Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Movies: Take These 5 Product Placement That's So Obvious

Lightning McQueen - Disney Stars and Motor Cars Parade

The movie industry is the perfect vehicle for advertisers to surreptitiously—or overtly—push their money-making agenda to the masses. Most films are full of brands, either to reflect reality, or more than likely because of an advertising contract penned between the producers and business executives. The following quintet of films have become infamous for their use of product placement.

"E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial"

Steven Spielberg's “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial” tells the tale of a boy and an alien brought together—by candy. When Spielberg sought a candy company to partner with, he originally chose Mars, Inc to use their flagship M&Ms. Mars rejected the proposition possibly because they didn't want their candy-coated chocolates associated with some weird, wide-eyed telekinetic alien. That deal then went to Hershey and the company agreed to promote the movie with $1 million in advertising in return for its product placement, according to In the film, Elliot lures the extraterrestrial from hiding with a candy trail made of the now widely recognized peanut butter candy. After the film's debut, sales of Hershey's Reese's Pieces skyrocketed up 65 percent, according to Time.


Disney-Pixar's “Cars” and its sequel features insidious product placement, stopping short of glaring product name dropping. For example, Lightyear tires, a blatant copy of Goodyear tires, is plastered over Lightning McQueen's tires and the Lightyear blimp. Upon the release of “Cars 2,” Goodyear actually reskinned its website with the fictional tire brand to tie into the film. The entire franchise itself can arguably be called an advertisement for car manufacturers with its anthropomorphic car characters strongly resembling real world models.


While “WALL-E” doesn't feature a product placement per se, the Pixar sci-fi movie is chock-full of allusions to Apple. One can argue that EVE was a walking—or flying in this case—advertisement for Apple.  Their design guru, Johnny Ive, consulted on the robot's design, according to It's apparent by looking at EVE's pristine white shell that the bot was influenced by Apple's sleek, minimalist design aesthetic. The Apple placements don't end there however: WALL-E watches a movie on an iPod, emits the Mac welcome chime after recharging his batteries and the spaceship's computer speaks in the voice of an early Mac speech synthesizer, MacinTalk. Some viewers even spotted the OS X Leopard wallpaper.

"Cast Away"

“Cast Away” features a double whammy of product placement. Tom Hanks plays a FedEx employee who becomes stranded on a tropical island after the parcel company's plane crashes into the ocean. Over the course of the film, he opens many of the FedEx packages to survive, but one such package contains an intriguing, novel example of product placement. A Wilson Sporting Goods volleyball is personified into a character and companion of the sole survivor, complete with a bloody hand print face. The sporting good company created a promotional volleyball to resemble the movie character, and in fact, you can still buy the the Wilson Castaway volleyball today—a testament to the product placement's effectiveness.


Michael Bay's “Transformers” couldn't and wouldn't exist without product placement. It's the bedrock of the entire franchise. But let's ignore the fact that the film exists solely to sell toys and make Hasbro some serious money. Knowing the film would feature extraneous use of cars, Bay selected GM after they offered $3 million toward funding the film, according to an interview with the director at Bay gave the car conglomerate what they paid for by packing scenes with glaring, shameless advertisements for the new Chevy Camaro and a slew of GM vehicles.