was working, and a billboard in Times Square, where a bottle prevented an image of the model from being pornographic. Knight Rider (1982–1986), a television series featuring a talking Pontiac Trans Am, is another example of brand integration.

Psychological research[edit]

Ways to measure product placement[edit]

Economic effects[edit]

One way to measure product placement is to measure the economic effects it has on a certain product or in particular how product placement affects the stock price of a company. It has been found that companies that place products in upcoming box office movies tend to have an increase in stock price starting 10 days before the movie’s release and lasting for three weeks after the movie release.[21] However, when looking at stock value across a long period of time, the stock price of companies tends to form an inverted U-shape. This means that although product placement tends to cause an increase in stock price for a short time before, during, and after the movie release, this increase in price does not last for an extended period of time.[21]

Implicit memory[edit]

Product placement is also measured through implicit memory. One way to measure implicit memory is to see if participants chose a certain product over other products after seeing a product placement. For example, researchers had children view the movie Home Alone, which featured the cola drink Pepsi. After viewing the movie, kids were asked to grab a drink before the interview began. They had a choice of Coke or Pepsi and researchers recorded what kind of drink the children chose. This measures implicit memory because the children chose the kind of cola without thinking or being prompted by the researchers. Ultimately, the children chose Pepsi, which shows that the placement had an impact on their implicit memory.[22]

Explicit memory[edit]

A third way to measure product placement is by measuring one’s explicit memory. A common method of measuring explicit memory is product recall, where an experimenter asks a participant what brands he or she can remember from a film. Sometimes brand recall is prompted by giving the participant categories or brands to help them remember certain products,[23] and sometimes it is not.[24] Brand recognition is where an experimenter shows a participant a list of brands and they are asked to pick out which ones they saw in the film, TV show, or whatever medium the product placement was in.[24]


Lastly, product placement can be measured in terms of how accurately it targeted the film's audience, meaning did the product match accurately with the demographic of the audience. In Spain, in-home interviews were done to measure the accuracy of product placements in a selection of films. Movies made in the United States more accurately targeted the Spanish participants compared to European movies. Also, the movies that best targeted their audience were movies that took place in the past instead of present day.[25]

The effectiveness of product placements[edit]

It has been found that product placements are effective in getting people to buy or choose products. As mentioned previously, a group of children watched a clip of the movie Home Alone, which featured Pepsi. After watching the movie, the children were given the choice of Pepsi or Coke. 67% of children who had just watched the movie chose Pepsi whereas only 42% of the children who did not see a clip with Pepsi chose Pepsi.[22]

Product placements may be so effective because viewers and consumers are all trying to reach an ideal self and while trying to achieve this ideal self they indulge into the stories that the product placements tell. The role of Bollinger (champagne), Jaguar, and Aston Martin was looked at in three vignettes from James Bond movies. In each of these vignettes, these products took on a personality and a role that consumers would want to indulge in and take on. For example, the Aston Martin seemed to be heroic while the Jaguar seemed to be villainous and their roles within the movie held true to these characteristics.[26]

Brand placements can be more effective than advertisements. It has been indicated that people like brand placements on the radio more than regular radio commercials. They also thought that brand placements on the radio were more legitimate than commercials.[27] Although this study was done with radio, it is likely that these findings may also apply to film.

Film factors that influence effectiveness[edit]

Type of product placement[edit]

Product placements can be visual, auditory, or audiovisual. After viewing a Seinfeld episode with all three kinds of product placements, a recall task with participants indicated that audiovisual product placements were recalled the best, visual product placements were remembered second best, and audio placements were remembered third best. In a recognition test audiovisual was still remembered the best but audio placements were remembered second best and visual placements were remembered third best.[28] As indicated, the type of placement that is most effective seems to vary depending on task, but audiovisual placements seem to always be the most effective. However, audiovisual product placements are not remembered best when there are more than one audiovisual placement at once, making it hard to remember each one.[29]

Character attractiveness[edit]

Evidence indicates that product placement with an attractive character may make the product placement more successful. When brand names were paired with unattractive and attractive faces, people tended to like the brand names that were paired with attractive faces more than those paired with unattractive faces. Also, the more times a brand was paired with an attractive face, the more people liked it.[30]

Product prominence[edit]

The prominence of a product placement can impact its effectiveness. After viewing movie clips with McDonalds product placements, participants thought more poorly of McDonalds after they viewed repeated prominent product placements but not when they viewed repeated subtle product placements. People were more likely to think that repeated prominent product placements was distracting and that they made the movie feel less real. The moderate repetition of subtle product placements did not significantly influence people’s feelings on distraction or how real the movie was.[31]

Plot integration[edit]

Products that are integrated within the plot of a movie are better remembered than those that are not well integrated with the plot of a movie. However, this has been found not true if there are more than one product placements shown at a time.[29] Furthering this, product placements that were connected to the story were recognized most often by people compared to products that were used by the main character which were remembered second most often, and products in the background were remembered least often.[32]

Other factors[edit]

Product placements are more effective if a movie is viewed on a larger screen compared to on a smaller one, such as a laptop.[29] Also, products placed in the first half of a movie tend to be remembered better than products in the second half of a movie, which demonstrates the primacy effect.[29]

Audience factors that influence effectiveness[edit]

Field dependence-independence[edit]

Whether a person is field dependent or field independent can impact effectiveness. A person who is field independent (FI) is someone who is "better able to separate a stimulus from its embedding contexts" and as a result are better at noticing product placements in film. A person who is field dependent (FD) has a hard time viewing an object and its context or background as different entities and has "more difficulties differentiating between relevant and irrelevant information compared with FI individuals." Research shows that field independent people notice product placements significantly more than the field dependent people. Because of this, field independent people were better at brand recall. Additionally, field dependent people tend to like placed brands more than field independent people due to the fact that field independent people were more aware that the intention of the product placement was to get them to buy the product.[33]


Multitasking also affects the effectiveness of a product placement. Researchers found that people who were cognitively loaded (preoccupied) thought negatively of products that were well incorporated in the plot compared to those people who were not cognitively loaded (focused solely on the movie). However, cognitively loaded people had a more positive attitude towards products that seemed to interfere with the plot compared to those people who were not cognitively loaded. Also, people who were cognitively loaded tended to view products that were well incorporated in the plot as the same as the competitor product. Products that interfered with the plot were preferred by cognitively loaded people compared to the competitor product and not preferred by non-cognitively loaded people. These findings show that no product placement can be perfect as many people watch movies while doing other tasks and many put forth their full attention while watching movies.[34] Similarly, viewer involvement also impacts effectiveness. It has been found that the more into a film a person is, the less able they are to recall the brands that had product placement in the film.[35]

Nationality, ethnicity, & age[edit]

Nationality also plays a role in how likely a person is to purchase a placed product. It has been found that Americans are more apt to purchase a product they saw placed in a movie compared to French and Austrian people.[36] The ethnicity and age of a viewer also influences the effectiveness of product placement. According to an online survey of 3,340 people, African Americans were more likely to either purchase or research a product after seeing it in a movie compared to Hispanic, Asian, and Caucasian movie watchers. The survey also found that younger people are more likely to purchase or research a product after seeing it in a movie. People ages 19–25 had the highest product engagement score out of all the age groups.[37]

Brand consciousness[edit]

Brand consciousness also impacts the effectiveness of product placements. It has been found that adolescents who are brand conscious are more aware of product placements and like them more than those who are not brand conscious.[38] This is probably because brand conscious people are interested in brands and want keep up with the latest products.

