Product placement in movies is nothing new. Imagine, if you will, you’re watching a movie starring your favourite actor, who is playing a worldly photographer. He pulls out his camera, puts it together, and takes a shot. Seems legit. Watch it again. When he pulls out his camera, you see that the image on screen isn’t just the actor grabbing the camera. As a matter of fact, you hardly see the actor at all. What you really see is a perfectly framed, incredibly expensive camera bag, and a pair of hands opening it to reveal the ultimate gear set. What is on the cover of the camera bag? The name of the company that created it. What is in the camera bag? The upsells: extra equipment that isn’t necessarily necessary for the amateur photographer.
You’ve essentially just watched a 20-second commercial for that camera. The commercial doesn’t have to actually talk about the product, because in your mind, you’ve already created the credibility: “This character is a master photog…he uses this camera, trusts the equipment, and takes excellent photos.” Sold!
It happens in nearly every movie you see, and it’s how big budget productions make at least some (and in some cases all) of their money back before the movie is even released. Here are 15 of the most blatant and shameless product placements in movies.
15. Transformers (2007)
It only makes sense that a movie about aliens that possess cars that turn into giant robots have some automotive product placement, and that product placement goes to the highest bidder, of course. In Michael Bay’s 2007 summer blockbuster, Transformers, our friend, Bumblebee, is a black and yellow Chevy Camaro. Alright, that makes sense, but Chevy was just coming out with a new body style for the Camaro. It blatantly shows the new release of the body style when Sam gets a broken down Camaro, then Bumblebee changes the style on his own. The movie becomes a 2-hour Camaro commercial.
14. Legally Blonde (2001)
When it comes to product placement, corporations don’t just want their products to be seen on screen, they want those products to drive the story. This is better than subliminal messaging, because it takes the audience of the commercial… uh, I mean movie…on a journey with the main character, and if that protagonist meets her goals with the help of the product, more people will want it. Take Elle Woods, in 2001’s Legally Blonde for example. Elle is smart, outgoing, and never taken seriously. She gets into Harvard Law School (with the help of her awesome video editing skills and her ability to wear a bikini… oh and her LSAT scores). Still, no one takes her seriously. She is bullied. The final straw is when she is tricked into wearing a costume to a party, and everyone makes fun of her. She marches straight to the Apple store and gets herself a Mac. After that, (sans pink fluffy pen) Elle can answer questions, form arguments, and she actually gains confidence. Thanks, Apple!
13. The Internship (2013)
Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson star in this one of a kind (nope), 2-hour long Google recruiting video, shot on location at Google headquarters. Execs for Google were so happy with how the company was portrayed in the film, that they waived the location fee, the only trade off, of course, was giving up any artistic license (which included two scenes that showed Google in a slightly negative light). Throughout the movie, Google is portrayed as the world’s greatest place to work, with the world’s most intelligent people, and the world’s coolest toys. Ultimately, reports say that working for Google is all of these things, but there is still work to be done.
12. The Wizard (1989)
In 1989, young audiences flocked to see The Wizard, a movie about a young savant whose specialty was video games, mainly ones released by Nintendo. In this movie, a runaway and his brother set out across the country, hustling older businessmen out of money by playing Nintendo. The product placement doesn’t end there. The antagonist has the Nintendo Power Glove. This scene acts as a 2-minute commercial for the Power Glove alone. Toward the end of the movie, we see the protagonists being chased through Universal Studios theme park, as the camera lingers on the sign. The kicker, is when the movie reveals a never-before-seen glimpse into Nintendo’s latest game: Super Mario Brothers 3. It shows the gameplay, different levels, different power-ups, and even a secret for the audience. This is a full-length feature commercial of Nintendo products.
11. Cast Away (2000)
Cast Away is about a FedEx executive who is obsessed with time and schedules. He is on a plane filled with FedEx boxes, which ultimately crashes into the sea. Chuck (played by Tom Hanks), finds himself the sole survivor of the crash, and he is stranded on a deserted island. After a few days, FedEx packages which were being carried on the plane start hitting shore. Not only is this a blatant rub-your-face-in-it product placement, it gets worse. Chuck opens the boxes, and the contents help him out. FedEx, our high standards get your packages delivered on time, AND if they don’t, they’re probably helping someone on a deserted island.
10. You’ve Got Mail (1998)
Nothing screams product placement more than a movie that is titled after a company’s very catchy notification. You’ve Got Mail is a remake of the classic Shop Around the Corner, and focuses on two rival business owners who unknowingly meet and like each other in a chat room. The stresses of everyday life fade as these two characters chat with each other and email each other, talking about their days. To keep the plot moving, the characters make sure they don’t tell each other what their specific businesses are. AOL and AOL Instant Messenger are plastered all over the movie. The characters even describe how they look forward to hearing the notification, and seeing each other’s messages. Looking for love in a dog-eat-dog world? Hop on AOL.
