Product placement

For the hip-hop album, see Product Placement (album).

Product placement, brand integration or embedded marketing,[1][2][3][4] is according to Business Dictionary, "an advertising technique used by companies to subtly promote their products through a non-traditional advertising technique, usually through appearances in film, television, or other media."[5]

Product placement stands out as a marketing strategy because it is the most direct attempt to derive commercial benefit from "the context and environment within which the product is displayed or used".[6] The technique can be beneficial for viewers, since interruptive advertising removes them from the entertainment.

In April 2006, Broadcasting & Cable reported, "Two thirds of advertisers employ 'branded entertainment'—product placement, brand integration—with the vast majority of that (80%) in commercial TV programming." It said, "Reasons for using in-show plugs varied from 'stronger emotional connection' to better dovetailing with relevant content, to targeting a specific group."

According to PQ Media, a consulting firm that tracks alternative media spending, 2014 product placement expenditures were estimated at $10.58 billion,[7] rising 13.6% year-over-year and global branded entertainment growth is now at $73.27 billion.[8] The firm noted that brand marketers are seeking improved methods to engage younger audiences used to ad-skipping and on-demand media usage, and branded entertainment provides omnichannel possibilities to more effectively engage post-boomers, particularly Millennials and iGens. A major growth driver is the increasing use of digital video recorders (DVR), which enable viewers to skip advertisements that interrupt a show.[9][10]



Product placement began in the nineteenth century. By the time Jules Verne published the adventure novel Around the World in Eighty Days (1873), his fame had led transport and shipping companies to lobby to be mentioned in the story. Whether Verne was actually paid to do so, however, remains unknown.[11]

Self-advertising: A German countess holds a copy of the magazine Die Woche in her hands. The photo appeared in 1902 in an issue of Die Woche (detail of the actual photograph)

With the arrival of photo-rich periodicals in the late 19th century, publishers found ways of lifting their paper's reputation by placing an actual copy of the magazine in photographs of prominent people. For example, the German magazine Die Woche in 1902 printed an article about a countess in her castle where she, in one of the photographs, held a copy of Die Woche in her hands.[12]

Product placement was a common feature of many of the earliest actualities and cinematic attractions that were the first ten years of cinema history.[13]

During the next four decades, Harrison's Reports frequently cited cases of on-screen brand-name products.[14] He condemned the practice as harmful to movie theaters. Publisher P. S. Harrison’s editorials reflected his hostility towards product placement in films. An editorial in Harrison’s Reports criticized the collaboration between the Corona Typewriter company and First National Pictures when a Corona typewriter appeared in the film The Lost World (1925).[15] Harrison's Reports criticized several incidents of Corona typewriters appearing in mid-1920s films.

Recognizable brand names appeared in movies from cinema's earliest history. Before films were even narrative forms in the sense that they are recognized today, industrial concerns funded the making of what film scholar Tom Gunning described as "cinematic attractions",[16] short films of one or two minutes. In the first decade or so of film (1895–1907) audiences attended films as "fairground attractions" interesting for their then-amazing visual effects. This format was better suited to product placement than narrative cinema. Gurevitch argued that early cinematic attractions have more in common with television advertisements in the 1950s than they do with traditional films.[17] Gurevitch suggested that as a result, the relationship between cinema and advertising is intertwined, suggesting that cinema was in part the result of advertising and the economic advantage that it provided early film makers.[18] Segrave detailed the industries that advertised in these early films.[19] In the 1920s, Harrison's Reports published its first denunciation of that practice over Red Crown gasoline appearance in The Garage (1920).[20]

Movies and television

Early film

A feature film that has expectations of reaching millions of viewers attracts marketers.[21]

In many cases no payment is made for product exposure and no promise of marketing support is made when consumer brands appear in movies. Film productions need props for scenes, so each movie’s property master, who is responsible for gathering props film, contacts product placement middlemen agencies or product companies directly. In addition to items for on-screen use, the product/service supplier might provide a production with large quantities of complementary products or services. Tapping product placement channels can be particularly valuable for movies when a vintage product is required—such as a sign or bottle—that is not readily available.

One of the earliest examples is The Garage, a Buster Keaton/"Fatty" Arbuckle comedy which featured the logo of Red Crown gasoline in several scenes (although there is no definitive proof that this product placement was paid for). Fritz Lang's Dr. Mabuse the Gambler (1922) contained a prominent title card in the opening credits reading "The gowns of the female stars were designed by Vally Reinecke and made in the fashion studios of Flatow-Schädler und Mossner."