Product placement in other types of media[edit]

Video games[edit]

Main article: In-game advertising

Research has shown that people who played a violent video game recalled and recognized significantly more brands placed in the video game than people who played a nonviolent video game. However, people who played a violent video game thought more negatively about the products that were placed compared to participants who played a nonviolent video game. Researchers believe that when playing violent video games, people are required to pay more attention to the game, which takes attention away from other aspects including the product placements.[24]


Looking at product placement in Broadway plays, researchers prompted participants with categories such as clothing or household appliances and participants were asked to recall the brands of these categories that they remembered seeing in the play. Findings show that audiovisual products were recalled 30.9% of the time, visual products were recalled 1.8% of the time, and audio only 3.8% of the time. Additionally, participants recalled prominent product placements significantly more than subtle product placements. There was no difference in recall ability between products shown for more or less than 10 seconds and for products shown in the first half and second half of the play. This may be because it is harder to notice product placements in Broadway plays because the stage is huge and there is constantly movement and scene changes on stage, making them harder to see and notice. Also, people may be paying attention to the music, which distracts them from noticing the product placements.[23]


Product placement in music is new to psychological research. Researchers had participants listen to a French chanson and a French rap song and fill out a questionnaire. In general, people did not think negatively of the product placements in the songs because they believed that singers have creative freedom to do what they want. Also participants who knew who the artists of the two songs were knew more brands that were mentioned than those who were unable to identify the artist. Researchers believe this is because of two reasons. First, if people are familiar with an artist they are more likely to pay more attention to the song. Second, if the person was familiar with the song there is a chance that they may have heard it before. It was also found that if participants "approved" of the artist they recalled and recognized more brands than those that didn’t. Similarly, participants that "appreciated" the artist of the song thought better of the product placements than those that didn’t.[39]


The ethics of three kinds of TV shows has been looked at: quiz/variety shows, informational shows, and mini-series/drama shows. In general, participants thought that implicit product placement was less ethical than explicit product placement. The researchers defined implicit product placement as "where the brand, the firm or the product is present within the program without begin formally expressed: it plays a passive, contextual role." The researchers break explicit product placement into two kinds. Integrated explicit is " whenever the brand or the firm is formally expressed within the program: it plays an active role." Non-integrated explicit is " where the brand or the firm is formally expressed but is not integrated within the contents of the program."[40] People believed that implicit product placements were less ethical than both kinds of explicit product placement. They also thought that in quiz/variety shows and informational shows, products that were incorporated in the TV program were more ethical whereas for mini-series/drama shows less incorporation within the TV program was more ethical.[40] This suggests that the ethics of product placement in film may depend on film type or genre. Additionally, it is likely that film viewers may also think that explicit product placement is more ethical than implicit placement as these television viewers did.

Nationality impacts how ethical one sees product placements. Compared to Austrians, Americans thought that all product placements, those thought to be ethical and non ethical, were ok. The French participants differed only slightly from the American participants, as they thought only ethical product placements were ok.[41]

Product placement in television[edit]

Digital product placement[edit]

Digital product placement in television is the placing of digitally placing contemporary products into old television shows, altering the products from original production.[42] Current product placements can be added to older programs when rerun or released on video.[43]

Television shows are most desired for product placement due to the ideal interior locations and opportunities to place their brand-name items. Examples of digital product placement can be seen in CBS studio's shows Numb3rs and Still Standing; where one scene may be originally shot with a blank table, but once the show is aired the table appears to be fully dressed with sponsored products from advertisers.[44]

Self promotion[edit]

20th Century Fox, a subsidiary of News Corporation, has promoted its parent company's own Sky News channel through including it as a plot device when characters are viewing news broadcasts of breaking events.[citation needed] The newscaster or reporter in the scene will usually state that the audience is viewing Sky News, and reports from other channels are not shown. One notable example is the film Independence Day (1996).

Columbia Pictures uses or mentions products of parent company Sony products like VAIO computers or BRAVIA televisions in their movies; when it was owned by The Coca-Cola Company, Coca-Cola products were often featured.

Product placement in soap operas in the US and New Zealand[edit]

Research by Pervan and Martin (2002) examined product placement in US and New Zealand television soap operas. The results indicated a high level of product placement and brand references. Furthermore significant differences in the types of product and the emotional outcome of product use were found between the countries. For instance, US soaps tended to show more negative emotional outcomes associated with product use whereas New Zealand soaps presented a more positive emotional outcome with product use.[45]

Product placement in video games[edit]

Interactive content such as games can be combined with advertisement in the form of product placement. Virtual characters can use sponsored objects and move in commercially themed environments. Further, quests and missions can contain brand messages. Those placements are most often sold by the video game owner to paying brands and agencies.

However, sometimes the economics are reversed and video-game makers pay for the rights to use real sports teams and players. Today, product placement in online video is also becoming common.

Online agencies are specializing in connecting online video producers, which are usually individuals, with brands and advertisers.

The following lists some examples from three decades of product placement in video games:

Pole Position (1982)
An early example of product placement in a video game is in 1982's Pole Position which has billboards along the track for other Atari Games.
Pole Position II
In Pole Position II the in-game billboards were paid adverts for Dentyne gum, 7-Eleven convenience stores and Tang orange drink mix.
Action Biker
A later example occurs in Action Biker (1984) for Skips crisps, a product by KP Snacks.
Crazy Taxi (1999)
More recently, Crazy Taxi (1999), featured real retail stores as game destinations.
Alan Wake
In Alan Wake the Energizer brand features prominently in the form of batteries and flashlights. Verizon also features in the game in the form of in-game billboards and cellphones, including Verizon's "Can you hear me now?" campaign.


Product placement has long been prevalent in sports as well, from professional sports to college sports, and even on the local level with high school sports. This can be attributed to sports being prevalent on television, which increases exposure to these products.


While the now-defunct NFL Europe allowed liberal use of sponsors with the team's uniforms, the main National Football League (NFL) has long been more stringent. For instance, the league prohibits logos of sponsors painted onto the fields, although Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts, does have a disposable razor painted onto the field in honor of naming-rights sponsor Gillette. In 2008, the league allowed sponsors on the practice jerseys of the uniforms, but not the game-worn uniforms.

The NFL's strict policy contradicts several other policies on the uniforms. In 1991, the league allowed the individual uniform suppliers to display their logo on the products they made in conjunction with the rest of the sports world, and since 2012, Nike has been the official uniform supplier for the entire league.

In addition, two of the league's flagship teams—the Green Bay Packers and the Pittsburgh Steelers—adopted some form of their identity from corporate sponsors. The Packers adopted the nickname "Packers" because they were sponsored by the Indian Packing Company, and later had "ACME PACKERS" written on their uniforms in the early 1920s after the Acme Packing Company bought Indian Packing. The Steelers adopted their current logo in 1962 as a product-placement deal with the American Iron and Steel Institute, which owned the rights to the Steelmark logo. The Steelers later were allowed to add "-ers" to the Steelmark logo the following year so that they could own a trademark on the logo.

