Product placement in movies can have its advantages. Just to define if you do not know what product placement is, it is when companies pay to have subtle (or sometimes not-so-subtle) advertisements to appear in movies and other media. It brings brand awareness, which influences people to choose one product over another when deciding in the grocery store. When used in movies it can help the story along, such as the candy in Spielberg’s ET. But often, its effectiveness is outweighed by its disadvantages. Here are some examples of product placement in movies at its worst, when things have gone wrong beyond repair.
A great example of a 90s product placement in movies, The Addams Family from 1991 which featured Christopher Lloyd and Christina Ricci also had another hidden feature: Tombstone Pizza. With the subtlety of a man on fire running through a forest during a drought, a billboard in the “background” during one scene takes up nearly the entire screen, making it impossible to ignore.
I remember Tombstone Pizza making a major push during this time period, with commercials of people about to be executed being asked “What do you want on your tombstone?” to be answered with “Pepperoni and sausage!” . The push also lead to the pizza being on sale for people to try, which my mother bought (I was a little kid at the time) and leading to me deciding that Tombstone Pizza tastes like cardboard.
Mac and Me, a movie similar to ET, a space alien befriended by a little boy is disguised in a teddy-bear outfit and is brought to a birthday party. Where was this party, you ask? McDonald’s. So what’s the big deal, right? Well, Ronald McDonald himself is there with employees helping out, and suddenly everyone begins dancing. It makes no sense. Then the alien starts dancing on the McDonald’s counter top, everyone starts cheering and continues to believe that he is just an electronic bear. He also magically grows by several feet in this scene. It is honestly some of the worst product placement due to its blatancy.
I have seen my share of bad product placement scenes in movies, but there is one thing about Mac And Me that does make sense: they heavily push Coke. It seems like in every scene, there is a can of Coke. Because Coke has an apparent deal with McDonald’s to have it sold in their restaurants, the union is suddenly not so crazy after all. Even so, a dancing alien wearing a bear outfit in a McDonald’s is a thing of nightmares.
Although perhaps not the worst example of product placement in movies, A bottle of Mountain Dew: Code Red being stuck in your face during the first half-hour of 2001’s American Pie 2 was so unnatural that I never forgot about it. The way that it was held in the foreground by its cap in a certain scene is not only awkward, but is probably the only non-alcoholic drink that the character Steve Stifler ever held.
Pepsi Co loves to squeeze these sugary drinks into teen movies, who have probably concluded was their best bet of spreading brand awareness to a young audience. Well, that and using teen idols such as Michael Jackson and Britney Spears to promote their product, a formula they have not broken for decades.
“A thing of beauty”, says Will Smith while putting on a pair of Converse shoes. This scene from I, Robot even shows him taking the shoes out of the box in what could be a commercial by itself. It is among the most infamous examples of product placement in movies. Directly following the scene is a Fed-Ex delivery robot (Fed-Ex also has product placement in The Addams Family, when Thing gets a job as a courier).
When I saw I, Robot in the theaters, it was such a lack-luster film that I did not even pick up on all the brands that were plastered all over the place. My mind was already asleep, I suppose. The irony is, all of the product placement is the only thing that anyone remembers about this movie.
Any favorite product placement in movies come to mind? What are the worst? Leave a comment.