Among notable silent films to feature product placement was Wings (1927), the first to win the Academy Award for Best Picture. It contained a plug for Hershey's chocolate. Fritz Lang's film M (released in 1931) includes features a banner display for Wrigley's PK Chewing Gum, for approximately 20–30 seconds.

Another early example occurs in Horse Feathers (1932), wherein Thelma Todd's character falls out of a canoe and into a river. She calls for a "life saver" and Groucho Marx tosses her a Life Savers candy. It's a Wonderful Life (1946) depicts a young boy with aspirations to be an explorer, displaying a prominent copy of National Geographic. In Love Happy (1949), Harpo cavorts on a rooftop among various billboards and at one point escapes from the villains on the old Mobil logo, the "Flying Red Horse". Harrison's Reports severely criticized this scene in its film review[22] and in a front-page editorial. In Gun Crazy (1949), the climactic crime is the payroll robbery of the Armour meat-packing plant, where a Bulova clock is prominently displayed.

Later films

The Cannonball Run and Smokey and the Bandit film series featured conspicuous placements. The film E.T. is often cited for its multiple, obvious placements.

Cheerios and Coca-Cola had product placement in the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical Evita and in Superman: The Movie and the sequel Superman II. Clark Kent eats Cheerios for breakfast in Smallville. In Superman II's climax, Superman crashes into a giant Coca-Cola advertisement and saves a bus full of people bearing an ad for Evita, before he smashes into a Marlboro delivery truck.

Perhaps the ultimate example of product placement comes in the film Cast Away in which the Tom Hanks lead character is a FedEx employee. References to the delivery company FedEx are in nearly every scene in the film, with the FedEx logo and name preposterously over-emphasized.

Early television

In other early media, e.g., radio in the 1930s and 1940s and television in the 1950s, programs were often underwritten by companies. Soap operas were so-named because they were initially underwritten by consumer packaged goods companies such as Procter & Gamble or Unilever. When television began to displace radio, DuMont's Cavalcade of Stars television show was, in its era, notable for not relying on a sole sponsor. Sponsorship continues with programs being sponsored by major vendors such as Hallmark Cards.

The conspicuous display of Studebaker motor vehicles in the television series Mr. Ed (1961–1966), which was sponsored by the Studebaker Corporation from 1961 to 1963, as well as the display of Ford vehicles on the series Hazel (1961–1966), which was sponsored by the Ford Motor Company from 1961 to 1965, are notable examples of television product placement.


Placements fall into two categories: those that are donated to reduce production costs and those placed in exchange for compensation.[23] Lotz refers to two classifications within these two categories, what she refers to as "basic" and "advanced". Basic placement is when the logo of an object or a brand name is visible but the characters don't draw attention to the brand. Advanced placement is when the product or brand is mentioned by name by characters in the show or movie.[24]

Barter and service deals (mobile phones provided for crew use, for instance) are also common practices. Content providers may trade product placements for help funding advertisements tied-in with a film's release, a show's new season or other event.[25]

A variant of product placement is advertisement placement. In this case an advertisement for the product (rather than the product itself) is production. Examples include a Lucky Strike cigarette advertisement on a billboard or a truck with a milk advertisement on its trailer.


Placing contemporary products into existing content creates new opportunities for marketers.[26] Current product placements can be added to older programs when rerun or released on video.[27][28][29]

Examples include Numb3rs and Still Standing; where a scene may be originally shot with a blank table, with sponsored products digitally added, possibly for each airing.[30]

As of 2007, dynamic or switchable placements became possible. Placements can be customized based upon factors such as demographics, psychographics or behavioral information about the consumer. In-game advertising vendors such as Massive Incorporated transmit user information to their servers, such as individual player IDs and data about what was on the screen and for how long, enabling user-specific placements.[31]

Hypervideo techniques can insert interactive elements into video.

Brand integration

A variant of product placement is brand integration, which varies from placement when show "the product or company name becomes part of the show in such a way that it contributes to the narrative and creates an environment of brand awareness beyond that produced by advanced placement."[32] While this type of advertising is common on unscripted shows such as The Apprentice, it can also be used in scripted television.[32] An early example was by Abercrombie & Fitch, when one of its stores provided the notional venue for part of the romantic comedy film Man's Favorite Sport? (1964). On All My Children one character took a job at Revlon.[32] The character's job became part of the character's development.[33]

Jurassic Park not only prominently features Ford cars and other commercial products, but also includes a scene displaying its own promotional merchandise. One shot shows the "Jurassic Park Souvenir Store", with products that it offered for sale to fans.

