Product Placement in Movies

Jun 222004
Authors: Sara Crocker

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

memorable products?

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

Wendy’s logo.

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.

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