Placement of Products

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Its everywhere!

Product placement: n. the appearance of a product or service in a broadcast program or movie, paid for by the manufacturer to gain exposure for the product or service

You think you know all the advertisers tricks, don’t you? Well they’ve got more up their sleeve than you’re willing to bet, and product placement is the next scheme they’re pulling out. Think you’ll notice all the strategically placed brands? Think again.

Everyone remembers one main thing about Back to the Future: the awesome car Doc turns into a time machine! Ask anyone, from Baby Boomers to Gen Y what brand the car was, and they’ll all give you the correct answer: the DeLorean. Yea, it started that long ago. It just wasn’t a trend until now.

Besides, would Back to the Future really have been as cool had they not referred to the car as many times as they did? Just calling it “the time machine” would have gotten old and contrived. Isn’t product placement more natural to our mind’s eye anyway?

We’ve all seen it before, the can of soda that looks strikingly like a Coca-Cola can but instead reads the words Cola-Cola, or some variation. It catches our attention more than a normal can of everyday Coke would.

One of the most famous success stories of product placement would be Reese’s Pieces. We all remember young, adorable Drew Barrymore luring her alien friend towards her house with the little pieces of candy. The spot was originally intended for M&M’s, but they turned the offer down. Virtually unknown before, Reese’s Pieces rose to popularity almost instantly after E.T. premiered.

Product placement is supposed to seamlessly fit into the story line. When the viewer sees Mac computers being used, Nextel phones being talked on, and McDonald’s being eaten, they don’t think twice. It’s when the product is blatantly being pushed that it becomes a problem. Look at “Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle”—which, by the way, I don’t think there has ever been a more transparent push of a brand. The entire movie centered around the ridiculous adventure of two men to get White Castle burgers, which were the only things on their mind. Granted, it worked. After I, along with every single one of my friends, saw the movie, we took the 40 minute trek to find a White Castle and devour their disgusting burgers. But that’s not to say that we didn’t know we were being told what to eat!

Product placement has to be done subtly. Otherwise the audience feels offended, as if the advertisers think they’re too naïve to realize what’s going on. It’s all around us, and has been for years. Only now is it becoming the next big thing, thanks to TiVo eating up traditional media.

So, what about you? Have you noticed a rise in product placement? Does any particular brand stick out as the worst offender? What’s your take on the morality of the subject?


At 8:37 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

i think that harold and kumar is great way of product placement. also, it proves the idea that product placement has to be subtle, as not so true. granted, in a movie seeing someone drink a coke can, is much much more subtle, but i think white castle made some dollars off of that movie. good job!


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