Product displacement

According to Danny Boyle, director of film Slumdog Millionaire (2008), the makers used "product displacement" to accommodate sponsors such as Mercedes-Benz that refused to allow their products to be used in non-flattering settings. While Mercedes did not mind having a gangster driving their cars, they objected to their products being shown in a slum. The makers removed logos digitally in post-production, costing "tens of thousands of pounds". When such issues are brought up in advance of filming, production companies often resort to "greeking", the practice of simply covering logos with tape.

Similarly, in The Blues Brothers (1980), portions of the defunct Dixie Square Mall in Harvey, Illinois, were reconstructed in façade and used as the scene of an indoor car chase. Signage belonging to mall tenants was replaced with that of other vendors; for instance, a Walgreens would become a Toys "R" Us.[34]

Cars (2006) parodies NASCAR, an advertising-heavy sport which controversially had long allowed alcohol and tobacco sponsorships. NASCAR's sponsors were replaced with fictional or parody brands; Dinoco Oil takes pride of place, followed by a string of invented automotive aftermarket products positioned as pharmacy or medical brands. "Dale Earnhardt Inc." displaced "Junior #8"'s sponsor Budweiser to avoid advertising beer in a Disney feature. NASCAR's former "Winston Cup" trophy became the Piston Cup, removing a tobacco advertisement.[35][36]

Audio vs visual

Placements can be sound-only, visual-only or a combination of the two. The Russian television show дом-2 (phonetically Dom-2) (similar to Big Brother) often features participants stating something along the lines of, "Oh, did you check out the new product X by company Y yet?" after which the camera zooms in on the named product, explicitly combining an audio mention with a visual image. In The Real World/Road Rules Challenge participants often make a similar comment, usually pertaining to the mobile device and carrier for a text message.

Advertiser-produced programming

In 2010 Wal-Mart teamed with Procter & Gamble to produce Secrets of the Mountain and The Jensen Project, both family-oriented films that display the characters using Wal-Mart and Procter & Gamble- branded products. The Jensen Project also featured a preview of Kinect.[37][38]

Self promotion

20th Century Fox regularly uses their sister Fox News and Sky News channels in their films by including it as a plot device when characters view news broadcasts; which channel is featured in a film depends on its setting. The character typically stated that the audience is viewing Sky News. One example appears in the 1996 films Independence Day and Mission: Impossible.


The pilot episode of the NBC sitcom 30 Rock featured the General Electric (at the time an 80% owner of NBC) Trivection oven,[39] but was said to be a joke by the show's creator.[40] The show later parodied placement.[41]

The 1988 film Return of the Killer Tomatoes mocked the concept—at one point, the film stops, for lack of money. The film's producer steps in, suggesting product placement as a way to continue. This was followed by several scenes with blatant product placement, including a Pepsi billboard installed in front of the villain's mansion.

The film Fight Club, directed by David Fincher, bit the hand that fed it by depicting acts of violence against most of the products that paid to be placed in the film. Examples include the scene where the Apple Store is broken into, the scene in which Brad Pitt and Edward Norton smash the headlights of a new Volkswagen Beetle, and try to blow up a "popular coffee franchise", a thinly veiled dig at Starbucks.

The film Superstar, starring Will Ferrell and Molly Shannon, shows every resident in town driving Volkswagen New Beetles, possibly for comic effect. Similarly, the film Mr. Deeds shows Adam Sandler's character purchasing a Chevrolet Corvette for every resident of his town.

Wayne's World showed Wayne and Garth decrying product placement while looking directly at the camera, holding up a product, smiling and sometimes giving a thumbs-up.

Kung Pow! Enter the Fist spoofed its product placements, highlighting the anachronistic inclusion of a Taco Bell. In a similar vein, in Looney Tunes: Back In Action, the main characters stumble across a Wal-Mart while stranded in the middle of Death Valley and acquire supplies just for providing an endorsement. Kannagi: Crazy Shrine Maidens poked fun at its sponsor Sony by having one character give another a Blu-ray Disc with the tagline "It's a Sony", only for them to complain that they do not have a Blu-ray player, to which the character responds with a version in Betamax.

Faux placements

Further information: Fictional brands

X-Files (1993–2002) frequently featured the fictional Morley brand of cigarettes, the choice of the Cigarette Smoking Man. The company producing Morleys was also involved in a cover-up conspiracy, Brand X.

Ghostbusters had a faux product in the climax of the film when the team faces the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man.

The Truman Show utilized faux placements to advance the narrative~of the reality television set. The protagonist's wife places products in front of hidden cameras, even naming them in dialogue with her husband. This increases Truman's suspicions as he comes to realize his surroundings are intentionally fabricated.

