Saturday, January 12, 2013

The Great (film) Debates vol. 67

Eat a great tasting Hostess Twinkie, Luke! It will give you the Force!

What is the most effective product placement you recall?


Panelist: Tennessee Jed

Cars, computers, and soft drinks come to mind. Reese's Pieces in E.T. is one memorable placement. Bond's Aston Martin from Goldfinger, and Steve McQueen's Mustang GT from Bullitt are the ones that most made me want the car. Later, the BMW placements seemed lame by comparison.

Panelist: ScottDS

I'm a Coca-Cola fan so this didn't exactly work... but the one bit of product placement that makes me smile is the "Pepsi Free" reference in Back to the Future. Truth be told, the only reason the filmmakers went with Pepsi is because their labeling changed between 1955 and 1985 whereas Coke bottles looked the same. Honorable mention goes to Taco Bell in Demolition Man, the sole survivor of the "franchise wars."

Panelist: T-Rav

As a rule, I don’t notice product placement unless it’s blatant, and if it’s blatant, it’s just going to annoy me. So little that was effective comes to mind. However, I remember that in the Spider-Man films, Peter Parker was occasionally shown drinking Dr. Pepper, and that was appealing. Mind you, I was already a fan of the Pepper, but seeing it reinforced on film by a superhero confirmed my loyalty to the brand. So I guess it sorta worked.

Panelist: BevfromNYC

Okay, who did NOT go out and buy Reece’s Pieces after seeing “ET”?

Panelist: AndrewPrice

If it was a real brand, I would say the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man, but it's not. So I'm going with a tie. First, the BMW Z3 from Goldeneye. When that came out, everybody wanted one. Unfortunately, BMW was also willing to sell one to everyone. Those things became more common that Ford Escorts. Secondly, Doritos from Wayne's World. The brilliance here was that you were laughing at them laughing at the product placement at the very moment you were thinking about the product. Nice!

Comments? Thoughts?

59 comments:

Dave Olson said...

Probably my favorite is in Doctor Strangelove: Group Captain Mandrake needs to make a phone call but doesn't have change: "Colonel, that Coca-Cola machine! Shoot the lock! Shoot, with a gun!!" Col. "Bat" Guano, who would NEVER go into combat with any of those jingly coins in his pockets, is horrified: "That's private property!" Cracks me up every time. Not sure if it qualifies as product placement per se, but it's certainly memorable.

My LEAST favorite is also soda related. In The Thomas Crown Affair (1999), Rene Russo, a supposedly cultured Europhile has been shown to drink a lumpy green "health" drink for breakfast. Then for no particular reason (except for the contractual obligation) she goes to the vending machine, gets a Pepsi One, and chugs half the can. The only thing missing was her rafter-rattling belch.

AndrewPrice said...

Huh? This wasn't supposed to post until tomorrow. I guess I hit the wrong date. Dang senility!

Oh well.

AndrewPrice said...

Dave, A lot of people have mentioned the Rene Russo should-a-belched moment as a least favorite. I've got a long list of least favorites -- every time they frame a shot to really make the product stand out. There were a couple I can't remember off the top of my head where they actually suggested the other character use the product and held it up like in a commercial. Those were in the late 1980s and they were horrible... just can't put my finger on them at the moment.

tryanmax said...

Hard to top the Wayne's World placements. To my recollection, they included Pepsi, Nuprin, Doritos, Pizza Hut, and Reebok.

Other than that, I am a blank. The only thing coming to mind is the Superman/Batman poster from I Am Legend, which had fanboys in a buzz at the time.

AndrewPrice said...

tryanmax, I believe your list is correct. Another one I like was in Ghostbusters where they actually put a Coke can in her fridge and then manage to keep it center frame right between Weaver and Murray as they speak. It's really pretty amazing if you look at it cynically, especially because you don't really tend to notice it unless you're looking for it... but it's right there staring you in the face for over a minute.

K said...

The 1992 movie "Sneakers".

Political placement ad for Bill Clinton 2 months prior to the election: Scene written in for Robert Redford to approach homeless veteran on the street and point to a re-election poster of Bush the Elder saying "Talk to him!".



AndrewPrice said...

K, That one really ticked me off and still remember it to this day.

Dave Olson said...

Speaking of politics, there was one that still sticks in my craw: Lethal Weapon 4. The movie was bad enough, but Richard Donner had to give the audience another poke in the eye. I forget which scene and which character, but in the police station there's a moment where an anti-NRA poster is clearly framed over someone's shoulder. It says some propaganda like "2 Kids Die Every Day From Guns" and then a circle-slash through "NRA". I'd be more specific about the scene but it would require watching LW4 again, and I'd rather exfoliate my ass with a cheese grater than subject myself to that movie again.

