The Many Faces of Product Placement

Oct 17, 2011  |  By Civilian  |  

Product placement has had a presence in media for decades. Early radio shows in the 1930’s and 40’s, such as The Campbell Playhouse and Ford Theater, integrated products right into their program titles. Recently, documentary filmmaker Morgan Spurlock covered the controversial practice in his new film, POM Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold. Here are some examples of the many forms of product placement.

Traditional Product Placement

Traditional product placement is used in a variety of television shows and movies. Products can be used as props, locations, or conversation topics. According to Nielsen ratings, NBC has been setting the bar for product placements in their programs. One of their most successful programs, The Office, is packed with product placement. The employees use HP computers, though MacBooks have made appearances on the show. During the series’ runtime Chili’s, Sandals Resort, Staples, Second Life, George Foreman grills, McDonald’s, and numerous other brands have been used in storylines. Movies have also included product placement, such as Castaway with Wilson volleyballs and FedEx.

Satirical Product Placement

While some uses of product integration are fairly subtle, other TV shows and movies blatantly make fun of the practice while participating it. NBC’s 30 Rock pokes fun at the network’s own practices with clips about Verizon and Snapple. The movie Wayne’s World also takes a jab at the common industry practice in this scene from the movie. Though some consumers oppose product placement, these brands may benefit by being “good sports” and allowing themselves to be part of the mockery of the practice. Either way, they are exposed to viewers of the show or movie.

Reverse Product Placement

Reverse product placement is when companies take fictional products from shows and movies, then creates them for consumers to purchase. Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor Beans from the Harry Potter franchise and Wonka candy from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is available to the general public. People can also dine at Bubba Gump’s Shrimp Co., thanks to the Forrest Gump movie.

Product Displacement

Abercrombie & Fitch released a press release that stated the brand offered MTV’s The Jersey Shore cast member Michael ‘The Situation’ Sorrentino money in exchange for him to stop wearing the brand’s clothes. This tactic definitely comes with a risk. What is worse for the brand- an undesirable person wearing their product or publicly asking them not to? Adweek asked their online readers to weigh in on the situation. As of Wednesday, 50.51% of the participants said it was a “transparent, opportunistic cheap shot,” and 49.49% sided with the clothing company’s decision.

Product placement, in its many forms, has become standard in the industry.  What is your take?  Does this embedded marketing detract from honest entertainment, or does it unobtrusively add realism to popular media?  Tell us your thoughts below in the comments section.

All Blogs