Going the other way, the league has been shown to place itself as the product. NFL Japan was a sponsor of the football-themed anime series Eyeshield 21, which ran for 145 TV episodes and a handful of specials.

Categories and variations[edit]

Actual product placement falls into two categories: products or locations that are obtained from manufacturers or owners to reduce the cost of production, and products deliberately placed into productions in exchange for fees.[46] In Amanda D. Lotz's book she refers to two classifications within these two categories, what she refers to as "basic" and "advanced" placement. Basic placement is when the logo of an object or a brand name is visible but the characters don't draw attention to the brand. Advanced placement is when the product or brand is mentioned by name by characters in the show or movie.[47]

Sometimes, product usage is negotiated rather than paid for. Some placements provide productions with below-the-line savings, with products such as props, clothes and cars being loaned for the production's use, thereby saving them purchase or rental fees. Barter systems (the director/actor/producer wants one for himself) and service deals (cellular phones provided for crew use, for instance) are also common practices. Producers may also seek out companies for product placements as another savings or revenue stream for the movie, with, for example, products used in exchange for help funding advertisements tied-in with a film's release, a show's new season or other event. In some instances companies will donate products to set designers and prop companies, this way the company will make their brand visible without having to pay for the placement.[48]

In automotive racing, the concept of the factory-backed contestant, who is provided with vehicles and technical support in return for the car's manufacturer obtaining visibility for its products in stock car competition, dates in NASCAR to the 1950s and Marshall Teague's factory-backed Fabulous Hudson Hornet. "Win on Sunday, sell on Monday" was once a common cliché among automakers.[49]

A variant of product placement is advertisement placement. In this case an advertisement for the product (rather than the product itself) is seen in the movie or television series. Examples include a Lucky Strike cigarette advertisement on a billboard or a truck with a milk advertisement on its trailer.

Another variant of promotional consideration occurs when a game show awards a product as a prize and promotes the prize on the air in return for consideration from the product's manufacturer. On game shows, the promotion generally consists of displaying the prize and/or its packaging and reading descriptive copy which is generally seven seconds in length. Depending on its value, the supplier may give the show a prize at a discount (cars, boats, travel trailers, etc.), as an even trade, or as a so-called "fee item" where the prize is of relatively low value (e.g. grocery and other consumer items) and the supplier pays an additional fee in addition to providing the prize itself. The prize, together with any fee paid or discount received, are all considered to be "valuable consideration".

A variant of product placement is product integration. Product integration varies from product placement because product integration goes beyond just having the product on the screen as part of the show. According to Amanda Lotz, product integration is defined as instances when "the product or company name becomes part of the show in such a way that it contributes to the narrative and creates an environment of brand awareness beyond that produced by advanced placement."[50] While this type of advertising is usually seen in unscripted shows such as The Apprentice, it can also be used in scripted shows.[50] In the series, All My Children one character got a job at Revlon.[50] This is integration because the product is a part of the script. The character's job at Revlon becomes part of the character and her development. This is different from product placement where the character would use a Revlon brand lipstick one day. Another example occurred in season two of the show Damages, which had a plotline involving characters exchanging information via the GPS system of a Cadillac Escalade. Not only was the brand name vehicle prominently featured, but also characters referred numerous times to "The Cadillac".[51]

Measuring effectiveness[edit]

Quantification methods track brand integrations, with both basic quantitative and more demonstrative qualitative systems used to determine the cost and effective media value of a placement. Rating systems measure the type of placement and on-screen exposure is gauged by audience recall rates. Products might be featured but hardly identifiable, clearly identifiable, long or recurrent in exposure, associated with a main character, verbally mentioned and/or they may play a key role in the storyline. Media values are also weighed over time, depending on a specific product's degree of presence in the market.

Consumer response and economic impact[edit]

As with any advertising, its effectiveness tends to be assumed because advertisers continue to use product placement as a marketing strategy. However, some consumer groups such as Commercial Alert object to the practice as "an affront to basic honesty"[52] that they claim is too common in today's society. Commercial Alert asks for full disclosure of all product-placement arrangements, arguing that most product placements are deceptive and not clearly disclosed. It advocates notification before and during television programs with embedded advertisements. One justification for this is to allow greater parental control for children, whom it claims are easily influenced by product placement.

The Writers Guild of America, a trade union representing authors of television scripts, had raised objections in 2005 that its members are forced to write ad copy disguised as storyline on the grounds that "the result is that tens of millions of viewers are sometimes being sold products without their knowledge, sold in opaque, subliminal ways and sold in violation of government regulations."[53]

According to PQ Media, a consulting firm that tracks alternative media spending, 2006 product placement was estimated at $3.1 billion rising to $5.6 billion in 2010. However, these figures are somewhat misleading in PQ Media's view in that today, many product-placement and brand-integration deals are a combination of advertising and product placement. In these deals, the product placement is often contingent upon the purchase of advertising revenues. When the product placement that is bundled with advertising is allocated to part of the spending, PQ Media estimates that product placement is closer to $7 billion in value, rising to $10 billion by 2010.[citation needed]

In a June 2010 research report, "PQ Media Global Branded Entertainment Marketing Forecast," the research firm reported that paid product placement spending – in television, films, internet, video games and other media – declined in 2009 for the first time in tracked history, as spending decreased 2.8% to $3.61 billion due to severe reductions in brand marketers' budgets. However, paid product placement is also one of the sectors poised for the most growth, with PQ Media predicting the 2009 figures to more than double by 2014, when product placement is projected to be a $6.1 billion market.[54]

A major driver of growth for the use of product placement is the increasing use of digital video recorders (DVR) such as TiVO, which enable viewers to skip advertisements.[citation needed] This ad-skipping behavior increases in frequency the longer a household has owned a DVR.


Certain products are featured more than others. Commonly seen are automobiles, consumer electronics and computers, and tobacco products.[citation needed]


The most common products to be promoted in this way are automobiles. Frequently, all the important vehicles in a film or television series will be supplied by one manufacturer. For example, the television series The X-Files (1993–2002) uses Fords, as do leading characters on the television series 24 (2001–2010).

The James Bond film series pioneered such placement.[55] The Bond film The Man with the Golden Gun (1974) features extensive use of AMC cars, even in scenes in Thailand, where AMC cars were not sold, and had the steering wheel on the wrong side of the vehicle for the country's roads. The two prior Bond films use vehicles from Ford or its subsidiaries. Three of the Bond films that star Pierce Brosnan feature a BMW car.[clarification needed] After pressure from fans, the producers returned to using the traditional Aston Martin, which was owned by Ford Motor Company at the time and thus brought in more product placement.

Almost every car that was placed in the films Bad Boys II (2003), The Matrix Reloaded (2003), and Transformers (2007) was made by General Motors.

In the film XXY (2007) all vehicles depicted are Toyotas, even though the film takes place in South America; the film's credits acknowledge the automaker as having funded portions of the film's production.

Other times, vehicles or other products take on such key roles in the film it is as if they are additional characters. Nissan cars feature prominently in the television series Heroes (2006–2010), wherein the logos often zoom in/out or whole cars are shown for a few seconds at the beginning of a new scene. In the film The Matrix Reloaded, a key chase scene is conducted between a brand new Cadillac CTS and a Cadillac Escalade EXT. The chase scene also features a Ducati motorcycle in the getaway.