9. E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982)
Everyone knows the story of how our favourite alien loves Reese’s Pieces. Most people also know that M&Ms lost big time by not having their product be featured in the movie. Of course, no one knew how big E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial was actually going to be, and no one could have expected the iconic moment when ET actually eats the Reese’s Pieces. The moment itself is still a fan favourite, and most people don’t even care that it’s blatant product placement, making this one of the most successful product placements in movies to date. Everyone remembers the 2-minute Reese’s Pieces commercial 35 years later.
8. Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle (2004)
When the name of a restaurant is in the title of a movie, audiences walk in knowing that they are about to watch a 90-minute long commercial about the product itself. In the case of White Castle, every college student in the early 2000’s knows all about Harold and Kumar. When the two set out on a munchie mission to get some white castle, hilarity is all that follows. Not only was this a common occurrence among potheads of the day, it also really showed the culture of marijuana enthusiasts. The genius behind this blatant product placement is the fact that the protagonists of the movie are yearning for it. They search for it. They seek it out. It is the only thing that will calm their craving.
7. Happy Gilmore (1996)
Adam Sandler movies are filled to the rim with product placements. We see it in Little Nicky, when Nicky becomes obsessed with Popeyes chicken, and even saves the day by conjuring a giant bucket of it to stop the bad guys, who deliver the fan-favorite line: “Popeye’s Chicken is the shiznit.”
However, it started a little earlier than Little Nicky. In Happy Gilmore, Happy was unable to meet his monetary goal playing golf. Suddenly, he realizes that there is money to be made in sponsorship. Subway saves the day, and gets him enough money to save the house…even though it’s too late, but Subway did give him the chance.
6. Demolition Man (1993)
It’s always nice to see shameless product placement in movies set in the future. When this happens, audiences know that the product placement is no accident, and someone paid for that item to be there. This type of product placement is seen clear as day in Demolition Man, when Sylvester Stallone’s character is invited to Taco Bell for dinner by Dr. Cocteau. Taco Bell? Well, Taco Bell is the only company that survived the franchise wars. Simple as that. This is a great wink to the “franchise wars” that must have taken place before the movie was even filmed. Taco Bell won big on having their restaurant stand up and be the lone survivor.
5. I, Robot (2004)
Speaking of movies set in the future, I, Robot gives us a little look into what we are going to face in the year 2035, and gives us a little insight as to what lies ahead for the human race and technology. Aside from the fact that every vehicle in the future is going to be an Audi (they must have won the auto-industry wars), our main character is seen as someone who hates technology, and longs for the simpler days of the past, and by “simpler,” I mean (of course) “vintage” Converse. When he first puts them on, he smiles to himself. Throughout the movie, people compliment his shoes. Alright, Converse All Stars are awesome, and will be a hot commodity in the future.
4. Iron Man (2008)
Comic book movies are full of blatant and shameless product placement. One superhero throws a supervillain through a building with a Pepsi mural here, or a Sony logo there, but none stands out like a sore thumb worse than Tony Stark returning from his capture, and having his driver get him Burger King. Imagine, if you will, you’re one of the richest people in the world. You were captured, tortured, and you had to break yourself out. For months, you dreamt of what you were going to eat when you got home. Remembering that you’re the richest person in the world, would you not want to go to Maine for some lobster? Okay, you want a burger, more specifically, an “American cheeseburger.” Burger King is your first choice? What about a killer burger from a gourmet burger place? There had to be at least one of those on the way to Tony Stark’s press conference. But no. He had to eat his Whopper while he spoke to the press. It all seems a little fishy.
3. Jurassic World (2015)
When we found out the world of Jurassic Park was making a comeback, 90’s kids went wild with anticipation. However, after arriving at the theater, we realized we were getting a full-length multi-commercial for Samsung and Mercedes. Spare no expense on your vehicles, because the best possible ride for off-roading, and escaping dangerous dinosaur hybrids is a Mercedes-Benz SUV, clearly. The sleek ride made its debut in the movie, and the camera shots did nothing but prove that they were selling the car. Why do we even have movie directors anymore? Why not just hire multiple commercial directors to handle these things?
2. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014)
While we know the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles loved Domino’s (slip that pizza box sideways through the sewer grate… I’m sure it’ll be just fine), the 2014 remake gave us a gross overuse of shameless product placement of Domino’s competitor, Pizza Hut. Okay, we kind of expect to see some form of pizza-related product placement in any Ninja Turtles movie, but the shameless spots don’t stop there. The turtles’ sandals are Filas; a Toshiba billboard gets smashed to bits in the final fight scene; nearly all of the electronics in the movie have Sony plastered all over them; and dozens more signs are smashed and crashed throughout the film.
1. Wayne’s World (1992)
Nothing beats a movie that is so self-aware that it spends two minutes blatantly selling products. So blatantly, in fact, that they pull from the actual commercials of the time. The genius of this scene, of course, is the fact that the characters are discussing contracts with sponsors (specifically, the sponsor of the show Wayne’s World). All of the products in this scene paid a certain amount to land in the scene. The list is pretty extensive, and includes: Pizza Hut, Doritos, Reebok, Nuprin (little, yellow, different), and Pepsi. The great thing about the scene is the fact that only the protagonists of the movie are actually using these products. The antagonist is eating a no-name peanut butter with plastic utensils. 100% shame-free moment for Wayne’s World.
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