Some filmmakers created fictional products that appear in multiple movies. Examples include Kevin Smith (Nails Cigarettes, Mooby Corporation, Chewlees Gum, Discreeto Burritos) and Quentin Tarantino (Red Apple Cigarettes, Jack Rabbit Slim's Restaurants, Big Kahuna Burger). This went even further with the fictional brand Binford Tools which appeared TV show Home Improvement and in the movie franchise Toy Story, both starring Tim Allen.

This practice is also fairly common in certain comics, such as Svetlana Chmakova's Dramacon, which makes several product-placement-esque usages of "Pawky", (a modification of the name of the Japanese snack "Pocky", popular among anime and manga fans) or Naoko Takeuchi's Sailor Moon, which includes numerous references to the series Codename: Sailor V, from which Sailor Moon was spun off.

This practice is also common in certain "reality-based" video games such as the Grand Theft Auto series, which feature fictitious stores such as Ammu-Nation, Vinyl Countdown, Gash (spoofing Gap) Zip, Pizza Boy, etc.

Reverse placement

So-called "reverse product placement" creates real products to match those seen in a fictional setting.[42] For example, in 2007, 7-Eleven rebranded 11 of its American stores and one Canadian store as "Kwik-E-Marts", selling versions of products seen in episodes of the The Simpsons, such as Buzz Cola and Krusty-O's cereal.[43] In 1997, Acme Communications was created as a chain of real television stations; the firm is named for the fictional Acme Corporation of Warner Brothers fame. Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971) led to a real Willy Wonka candy company, established soon after the film's release.

In 1949, Crazy Eddie was created as a fictional car dealer in the film A Letter to Three Wives.[44] That name, bestowed in 1971 upon a real-life electronics chain in New York City, appeared in 1984 as and advertising placement in Splash. A 1989 parody, UHF, returned to fiction by depicting a Crazy Ernie pitching, "buy this car or I'll club a seal" as a TV ad campaign.

Music and recording industries

While radio and television stations are regulated by national governments, producers of printed or recorded works are not, leading marketers to attempt to get products mentioned in lyrics of popular songs.

In 2008, The Kluger Agency was claimed[45] to have proposed placement of Double Happiness Jeans,[46] a virtual sweatshop created as part of the Invisible Threads project for the 2008 Sundance Festival, in a Pussycat Dolls song for a fee.[47] The firm was not intended to represent a commercial product. It had been invented as a collaboration between Jeff Crouse of the Anti-Advertising Agency and Stephanie Rothenberg. While the product technically existed at the time, Double Happiness was intended to be a critical piece.[48]

In January 2009, Migra Corridos, a 5-song EP including accordion ballad "El Mas Grande Enemigo", had received airplay on twenty-five Mexican radio stations. The tune purports to be the lament of a would-be immigrant left to die in the Arizona desert by coyotes (people smugglers).[49] No disclosure was made to the radio stations that the U.S. Border Patrol had commissioned the project with content devised by Elevación, a Hispanic advertising agency based in Washington, D.C. and New York City.[50]

In 2010, a video for Lady Gaga's "Telephone" was panned by critics for displaying nine brands in nine minutes (including her own line of Heartbeats headphones), many as paid product placements.[51] Other 2010 music videos displayed the PlentyofFish website include Natasha Bedingfield's "Touch", Flo Rida and Akon's "Available", Jason Derulo's "Ridin' Solo",[52] and 3OH!3's "Double Vision".[53]

In 2011, Britney Spears's music video for "Hold It Against Me" advertised PlentyofFish and Sony; one Washington Post review denounced the video as an informercial.[54]

Jennifer Lopez's Fiat-sponsored music video "Papi" was edited for broadcast as a 30-second advertisement for the Fiat 500 Cabrio in 2011.[55] The original video also advertised BlackBerry, Tous, Planet Love Match and Crown Royal.[56]

Alcohol advertising in music videos drew criticism from Curtin University in Perth, Australia in 2011. An Alcohol Beverages Advertising Code (ABAC) exists in Australia to handle complaints,[57] but a placement of Midori liqueur in Cobra Starship's "You Make Me Feel..." was judged not to be alcohol advertising.[58]


South African football comic book Supa Strikas accepts product placement to allow for the comic's free distribution. Product placement occurs throughout the publication; on players' shirts, billboards and signage, and through the branding of locations or scenarios.

Supa Strikas receives the majority of its support from Chevron, via its Caltex and Texaco brands.