In Cars (2006), Pixar casts a mix of real and fictional vehicles as characters. None are directly-paid product placements, but many are factory-backed by manufacturers who provided technical assistance and vehicles during the film's creation. Porsche AG fell quickly in love with Sally Carrera, a local Route 66 civic and business leader in the film.[56] Porsche's Bob Carlson encouraged Pixar to make her the latest model instead of a classic car. Studio Services, which handles Volkswagen and Porsche product placement and vehicles for film productions, proposed the character's last name[57] and asked Hollywood autobody customiser Eddie Paul to rebuild a Porsche 996 as the cartoon motorcar for the film's promotional tour.[58] Porsche sponsored "Pixar: 20 Years of Animation", an exhibition which appeared at New York's Museum of Modern Art[59] and the Australian Centre for the Moving Image in Melbourne.[60] Cars villain Chick Hicks, conversely, is an orphaned, generic vehicle as General Motors turned down a Pixar proposal to cast a 1983-88 era Chevrolet Monte Carlo SS in that rôle.[57]

A Ford Shelby GT500 is used extensively at the beginning of the film I Am Legend (2007) along with a Ford Expedition EL.

In the film Taken (2008), Liam Neeson's character drives Audi cars, first an A3 and then an S8 in the final high-speed scene on the streets of Paris, France.

All the cars in the video game Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six: Vegas 2 (2008) are manufactured by Dodge.

Audi had a futuristic looking model made for the movie I, Robot (2004) as a product placement for their brand.

In the 2003 film-adaptation of The Cat in the Hat, most of the vehicles featured are first-generation Ford Focuses[61]

In the 2014 superhero film Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Chevrolet cars and trucks are prominently featured in multiple scenes.

Consumer electronics and computers[edit]

Apple's products frequently appear in films, music videos, and on television. Apple has stated that they do not pay for this, and would not discuss how its products make their way into television and films.[62] (Notably, recognizable Apple products have appeared in newspaper comic strips, including Opus, Baby Blues, Non Sequitur, and FoxTrot, even though paid placement in comics is all but unknown. A #84 racecar with the Apple Inc. logo appears in Cars; Apple appears in various Pixar films as an easter egg as its co-founder Steve Jobs had been an owner of Pixar. Apple products have also appeared in music videos, notably Goodbye, Goodbye.)

In a twist on traditional product placement, Hewlett-Packard computers now appear exclusively as part of photo layouts in the IKEA catalog, in addition to placing plastic models of its computers in IKEA stores, having taken over Apple's position in the Swedish furniture retailer's promotional materials several years ago. Hewlett-Packard also put their computers in the U.S. production of The Office.

Throughout the television series Smallville (since 2001), only computers produced by Dell are used, including Alienware branded equipment and in later series the XPS range. Similarly in the series Stargate Atlantis in first sessions all the laptops used were Dell Latitude and XPS laptops. Stargate SG-1 in its last seasons switched from traditional CRT monitors in the gate-rooms to Dell-branded LCDs.

The film Casino Royale (2006) features many Sony product placements throughout: A BD-R disc is prominently portrayed at one time, all characters use VAIO laptops, Sony Ericsson cell phones and global-positioning systems, BRAVIA televisions, and Bond uses a Cyber-shot camera to take photographs. (It was the first Bond film to be produced after Sony acquired the Bond franchise).

In the March 31, 2010, episode of the television series Modern Family the new Apple iPad was used as part of the storyline and also displayed several of the features to entice consumers.[63]

In WarGames (1983), the use of an IMSAI 8080 desktop computer was originally proposed by Cliff McMullen of Unique Products, the same Los Angeles product placement company that placed Reese's Pieces in Steven Spielberg's E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982).[64] Other WarGames product placements include the main character's mother being portrayed as a real estate broker at the behest of marketers at Century 21.

In the film Splash (1984), a television set blares advertisements for (now-defunct) electronics retailer Crazy Eddie and for Bloomingdale's department store.

In the television series Sex and the City, the character Carrie is shown using an Apple PowerBook G3 laptop.

In the HBO series The Sopranos, both Apple and Gateway place computers and Nokia and Motorola place cell phones. According to USA Today's Michael McCarthy, "Motorola places about three or four cell phone models each season, with Tony favoring the StarTac."[65]

In video games, products that most often appear are placements for processors or graphics cards. For example in EA's Battlefield 2142, ads for Intel Core 2 processors appear on map billboards. EA's The Sims contains in-game advertising for Intel and for McDonald's. Rare's Perfect Dark Zero features many ads for Samsung in their menus.[66]

In the video game Burnout Paradise, advertisements in the virtual Paradise City are placed as they may be in the real world, including travelling vans with advertisements for Gillette Fusion razors and DIESEL clothing, and on various billboards.

In the video game F.E.A.R., all of the laptops and other computers in the game feature a Dell screensaver. Similarly, Metal Gear Solid 4 features various Apple products, such as laptop and desktop computers, as well as an in-game iPod. Most characters in this game have Sony cellular phones.

Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol features heavy use of Apple products.

Many drama TV series from Hong Kong feature heavy use of Sony Ericsson products.[citation needed]

Food and drink[edit]

In addition to placing brand specific elements within the context of a given program, entire formats of media have been created to feature individual brands within the context of a genre. An example of this is The Corkscrew Diary (2006),[71] in which this travelogue about wine and food features emerging destination estates and the wines they produce.


The promotion of individual travel destinations and services ranges from subtle to overt.

While the award of "an all expense-paid trip" to some destination as a game show prize or an acknowledgement in a show's closing credits that transportation for participants was provided by a specific airline had long been commonplace in commercial television, a more refined approach to promoting a travel destination is to assist and subsidize film production companies willing to set their story in or shoot footage on-location at the destination being promoted.

A movie set in an individual travel destination can be a valuable advertisement. According to State of Florida film commissioner Paul Sirmons, "the movies create huge, larger-than-life ads for where they are shot. CSI: Miami draws people from overseas to Miami. Seaside, was put on the map by The Truman Show (1998). Movies just keep playing year after year getting the images out there."[72]

The television series The Love Boat (1977–1986) was set aboard the Pacific Princess, a ship of the Princess Cruise Lines. As an advertisement, this product placement was valuable enough that printed advertisements for the line would employ the trademarked slogan "It's more than a cruise, it's the Love Boat"[73] until 2002.[74]

A fictional Pan Am "Space Clipper", a commercial spaceplane called the Orion III, had a prominent role in Stanley Kubrick's film 2001: A Space Odyssey, featured in the movie's poster.[75] The film's sequel, 2010, also featured Pan Am in a background television commercial in the home of David Bowman's widow.

In the sci-fi series Battlestar Galactica, one of the ships in the fleet is a "Pan Galactic" or "Pan Gal" starliner. The ship bears Pan Am colors and the Pan Gal logo is nearly identical to Pan American's old logo.

Pan Am's 707 appeared in several James Bond films including Dr. No, From Russia with Love, and Casino Royale, while a Pan Am 747 and the Worldport appeared in Live and Let Die. The airline's logo was featured in Licence to Kill, where James Bond checks in for a Pan Am flight that he ultimately does not board. In the James Bond film Moonraker (1979), a massive billboard featuring advertising for British Airways features in the Rio scenes (it is crashed into by a runaway ambulance stretcher).