On "Sneakers": Sure, it was full of leftist propaganda (especially the very last line before the credits roll), but oddly enough the villain was essentially a communist. He wanted to destroy all property and bank records to "make everyone the same; no more rich people, no more poor people, just like we talked about in college". Which is precisely why you should let your kids go in the Army before they go to college.

ScottDS said...

Andrew -

At the time Ghostbusters was made, Columbia Pictures was actually owned by the Coca-Cola Company.

There's also the conspicuous bag of Wise chips on the shelf next to Bill Murray during his scene with Walter Peck but it has to be intentional: the audience links the concept of being "wise" to Peter Venkman.

tryanmax said...

I'm with T-Rav, if it's effective placement, I don't even notice it. When I popped in before, I was trying to remember the last one that caught my attention. I don't know why I drew a blank, but the last movie I viewed where it jumped out at me was Home Alone which I didn't watch until after Christmas this year.

Kevin swills Pepsi like it's going out of style. There's also some arcane form of Fritos on display at some point. And apparently Budget got a boost in truck rentals after Kevin's mom hopped a ride with John Candy's polka band in one.

I'm not sure if the Playboy in Kevin's older brother's footlocker counts as a placement, or if Playboy is just the quintessential skin mag. (Kevin throws it over his shoulder in disgust when he sees it.) Plus, there's a strange innocence about Playboy that Hustler just doesn't possess.

K said...

Dave Olsen: Speaking of Richard Donner, he uses the same t shirt trick in the Stallone movie "Assassins". There's a girl in the background with huge boobs wearing a pro-abortion T shirt. In "The Goonies", one of the obnoxious violent rich kids gets blasted while he's taking a dump on the john. Just before, it's made very apparent the magazine he's reading is a gun magazine. There's also some dolphin safe nonsense ( and other stuff) in the Lethal Weapon series.

So you could say Donner is a serial political advertiser.

rlaWTX said...

I don't generally notice, but... (and the rules didn't specify movies or TV)
I really like the show, but Hawaii 5-0 has got a thing going with GM. The good guys drive GM, with the grills/logos often in focus, and the bad guys generally drive anything else. When even I notice, it's pretty obvious...

AndrewPrice said...

Dave, I never bothered with LW4, but I saw the same things throughout the whole series. They even worked dolphin safe tuna into the dialog AND the plot of the second film was anti-Apartheid. Those films were highly political.

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, I never noticed the Wise chips, probably because they aren't usually available in the places I've lived.

AndrewPrice said...

tryanmax, I think the most effective placement is definitely the one that you don't even notice, it just fits into the world of the film.

AndrewPrice said...

rlaWTX, GM is all over television these days. I have to give them credit for having a strong marketing department as far as that goes because every series and most films seem to use GMs now and they ALWAYS show the logo.

Anonymous said...

When I think product placement I think of Bond movies and Waynes World (which did it very well). I don't really care about product placement unless it is beyond obvious, if it helps pay for the movie then I'm not going to complain about it. And any movie that has really obvious product placement is most likely going to have other issues that make the movie bad so that doesn't even ruin the movie (as it sucks already).

But by far my favourite product placement is actually fake. I like how Quentin Tarantino created fake products and includes them in multiple movies like the Big Kahuna Burger and
Red Apple Cigarettes. I just like the idea and it helps link his movies.

Scott

LGD said...

I don't know about most effective, but my favorite product placement is on behalf of the US Navy in "Hunt for Red October"

Mr_Severus_Snape said...

I generally don't notice product placements. I agree with Jed and Bev on ET/Reese's pieces. I actually remember asking my mom if we had any! lol

AndrewPrice said...

Snape, That's what marketers want -- they want you to think you didn't notice. What they are doing with product placement isn't trying to sell you the product at the moment, they are trying to sell you an image that sticks with you... "all those cool guys drink Coke."

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, That's true! Tarantino's films are crawling with fake products and it's hilarious.

AndrewPrice said...

LGD, True. That movie is a great advertisement for the Navy.

BIG MO said...

My favorite has to be Barbosal shaving cream in the first Jurassic Park. At a cafe in Costa Rica, Dodson gives Nedry a phony can of the cream that doubles as the storage/transport for the dinosaur embryos Nedry is supposed to steal. It's one of my favorite scenes. Wayne Knight really milks it, too:
www.youtube.com/watch?v=D4MUBQNbTYo

Anonymous said...

