An Ephemeral Look at Product Placement

There are plenty of lists detailing the worst product placement in movies; the fantastic Cracked.com’s The 10 Most Shameful Product Placements in Movie History is worth a look in particular. Everyone knows how E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial was originally meant to use M&Ms rather than Reese’s Pieces, and that sales of the latter increased by 85% after the release of the 1982 film (Janet Wasko, Hollywood in the Information Age, 1995, p.190). Rather than compile another list or rehash more facts, I thought I would look at some interesting points (the term ‘highlights’ may be misleading at this juncture, as may the term ‘interesting’) throughout the history of product placement in Hollywood.

The Old Timey Product Placement

Product placement in the movies is nothing new, despite its prominence in the last thirty years. In 1945’s Mildred Pierce, Joan Crawford’s drink of choice was Jack Daniels. The placement of this brand was less obvious than some more recent attempts at promoting drinks.

The Quintessential 80s Product Placement

Part of the reason Santa Claus: The Movie holds a special place in my heart is because of the shameless product placement of those most high-profile of brands; Coca-Cola and McDonald’s. It is made all the more amusing by the fact that the film appears to propagate an anti-capatilist message. The McDonalds product placement complemented the Santa Claus: The Movie Happy Meal toys (as seen in the above advertisement). Product placement tie-ins truly reached a zenith in the mid 1980s.

The Mundane Product Placement

In late 2011, Mission: Impossible Ghost Protocol heavily feaured BMW cars. Earlier that year, How Do You Know featured another type of transport. The Metrobus was omnipresent in James L. Brooks’ film. In the movie, this mode of New York transport was punctual, reliable and clean. Only natives of the city can say how reliable this depiction is. As product placements go, it is hardly the most glamorous.

The Greatest Movie Ever Sold is out on DVD from 27th February 2012.