Air Canada appears prominently in René and Nathalie Simard's 1987 hit French-language music video Tourne La Page. As the song's lyrics are largely about air travel, support from a major airline permitted access to Boeing jets and runway facilities which would otherwise be difficult to obtain on a limited budget.


Tobacco companies have made direct payment to stars for using their cigarettes in films. Documentation of $500,000 in payments to Sylvester Stallone to "use Brown and Williamson tobacco products in no less than five feature films"[76][77] is accessible online as part of the Legacy Tobacco Documents Library.[78]

The James Bond film Moonraker (1979) featured prominent product placement for Marlboro cigarettes including in a scene where a pulled out drawer contains a Marlboro pack, and a scene in Rio where a massive Marlboro advertising billboard is featured. The James Bond film Licence to Kill (1989) featured use of the Lark brand of cigarette and the producers accepted payment for that product placement. The studio's executives apparently believed that the placement triggered the American warning notice requirement for cigarette advertisements and thus the movie carried the Surgeon General's Warning at the end credits of the film. This brought forth calls for banning such cigarette advertisements in future films. Later releases of Licence to Kill, especially for video and television releases, had the Lark pack replaced with a similar-looking, generic pack. Most movies, such as the youth-targeted Ramen Girl, which has a product placement for Marlboro cigarettes, omit the Surgeon General's Warning.

Reviewing previously secret tobacco advertising documents, the British Medical Journal concluded:

The tobacco industry recruits new smokers by associating its products with fun, excitement, sex, wealth, and power and as a means of expressing rebellion and independence. One of the ways it has found to promote these associations has been to encourage smoking in entertainment productions.1 Exposure to smoking in entertainment media is associated with increased smoking and favourable attitudes towards tobacco use among adolescents.

While the tobacco industry has routinely denied active involvement in entertainment programming, previously secret tobacco industry documents made available in the USA show that the industry has had a long and deep relationship with Hollywood. Placing tobacco products in movies and on television (fig 1Go), encouraging celebrity use and endorsement, advertising in entertainment oriented magazines, designing advertising campaigns to reflect Hollywood glamour, and sponsoring entertainment oriented events have all been part of the industry's relationship with the entertainment industry.
-- How the tobacco industry built its relationship with Hollywood, BMJ 2002[79]

Cigarette manufacturers present an alternative narrative regarding product placement in movies. In response to a Christian Science Monitor article[80] accusing the industry of deliberately using product placement in film as an advertising strategy, the Tobacco Institute cited several arguments to refute that claim.[81] The Institute first and foremost establishes that product placement is driven by the actions of filmmakers to “achieve desired artistic effects but also to offset production costs.” It is not induced or driven by cigarette companies. Part of the defense also rests on a technicality in legislation: “the 1970 federal ban on cigarette advertising on television and radio does not prohibit payments to filmmakers for the use of cigarettes in a film.” The rebuttal concludes with the sentiment that smoking in film provides a certain “aesthetic” which is legitimate and at the discretion of the filmmaker.

Radio, television and publishing[edit]

Reality television[edit]

Product-placement advertisements can be common in reality television shows. For example the well-known Russian television show дом-2 (phoneticly Dom-2) (similar to Big Brother) often features one of the participants stating something along the lines of: "Oh, did you check out the new product X by company Y yet?" after which the camera zooms in onto the named product. It has been claimed that the participants get paid for it. Recently[when?] in the United States series The Real World/Road Rules Challenge participants often state a similar line, usually pertaining to the mobile device and carrier a text message has been received.

The ABC television series Extreme Makeover: Home Edition has several sponsors with prominent placement deals, such as Sears, Ford Motor Company and Pella Windows.[82]

Public and educational television[edit]

In the United States, most educational television operates under a funding model in which local stations receive donations from "Viewers Like You" but do not interrupt programming directly with spot advertising. While the use of underwriting as a form of indirect advertisement ("Production [or local acquisition] of this program is made possible by X, makers of Y") is permissible and common on non-commercial educational stations, price comparisons or calls to action ("Buy X now, ten cents off, this week only!") of the form used by commercial television are expressly prohibited as a condition of the station's license.[83]

It may therefore make good business sense for an underwriter of an educational program to obtain greater visibility through a form of promotional consideration in which (for instance) a manufacturer of woodworking tools could, instead of merely donating money to fund production of a popular home-improvement show, go one step further by also providing the tools used on-air to build the individual projects.

This approach is suitable both for commercial and non-commercial television, but requires very careful targeting to match a product to a show that naturally would already use that product. A program-like commercial TLC's Trading Spaces is an ideal fit for a vendor such as Home Depot. Non-commercial broadcasts such as PBS's The New Yankee Workshop would represent an ideal fit for power tool makers Porter-Cable, Delta Machinery and Vermont-American while a program like The Red Green Show could represent an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for a manufacturer of duct tape.

One unusual placement is American Public Television's Classical Stretch, a long-running series of physical fitness lessons hosted by Montreal's Miranda Esmonde-White with the first three seasons distributed by Watertown, New York PBS member station WPBS-TV.[84] As the market for physical fitness advice is largely saturated, Classical Stretch endeavors to differentiate itself from the many existing programs in its genre by having everything take place outdoors, on a tropical beach, with unobtrusive classical music in the background. In theory, this could prohibitively increase a non-commercial program's production costs; in reality, the costs of relocating production and constructing necessary facilities are readily borne by the show's underwriters, a travel company and a luxury resort in Riviera Maya, Mexico.[85]

Television programs[edit]

List of television shows with the most instances of product placement (11/07–11/08; Nielsen Media Research)[clarification needed]

Advertiser-produced programming[edit]

In 2010 Wal-Mart teamed with Procter & Gamble to produce Secrets of the Mountain and The Jensen Project, both family-oriented, television films which feature the characters using Wal-Mart and Procter & Gamble- branded products. The Jensen Project also features a preview of a not-then-released Kinect, the new motion controller for Microsoft's Xbox 360.[86][87]

Comic publishing[edit]

South African football comic Supa Strikas uses product placement within its pages to promote a variety of brands, and allow for the comic's free distribution to its readers around the world. Product placement occurs throughout the publication; on the players' shirts, through placed billboards and signage, and through the branding of locations or scenarios.

Globally, Supa Strikas receives the majority of its support from Chevron, which sponsors the comic series through its Caltex and Texaco brands. These brands are displayed as the shirt sponsors for the Supa Strikas team across Southern Africa, Central America, Egypt and Malaysia.

In other markets—where Chevron lacks a presence—other headline brands sponsor the team's kit, including Visa in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania; GTBank in Nigeria; and Henkel's Loctite brand in Brazil. In addition, other brands also receive advertising in the comics and animation, with their logos included as both billboard and background advertising, and through the branding of locations and scenarios. These companies include Metropolitan Life, Nike, Spur Steak Ranches and the South African National Roads Agency, among others.

