The De-Lorean in “Back to the Future,” those huge Ray-Ban
sunglasses in “Risky Business” or America Online in “You’ve Got
Mail,” would any of these films been the same without such
Product placement has been a part of the film industry ever
since Katharine Hepburn poured gallons of Gordon’s Dry Gin
overboard in 1952’s “The African Queen.” Certainly, adding brands
to a film brings familiarity and a boost of reality, but have we
gone too far?
In the recent release of “Garfield: The Movie,” (PG) there seems
to be more product than plot. There were placements for everything
from a particular brand of lasagna that the feline was partial to,
to plugging specific newspapers and bands. The placement of these
products was not bothersome merely because they were there, but
because of how blatantly they were placed throughout the film.
One scene of “Garfield” depicts Jon’s train set. Riddled
throughout the “town” that the train travels through are miniature
billboards that can plainly be seen, most notably one with the
While the amount of brands displayed on the screen can be
stifling, journalism professor Greg Boiarsky concedes that we see
hundreds of ads daily.
America is a consumer driven nation, so it is natural that
advertising be a part of our lives, but we must draw a line
It is possible that a child can view these images of his
favorite fat cat devouring Pepperidge Farm Goldfish Crackers and
suddenly want these crackers. The ultimate goal of such blatant
placement can only be to inspire want and brand loyalty at an early
But, this advertising is also aimed at maintaining the market
they already have. Thus, they use what Boiarsky calls the “mirror
exposure effect.” Essentially, if something is present and seen
long enough you will grow to like it, regardless of age or other
Films like “Wayne’s World” and “Josie and the Pussycats” have
raised this obscene form of product placement into a marketable
form of parody. “Josie” went so far as to even imply that product
placement is a corporate scandal and it is really a subconscious
way to market new products and even create new trends.
Conspiracy theories aside, this idea does not seem too far
fetched. After “E.T.” came out, wasn’t it a bit odd that every
kid’s new favorite candy was Reese’s Pieces?
And, who could forget the massive fashion explosion left in the
wake of “Clueless”? The chances of any girl under 15 not having a
plaid skirt, knee-high stockings, a miniature backpack or any
combination of the three was slim to none.
Product placement is a double-edged sword in the film industry.
By placing these products in movies, they can clearly raise
revenue, making films cheaper to produce. However, Boiarsky points
out, “It doesn’t seem they’re passing the savings onto us.”
Placement can be an annoyance, but it does bring the fantasyland
of film a bit closer into one’s backyard.
“Once you notice it, it becomes very annoying,” said Boiarsky,
who went on to explain that the average American probably does not
notice regular placements.
Well, for those who have noticed, the best way to show
advertisers you disapprove of their methods is to simply avoid
buying their product. Otherwise, get used to your favorite brands
smiling back at you from the silver screen.