Skyfall 's got James Bond swigging a Heineken, and it's not just because he enjoys a good beer.
Heineken paid out the ass for the product placement and a heavy co-branded ad campaign ($75 million, all told), a practice that has increasingly become standard operating procedure in the world of high-budget franchise films and TV shows desperate to please commercial advertisers. Here, 5 more of the most blatant offenders.
For starters, this 2006 Will Ferrell movie is literally about a brand—Nascar—and like the sport, every component of the movie is plastered with flagrant advertisements. Wonder Bread, Perrier, and Old Spice get the most conspicuous screen-time, but Taco Bell, Pepsi, KFC, and a slew of other mega-brands get ample exposure as well. The result is product placement at its most unapologetic finest. These brands aren’t trying to subtly influence your purchasing habits; they’re punching you in the face with a message: You’re a pussy if you don’t like to crush a few Buds while enjoying a delicious Shake ‘n Bake dinner (and/or Shake ‘n Bake catchphrase). And that’s the kind of ad campaign we can get behind.
We swear we have never seen this show. Honestly. Never. But if we had, then we’d be able to tell you that in Gossip Girl’s version of New York, people exclusively use Bing to search the Internet, and it’s totally normal to use the term “Bing it”—as in, “Oh, if you need to find a car service that will travel all the way to Brooklyn, just Bing it!” Also, if we had seen Gossip Girl (which we haven’t), we’d know that when rich people are under house arrest at the Palace Hotel, they spend their days shopping on Gilt Group, and then telling everyone about the amazing things they bought on Gilt Group. And—whaddya know!—in the corner there are a bunch of Gilt Group shopping bags sitting in plain view behind Serena van der Woodson—er, Blake Lively. Of course we can’t actually tell you any of that, because we do not watch Gossip Girl every Monday night at 9pm on the CW. And we also do not watch the sexy above ad for Rock Band 3, which is disguised as a scene from that show, on loop every day.
Although instances of product placement in film date as far back as 1919, the use of Reese’s Pieces candy as a plot point in this 1982 cult classic marked the dawn of a new age for movies-as-advertisements. In the now-famous scene, Elliot uses the candy to lure E.T. from the forest to his bedroom. Though the original script did not specify what candy should be used, director Steven Spielberg saw the potential for sponsorship dollars, and pitched the idea to Mars—unsuccessfully. But the competition over at Hershey’s jumped at the chance to get some publicity for its latest cavity-maker, Reese’s Pieces. It paid off: E.T. became the highest-grossing film in history (a record previously held by Star Wars), and Hershey’s saw a 65% increase in profits. Mars later committed suicide in a bathtub filled with Hershey Kisses while Johnny Cash’s “Hurt” played on repeat.
Every Michael Bay Movie Ever Made
Take your pick: Bad Boys, Transformers, The Island … virtually every Michael Bay-directed movie is marked by rampant and shameless product placement. (Speedo, MSN Search, Puma, XBox, Reebok, Miller Light, General Motors, Dodge, Chrysler, and dozens more are touted on-screen in The Island alone.) Bay—who is a former commercial director—has been widely criticized for his excessive use of the tactic, but he has pointed out that “If you insert these things and insert them smartly, you can save production money, and it really does help.” The guy’s got a point. Trying to offset some costs when you’re dropping $150 million on a movie isn’t the worst idea. It’s smart financing. And anyway, is there really anything more entertaining and patriotic than an elaborate Hollywood stunt featuring Will Smith, a Cadillac, a high-speed car chase, a fiery explosion, and a bunch of dead bad guys? We can’t think of any. We just hope the innocent driver of that Pepsi truck in the background escaped unscathed.
Like Talladega Nights, This 1992 movie’s deliberate product placement was extremely effective precisely because it did not pretend to be subtle. From Pizza Hut to Reebok to Pepsi, a variety of major corporate players appeared in the SNL-inspired comedy, and its open acknowledgement of that fact makes the brands appealing; they are in on the joke, and they up for it. Nowhere is that more evident than in the above scene, in which the main characters insist that they refuse to sell out by allowing their movie to contain product placement, because they have too much integrity and that would be wrong—as they simultaneously parade a variety of branded products on-screen with a wink and a smile. If only all advertising campaigns were so honest and self-aware, instead of trying to secretly influence your purchasing habits without your knowledge.
Whatever. At the end of the day, we love our big-name products. Now stop whatever it is you’re doing, and go buy a copy of Maxim, the world’s best magazine. Schwing!