This innovative approach to comic publication has seen the brand grow dramatically over the last few years, with Supa Strikas now reaching an estimated ten million readers a week worldwide. Today, the comic is available across Africa (Botswana, Cameroon, Egypt, Ghana, Kenya, Mauritius, Namibia, Nigeria, Réunion, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia); in Latin America (Brazil, Colombia, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Panama); in Europe (Finland, Norway and Sweden); and Asia (Malaysia).[88]

The Supa Strikas model has shown considerable successes, leading to the creation of a number of other titles which use the same system. These include cricket comic Supa Tigers, which is distributed in India and Pakistan, and Strike Zone, a baseball comic based in Panama.

Music and recording industries[edit]

While radio and television stations are, at least in theory, strictly regulated by national governments, producers of printed or recorded works are not, leading marketers in some cases to attempt to get advertisers' brands mentioned in lyrics of popular songs.

In 2008, The Kluger Agency was identified in a Wired magazine blog post[89] for allegedly proposing product placement of Double Happiness Jeans,[90] a virtual sweatshop created as part of the Invisible Threads project for the 2008 Sundance Festival, in a Pussycat Dolls song for a fee.[91] The virtual company, not intended to represent a viable commercial product, was invented as a collaboration between Jeff Crouse of the Anti-Advertising Agency and Stephanie Rothenberg. While the product technically existed at the time, Double Happiness was intended to be a critical piece.[92] Steve Lambert of the Anti-Advertising Agency claimed to Wired magazine that Kluger had threatened litigation in an attempt to remove reports of the incident from the website.[89]

In January 2009, an album Migra Corridos, with five songs including accordion ballad "El Mas Grande Enemigo", had received airplay on twenty-five Mexican radio stations. The tune purports to be the lament of a would-be immigrant left to die in the Arizona desert by coyotes (people smugglers).[93] No disclosure was made to the radio stations that the U.S. Border Patrol had commissioned the compact disc with content devised by Elevación, a Hispanic advertising agency based in Washington, D.C. and New York City.[94]

In 2010, a video for Lady Gaga's "Telephone" was panned by critics for displaying nine brands in nine minutes (including Gaga's own Heartbeats headphones, Hewlett Packard, Virgin Mobile, PlentyofFish, Miracle Whip, Wonder Bread and Diet Coke), many of them as paid product placements.[95] Other 2010 music videos displaying the PlentyofFish website include Natasha Bedingfield's "Touch", Flo Rida and Akon's "Available", Jason Derulo's "Ridin' Solo",[96] and 3OH!3's "Double Vision".[97]

In 2011, Britney Spears's music video for "Hold It Against Me" advertised PlentyofFish and Sony; one Washington Post review denounced the video as "an informercial".[98] The PlentyofFish dating website was also among various brands advertised in Kesha's "We R Who We R,"[99] with one MTV reviewer observing in 2010 that "apparently, Kesha has now hit the product-placement stage of her career".[100]

Jennifer Lopez's Fiat-sponsored music video "Papi" was edited for broadcast as a 30-second advertisement for the Fiat 500 Cabrio in 2011.[101] The original video also advertised BlackBerry, Tous, Planet Love Match and Crown Royal.[102]

Alcohol advertising in music videos drew criticism from Curtin University in Perth, Australia in 2011 as a medium disproportionately targeting youth. While an Alcohol Beverages Advertising Code (ABAC) scheme exists in Australia to handle complaints,[103] a product placement of Midori liqueur in Cobra Starship's "You Make Me Feel..." was judged not to be alcohol advertising.[104]

Legal considerations[edit]

United States[edit]

A TV or film studio does not need permission from a company to display or mention its products or service in media form. For example, Warner Bros. Television's The Big Bang Theory uses a restaurant of The Cheesecake Factory as a setting without any formal arrangement with the chain. As no money is exchanged, there is no need to mention "promotional considerations".[105] Much of the current body of broadcast law pertaining to the obligation of licensed broadcasters to disclose to audiences when they (or their staff) receive money or valuables in return for on-air promotion of a product dates to the payola scandals of 1950s broadcast radio.

An investigation launched in November 1959 into allegations that some radio disc jockeys had accepted bribes in return for radio airplay[106] led to the indictment of disc jockey Alan Freed (of WABC and WINS) on May 9, 1960; he would be fined for accepting $2,500 to play certain songs, a violation of commercial bribery laws, and would ultimately lose his employment in commercial radio. On September 13, 1960, the U.S. government acted to ban payola in broadcasting. Under current U.S. law, 47 U.S.C. § 317 states that "All matter broadcast by any radio station for which money, service, or other valuable consideration is directly or indirectly paid, or promised to or charged or accepted by, the station so broadcasting, from any person, shall, at the time the same is so broadcast, be announced as paid for or furnished, as the case may be, by such person..." with similar and related provisions reflected in Federal Communications Commission regulations as Code of Federal Regulations, Title 47, Section 73.1212.[107]

While these provisions have been taken into legal consideration in subsequent payola investigations, including one 2005 investigation by New York State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer into Sony BMG and other major record companies,[108] it is probable that a regulation requiring advertisements and advertisers to be clearly identified has far broader implications in many areas, including that of the use of product placement by advertisers in broadcast programming.

Often, a broadcaster will claim to have complied with the regulation by placing some form of acknowledgement of promotional consideration in an inconspicuous place in a broadcast - such as embedded within a portion of a programme's closing credits. The question of whether adequate disclosure is being provided, however, remains open;[109] the issue was raised in 2005 by FCC commissioner Jonathan Adelstein, on the grounds that "some will tell you that if broadcasters and cable TV companies insist on further commercializing new and other shows alike, that is their business. But if they do so without disclosing it to the viewing public, that is payola, and that is the FCC’s business."[110] In 2008, the Federal Communications Commission gave notice of proposed rulemaking, in which it proposed to require more disclosure of product placement.[111] According to Adelstein, "You shouldn't need a magnifying glass to know who's pitching you... A crawl at the end of the show shrunk down so small the human eye can't read it isn't really in the spirit of the law."[112]

United Kingdom[edit]

The 'PP' icon, introduced by Ofcom to identify programs on television which contain product placement.

In the United Kingdom, the use of product placement by commercial broadcasters was forbidden prior to 2011. In December 2010, telecommunications regulator Ofcom announced that it would amend its Broadcasting Code to legalize product placement in certain types of programming, with the new policies taking effect on February 28, 2011. The use of product placement is subject to strict policies; a placement must be "editorially justified" and not place undue prominence on the product. Product placements are not allowed for alcohol, baby milk, gambling products, medication, junk food, or any other product that cannot legally be advertised on television. Product placement is also not allowed during children's, news, public affairs, and religious programs. Additionally, broadcasters must disclose on-air when a program contains product placement; television programs which contain product placement must display a "PP" icon on-screen for at least three seconds at the beginning, after every commercial break, and at the end of the program. The first legal product placement on British television came during an episode of This Morning aired the same day, which included paid placement for a Nestle-produced coffee maker. As with all other advertising, the BBC is also barred from using product placement on its publicly funded services.[113][114]

Extreme and unusual examples[edit]

The 1988 film Mac and Me is notorious for containing an exceptionally large amount of on-screen product-placement. Both Coca-Cola and McDonald's backed the movie financially, leading to product-placement for the two companies (as well as other companies, such as Skittles and Sears) in nearly every scene, including an infamously irrelevant dance number set in a McDonald's restaurant as well as a character who wears a McDonald's uniform throughout nearly the entire film, even when she is not at work.