I remember thinking how clever it was when,in Die Hard, as the bad guys are getting into position Al Leong is eating candy from a movie vending type setup for no apparent reason. And Smoky And The Bandit was essentially a huge commercial for Trans Ams.
As far as bad placements go I was watching Pacific Heights the other day.Melanie Grifith confronted Michael Keaton with a gun. They start to fight and Keaton gets the gun from her.He stops what he's doing and says "Did you know 50% of gun fatalities are people killed with their own guns?"(Not true btw.)
To my shame I watched Look Who's Talking the other day(my wife made me :( ) and at one point John Travolta lights a cigarette for no reason other than to have Kirstie Alley look at the camera and throw in the obligatory lecture about second hand smoke.And I quit watching My name Is Earl after an episode in which a pregnant Joy looked at the camera and said"If the Republicans want women to stop gettin'abotions they need to get 'em better health care."
As far as Rene Russo in Thomas Crown goes,she looked great with her shirt off so I don't care how much Pepsi she drank.
GypsyTyger

Commander Max said...

Here is an obscure one.

A Dr. Pepper machine placement in "Godzilla 1985".
It was center screen, and was much brighter than anything else in the scene. But that's all I remember, except for maybe a head on shot of the big guy himself. That was always cool(no matter how dumb the movie was).

I was going to say the 6000SUX.
"I'll buy that for a dollar".

shawn said...

I was always kind of fond of Pan Am being used in 2001.

Tennessee Jed said...

one way to look at product placements is that usually they are easier to take than cutting to a series of 8 straight commercials. It's a part of the business, and I normally don't dwell on them.

There are types of commercial messages, those for products where there is no awareness or perceived need that 1) attempt to create a need. The other is basically brand awareness for well established product categories where the message is that this particular brand is the best choice.

Tennessee Jed said...

got distracted earlier.Anyway, the point I was starting to make is that it seems to me companies who are trying to establish a "need" for their product could work with screenwriters to come-up with clever ways to do so that would fit logically into the storyline. . . . . . nah, probably not.

T-Rav said...

tryanmax, I can safely say I have never read the words "innocence" and "Playboy" in the same sentence before. So, congrats, I suppose.

T-Rav said...

Anonymous, it's only shameful if you then went on to watch Look Who's Talking Too.

Tennessee Jed said...

glad to see some love for Barbasol. the greatest shave cream ever.

Floyd R. Turbo said...

Did you know that Fed Ex was in Cast Away?

Anonymous said...

Thanks T-Rav. Forgiveness is part of the healing process. :)
And for the record, I didn't. LOL

AndrewPrice said...

Big Mo, That's another example of a brilliant use of a product because they work it right into the story, you're staring at it the whole time, you might even mention the name of the product when you talk about the scene, and yet, you don't feel like it was a product placement.


GypsyTyger, I despise all the politicking in films and I'll bet liberals would go insane if you jammed messages favorable to the NRA or a religion into films. They would be howling for "somebody to do something" to censor films.

AndrewPrice said...

Floyd, That one came to mind too. That entire film was an ad for FedEx.

AndrewPrice said...

Max, LOL! I have to say that I doubt Ford was too happy about the SUX 6000. Usually, you don't want your product mocked.


Shawn, Good one! I liked how they always showed a PanAm plane in early James Bond films too.

AndrewPrice said...

Jed, This is definitely the best way to announce something new or to create a brand identity -- it's not about selling something immediately because you can't really give a sales pitch.

I think the ideal situation is to work the product into the film seamlessly, but the danger there is that you overdo it and people see it as a product placement.

ScottDS said...

See, if I were directing Cast Away, he would've worked for UPS - an homage to my dad who worked for UPS for 20 years.

HBO did a kids special some time in the early 90s called Buy Me That (and later a sequel) and it was all about marketing and how companies market to kids, etc. They did a segment on product placement which is why I've known about it since I was 8 years old... you know, like all 8-year olds! :-)

They also did a cool segment on how they make food look so good for ads. In short, hamburgers aren't fully cooked, sesame seeds are glued on to the buns, ice cream is usually vegetable shortening, and milk in cereal is glue.

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, I had a marketing teacher who used to shoot food ads and he shared a lot of the tricks for us. He said the get the swirl they use when a beer hits a glass -- to make it look like a wave when it hits the glass -- the put the beer into a feminine hygiene product and squeezed it out. That kind of changes you view of beer ads. LOL! He had a lot of gross examples.

tryanmax said...