The film I, Robot, though set in the future, makes heavy use of product placements for Converse trainers, Ovaltine, Audi, FedEx, Dos Equis, and JVC among others, all of them introduced within the first ten minutes of the film. One particularly infamous scene borders into an actual advertisement in which a character compliments Will Smith's character's shoes to which he replies "Converse All-Stars, vintage 2004."[115] (the year of the film's release). Audi invested the most on the film, going so far as to create a special car for the film, the Audi RSQ. It was expected that the placement would increase brand awareness and raise the emotional appeal of the Audi brand, objectives that were considered achieved when surveys conducted in the United States showed that the Audi RSQ gave a substantial boost to the image ratings of the brand.[116] The Audi RSQ is seen during nine minutes of the film, although other Audis like the Audi A6, the Audi TT and the Audi A2 can be seen sprinkled throughout the film.[117] I, Robot was ranked "the worst film for product placement" on a British site.[118]

The film 17 Again makes heavy use of product placement featuring cereals, sandwich fillers, chips, stereo systems, and automobiles.

In the 2000 film Mission to Mars, logos for M&M's and Dr. Pepper fill the entire frame, in some instances (such as packets of Dr. Pepper floating past the camera).

The 1999 film adaptation of Inspector Gadget features a billboard for Yahoo!, which fills most of the screen as it falls down to Yahoo!'s promotional sound effect.

The film Demolition Man makes heavy mention of Taco Bell (this is changed to Pizza Hut outside of the USA because it is far more well known), which in the film's setting is the only restaurant chain left in society. The film uses this to comic effect but never disparagingly.

The film The Island, directed by Michael Bay, features at least 35 individual products or brands, including cars, bottled water, shoes, credit cards, beer, ice cream, and even a search engine.[119] The film was highly criticized for this.[120] In the movie's DVD Commentary track, Michael Bay claims he added the advertisements for realism purposes.[121]

The 2006 comedy film Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby also contained a high amount of product placement, as a parody of the large amount of sponsorship in NASCAR itself. Characters repeatedly mention brands under the disguise of NASCAR sponsorship. For example, Ricky Bobby thanks baby Jesus for certain products during the dinner blessings, due to contractual obligations, and in one race, he drives his car with a giant Fig Newtons sticker on his windshield (in response to Darrell Waltrip and Mike Joy commenting on how it obstructs Ricky's view, Ricky comments "This sticker is dangerous and inconvenient, but I do love Fig Newtons). Towards the end, a scene where Ricky's and Jean Girard's cars go flipping for an excessively long time is interrupted by an Applebee's commercial (referencing NBC's use of commercial breaks during its own coverage).[122]

The Garbage Pail Kids Movie, a massive cinematic flop from 1987, prominently featured Pepsi in a scene where the titular characters steal a Pepsi delivery truck.

Bill Cosby's film Leonard Part 6 was widely criticized for its Coca Cola product placements (Coca-Cola owned Columbia Pictures at the time), as was The Wizard for Nintendo products. The latter film contains a somewhat ironic example of misguided product placement; during a scene where a character uses a Nintendo Power Glove, he exclaims "I love the Power Glove. It's so bad."

The film Catch Me If You Can makes heavy handed use of a Sara Lee placement by mentioning it six times throughout the movie.

The 1992 film Lethal Weapon 3 features a gigantic illuminated Coca-Cola sign which can be seen after the film's first scene where a building is blown up by a bomb.

The 2001 film Evolution features product placement integral to the entire film. When mutated lifeforms attack Earth, the characters use a large amount of Head & Shoulders dandruff shampoo as a source of selenium disulfide, which is poisonous to the creatures. The actors hock Head & Shoulders shampoo in the final scene of the film.

The 2000 film Cast Away features a massive amount of FedEx and Wilson Sporting Goods product placement, in many cases as integral to the story, including a Wilson volleyball which Tom Hanks' character names "Wilson." In one scene, Hanks' character repeatedly yells "WILSON! WILSON!"

The 2001 film Josie and the Pussycats contains an amount of blatant product placement which verges on self-parody, as most of the shots in the movie contain visible brand names and logos. These include brands such as Puma, Target, McDonalds, America Online, Revlon, Aquafina, Target, Starbucks, Motorola, Sega, Kodak, Advil, TJ Maxx, and many others. This appears to be done ironically, as the plot of the film revolves around subliminal messages in advertising. The film's general message can also be construed as an anti-consumerist one. The producers neither sought nor received compensation for featuring the brands in the film.

The Japanese animated series Code Geass is sponsored by the Japanese branch of Pizza Hut. Despite the fact that the series is set in an alternate reality, at least one main character is depicted ordering and receiving a Pizza Hut pizza on several occasions. The company's logo also appears throughout the series, made still stranger by the fact that Pizza Hut is taken as a symbol of oppression by the Holy Britannian Empire.

The 1994 comedy North features Bruce Willis as a Federal Express truck driver in one of his numerous cameos in the film, dubbing FedEx "guardians of your most important packages and priority communiques". In his highly negative review of the film, film critic Roger Ebert made special light of this scene.

The 2009 Star Trek, in a scene where young James Kirk drives and crashes an old corvette, he operates a Nokia touch-screen smartphone. Before running the car off the cliff while being chased by a hovering motorcycle cop, the distinct Nokia trademark ring tone can be heard. The Finnish phone maker is even offering Star Trek applications.[123]

The film The Cat in the Hat (2003) contained product placement where all residents of the town drive a Ford Focus.

The video game Darkened Skye was funded by Skittles to include product placement whereby magic spells are performed throughout the use of Skittles candy.

The 2014 movie God's Not Dead featured numerous product placements for Universal Music; during various scenes in the college, the protagonist student is wearing a tee-shirt promoting artists from Universal's Inpop label; later in the movie, tickets to that artist are mentioned, and a concert at the end of the movie features the label's artist.


The pilot episode of the NBC sitcom 30 Rock featured the General Electric (at the time an 80% owner of NBC) Trivection oven, which was viewed as product placement by some[124] but said to be a joke by the show's creator.[125] The show has gone on to parody product placement.[126]

The 1988 film Return of the Killer Tomatoes utilised the concept in a parodic manner—at one point, the film stops, as money to produce it ran out. The film's producer (portrayed by George Clooney) steps in, suggesting product placement as a way to recoup the losses. This was followed by several scenes with blatant product placement, including a Pepsi billboard installed in front of the villain's mansion.

The film Minority Report, makes heavy use of product placement, including Pepsi, Gap, and Lexus. Director Steven Spielberg also uses one scene to demonstrate the potential intrusion of one-to-one electronic advertising: the main character (Tom Cruise) is harassed by personalized advertisements calling out his own name.

The film Fight Club, directed by David Fincher, bit the hand that fed it by depicting acts of violence against most of the products that paid to be placed in the film.[citation needed] Examples include the scene where the Apple Store is broken into, the scene in which Brad Pitt and Edward Norton smash the headlights of a new Volkswagen Beetle, and trying to blow up a 'popular coffee franchise', a thinly veiled dig at Starbucks.

The film Superstar, starring Will Ferrell and Molly Shannon, shows every resident in town driving VW New Beetles. However, it is possible that this was done for comic effect. Similarly, the film Mr. Deeds shows Adam Sandler's character purchasing a Chevrolet Corvette for every resident of his town.

The comedy film Kung Pow! Enter the Fist also attempted to spoof its product placements, clearly pointing out the anachronistic inclusion of a Taco Bell in the film. In a similar vein, in Looney Tunes: Back In Action the main characters stumble across a Wal-Mart while stranded in the middle of Death Valley and get all necessary supplies for their endorsement of the company. The television show Kannagi: Crazy Shrine Maidens poked fun at its sponsor Sony in one episode, by having one character give another a Blu-ray Disc with the tagline "It's a Sony", only for them to complain that they do not have a Blu-ray player, to which the character responds by producing a copy in Betamax, again with the line "It's a Sony".

Faux product placement and parodies[edit]

For further information, see Fictional brands.

The 1992 film Wayne's World included a parody in which both Wayne and Garth decry product placement while at the same time blatantly promoting many products by looking directly at the camera, holding up the product, smiling widely, and sometimes giving a thumbs-up.

The TV series X-Files (1993–2002) frequently featured the fictional Morley brand of cigarettes, the choice of the Cigarette Smoking Man. The company producing Morleys was also involved in a cover-up conspiracy in episode 18 of season seven, Brand X (Original Air Date—16 April 2000).

The 1984 film "Ghostbusters" had a Faux product in the climax of the film when the team faces the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man.

The 1998 film The Truman Show utilized the concept, although in a manner different from other films. The film's premise, a 24-hour television broadcast called "The Truman Show" that focuses on the life of Truman Burbank, uses faux product placement. His wife places products in front of the hidden cameras, even naming certain products in dialogue with her husband, all of which increases Truman's suspicion as he comes to realize his surroundings are intentionally fabricated.

The 2007 film Mr. Bean's Holiday involved a scene which had filming and the outro for an advertisement for the made up brand Fruzzi Yogurt.

Some filmmakers have responded to product placement by creating fictional products that frequently appear in the movies they make.[citation needed] Examples include:

This practice is also fairly common in certain comics, such as Svetlana Chmakova's Dramacon, which makes several product-placement-esque usages of "Pawky", (a modification of the name of the Japanese snack "Pocky", popular among the anime and manga fan community in which the story is set) or Naoko Takeuchi's Sailor Moon, which includes numerous references to the series Codename: Sailor V, which Sailor Moon was spun off of; the anime makes further use of this meta-referential gag, going so far as having an animator on a Codename: Sailor V feature film be a victim in one episode.

This practice is also common in certain "reality-based" video games such as the Grand Theft Auto series, which feature fictitious stores such as Ammu-Nation, Vinyl Countdown, Gash (spoofing Gap. Another spoof was made in GTA: San Andreas with Zip), Pizza Boy, etc.

Reverse placement[edit]

So-called "reverse product placement" takes "faux product placement" a step further, by creating products in real life to match those seen in a fictional setting.[127] For example, in 2007, 7-Eleven rebranded 11 of its American stores and one Canadian store as "Kwik-E-Marts", selling some real-life versions of products seen in episodes of the The Simpsons, such as Buzz Cola and Krusty-O's cereal.[128] In 1997, Acme Communications was created as a chain of real television stations; the firm is named for the fictional Acme Corporation of Warner Brothers fame. The fictional Willy Wonka from Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971), a film based on 1964 novel Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, was licensed to name a real Willy Wonka candy company soon after the film's release; the brand is now controlled by Nestlé.

In 1949, Crazy Eddie was created as a fictional car dealer in the film A Letter to Three Wives.[129] That name, bestowed in 1971 upon a real-life electronics chain in New York City, appeared in 1984 as advertising placement in Splash; a 1989 parody, UHF, completed the circle by depicting a Crazy Ernie using a hard sell of "buy this car or I'll club a seal" as a TV ad campaign.

In the 1984 cult film Repo Man, a reverse form of product placement is used, with an exaggerated form of 1980s era generic packaging used on products prominently shown on-screen (these include "Beer", "Drink", "Dry Gin" and "Food - Meat Flavored").

Virtual placement[edit]

Virtual product placement uses computer graphics to insert the product into the program after the program is complete.[130][131]

As of 2007, a new trend is emerging in product placement, the development of capabilities that permit dynamic or switchable product placement. Previously post production tools have permitted one time insertion of new product placement images and billboard advertising, notable in televised baseball and hockey games. As of 2007, startups are offering or developing the ability to switch product placement.[citation needed] First generation virtual product placement has tended to be based upon sports arenas where the geometrical relationships of camera and the surface of the flat area onto which the billboard is projected, can be easily calculated. Second generation product placement or dynamic product placement is more focused upon commercial products. Third generation virtual or dynamic product placement allows targeting of customers with different products that can be dynamically switched based upon such factors as demographics, psychographics or behavioral information about the consumer.

Where game software has access to a user's Internet connection, marketers gain the ability to change displayed in-game advertisements on the fly. More controversially, in-game advertising vendors such as Microsoft-owned Massive Incorporated may use software to transmit user information to their servers, such as individual player IDs and data about what was on the screen and for how long.[132]

Also of interest are hypervideo techniques that can insert interactive elements into online video.

Viewer response[edit]

This means of advertisement triggered an unusual viewer response in April 2009, when fans of the television series Chuck took advantage of product placement in the series by the restaurant chain Subway as part of a grassroots effort to save the show from cancellation.[133] The movement gained support from several cast and crew members, with series star Zachary Levi leading hundreds of fans to a Subway restaurant in Birmingham, United Kingdom,[134][135] and garnered significant attention in online media.[136][137][138]

Product displacement[edit]

According to Danny Boyle, director of film Slumdog Millionaire (2008), the makers had to resort to something he calls "product displacement" when companies such as Mercedes-Benz refused to allow their products to be used in non-flattering settings. While Mercedes did not mind having a gangster driving their cars, they objected to their products' being shown in a slum setting. This forced the makers in post-production to remove logos digitally, costing "tens of thousands of pounds". When such issues are brought up in advance of filming, production companies often resort to "greeking", the practice of simply covering logos with tape.

Similarly, in the film The Blues Brothers (1980), portions of the defunct Dixie Square Mall in Harvey, Illinois, were reconstructed in façade and used as the scene of an indoor car chase. Signage belonging to tenants of the mall when it was operational (1966–1978) was in some cases removed and replaced with that of other vendors; for instance, a Walgreens would become a Toys "R" Us.[139]

In Planes, Trains, and Automobiles, and several other TV movies involving ill-fated long-distance train rides, all Amtrak logos were removed from the train.

In Pixar's Cars (2006), sponsors of the original NASCAR vehicles were replaced with fictional or parody brands. As all characters are vehicles, many invented products are automotive aftermarket items positioned as pharmacy or medical brands (such as "Clutch-Aid" or "Leak Less"). The "Junior #8" car is sponsored by Dale Earnhardt Inc., displacing Dale Earnhardt Jr's original NASCAR sponsor Budweiser to avoid advertising beer to children in an animated Disney film. A Piston Cup trophy win is portrayed as a means to win a lucrative Dinoco oil company sponsorship, much-coveted in a world populated entirely by automobiles. "Piston Cup" is a parody of a NASCAR trophy, once named "Winston Cup" to circumvent regulations on direct advertising of tobacco.

See also[edit]

Further reading[edit]


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