Did you know there's actually a small industry devoted to the manufacture of acrylic ice cubes?

AndrewPrice said...

I'm not surprised. The ice cubes you see on film are really amazingly beautiful -- like diamonds.

T-Rav said...

I remember reading about how they fix those ad burgers and everything. A couple other things: The buns are usually spray-painted, and the toppings (lettuce, tomato, etc.) are held in place with pins.

No wonder they don't usually talk about this. The restaurants probably don't want you to think of their burgers as something you'd only eat on a dare.

tryanmax said...

If it makes anyone feel better: McDonald's uses only the actual food that is sold in their stores for their photo shoots, though they do quite a bit to dress them up: LINK This is where you launch into a discussion about lying vs. casting something in it's best light.

AndrewPrice said...

I thought they passed a law a couple decades ago that required that they only use the real food in the ads?

Anonymous said...

Does anybody remember Michael Douglas in Falling Down?
"Now,y'see,that's what I'm talkin' about. Look at the picture! It's plump,it's rich,it's two inches thick..."
GypsyTyger

Floyd R. Turbo said...

Pan Am was used in Blade Runner too I believe in the city shots.

Before the 60s it was very common. We watched West Side Story the other night and Tony is moving Coca-Cola bottles around and in the soda shop almost the whole movie. Not conspicuously -- just as a soda shop employee would

AndrewPrice said...

Floyd, I always understood, though I could be mistaken, that prior to the 1970s, no one thought about product placements. But in the 1970s, companies began to object. That's why films in the early 1970s are full of generic products and you see the labels removed from products. But then companies realized it made sense to have their products in films, but when they came back to Hollywood, Hollywood told them they would need to pay for privilege now.

I could be wrong, but that's what I always heard... never looked it up though.

AndrewPrice said...

GT, I remember the film, but not the specific scene. Wasn't he hassling a convenience store clerk about a poster of a hot dog at that point?

Anonymous said...

Andrew,he was in a fictional burger joint based on McDonalds.It was a hamburger.
GypsyTyger

AndrewPrice said...

Ok, that's right. I haven't seen it since it came out.

Anonymous said...

I own it but I haven't watched it in a long time. You posted a review of a film called 13 a few days ago that kind of made me think about Falling Down.
What I mean by that is that FD didn't really fit any genre.Because of that I always thought that it didn't get the recognition it deserved,critically or commercially,because nobody knew what to do with it. It was a sincere story about one man's implosion.Watever it was it certainly wasn't run of the mill.
GypsyTyger

T-Rav said...

tryanmax, I'll be charitable and say they're just being creative.

BevfromNYC said...

What I notice more that obvious product placement are the times there they are obviously DID NOT get the endorsement and are hiding the brand of the product. You know, the times where the obvious Coke can is turned around so you can't see the label.

Aah, "food styling" for commercials. Yes, they have to use the actual products, but they will have trained chefs on set to make 100 hamburger patties, slice of cheese, slices of bacon, etc until they have the perfect samples to shoot. And they do "paint" them to make the perfect golden brown bun. And the sodas in the glass are misted to have that perfect look of cold inviting "sweat" on the glass.

AndrewPrice said...

GT, That's true. I don't care for the film -- I particularly think it was meant to be political, but it misstated the "angry white guy" side -- but it did deserve to get noticed.

AndrewPrice said...

Bev, It is kind of glaring when that happens and you see the Coke can, but not the name. It actually calls attention to the product and makes you think about what it is.

ScottDS said...

This may have been mentioned already but I hate when an obvious Coke can has been re-labeled as "Cola."

I'm also a fan of in-jokes. I think in Gremlins, we see the front of the town movie theater and it's playing A Boy's Life and Watch the Skies (or they combined the two) which were early titles for E.T.. Or John Landis' frequent use of See You Next Wednesday.

Favorite in-joke should be another debate question... I may have suggested it already but it might be a little too inside baseball.

Kevin Smith's films have had fake brands (Nails cigarettes) and every character seems to wear a shirt with a unique design on it, which Smith naturally sells online to his fans for a profit. (Smart guy!)

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, We could do favorite in-jokes, but I'm not sure how many people know. That is kind of specialized knowledge.

djskit said...

Jack Bauer driving a Prius one season of 24. I racall is because is just seemed so lame.

Voz said...

Twister, the entire movie was a Dodge Ram commercial.

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