In markets where Chevron lacks a presence, other brands step in, e.g., including Visa in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania. Other brands include their logos included as both billboard and background advertising, and through the branding of locations and scenarios. These companies include Metropolitan Life, Nike, Spur Steak Ranches and the South African National Roads Agency, among others.[59]

Other titles adopted the same system, including cricket comic Supa Tigers and Strike Zone.


Product placement has long been prevalent in sports at all levels.


While now-defunct NFL Europe allowed liberal use of team uniforms by sponsors, the main National Football League (NFL) does not. For instance, the league prohibits logos of sponsors painted onto the fields, although Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts, has their stadium's logomark painted onto the FieldTurf field. In 2008, the league allowed sponsors on the practice jerseys of the uniforms, but not game uniforms.

In 1991, the league allowed uniform suppliers to display their logos on their NFL-related products. Since 2012, Nike has been the league's official uniform supplier.

Two of the league's flagship teams—the Green Bay Packers and the Pittsburgh Steelers—early on adopted their identity from corporate sponsors. The Packers adopted the name "Packers" because they were sponsored by the Indian Packing Company. They later had "ACME PACKERS" written on their uniforms in the early 1920s after the Acme Packing Company bought Indian Packing. The Steelers adopted their current logo in 1962 as a product-placement deal with the American Iron and Steel Institute, which owned the rights to the Steelmark logo. The Steelers later were allowed to add "-ers" to the Steelmark logo the following year so that they could own a trademark on the logo. (The Steelers' pre-NFL predecessors also regularly sold naming rights to companies in the Pittsburgh area.)

The league has placed itself. NFL Japan was a sponsor of the football-themed anime series Eyeshield 21.


In automobile racing, the concept of the factory-backed contestant, who is provided with vehicles and technical support in return for the car's manufacturer obtaining visibility for its products in competition, dates in NASCAR to the 1950s and Marshall Teague's factory-backed Fabulous Hudson Hornet. "Win on Sunday, sell on Monday" was once a common adage among automakers.[60]

Notable placements

Automobiles, apparel, beverages, home goods, furniture, consumer electronics, computers, restaurants, financial institutions, travel and websites are just a few of the product categories.


The most common products to be promoted in this way are automobiles. Frequently, all the important vehicles in a film or television series are supplied by one manufacturer.

Luxury vehicles like Aston Martin, Mercedes, Audi, BMW, Cadillac utilize brand integration in films like Iron Man 3,[61] Spectre,[62] and Jurassic World.[63] Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation[64]

Cars (2006) portrays a mix of real and fictional vehicles as characters. None are directly paid product placements, but many are factory-backed by manufacturers who provided technical assistance and vehicles during production.[65]

Apparel and accessories

Tom Ford has utilized brand integration to elevate his fashion brand in movies like Skyfall,[66] music from Jay Z's Magna Carta,[67] and television shows like Empire.[68]

Consumer electronics and computers

Apple's products frequently appear in films, music videos and on television. Apple has stated that they do not pay for this, but declined to discuss how its products are placed.[69] (Notably, recognizable Apple products have appeared in newspaper comic strips, including Opus, Baby Blues, even though paid placement in comics is all but unknown.) In the March 31, 2010, episode of the television series Modern Family, the iPad was used as part of the storyline and also displayed several of the features to entice consumers.[70] Pixar films have also contained references to Apple products, although these are homages to the early involvement of Apple founder Steve Jobs in the company.[71]

Owing to its common ownership, Sony Pictures films have featured placements of Sony consumer electronics products, particularly Sony Xperia smartphones and tablets amongst other products. Skyfall and Spectre—two recent installments James Bond film franchise—prominently feature placements of the Sony Xperia T and Sony Xperia Z5 devices respectively, and Sony released editions of the T and Xperia Z5 Compact that were branded as tie-ins for the films.[72][73][74][75]

In video games, the most common placements are for processors or graphics cards. For example, in EA's Battlefield 2142, ads for Intel Core 2 processors appear on map billboards. EA's The Sims contains in-game advertising for Intel and for McDonald's. Rare's Perfect Dark Zero features many ads for Samsung in their menus.[76]

Food and beverage


Tobacco companies have made direct payment to stars for using their cigarettes in films. Sylvester Stallone received US$500,000 to "use Brown and Williamson tobacco products in five feature films".[81][82][83]

In response to a Christian Science Monitor article[84] accusing the industry of deliberately using product placement as an advertising strategy, the Tobacco Institute claimed that product placement is driven by filmmakers to “achieve desired artistic effects but also to offset production costs.” It also claimed “the 1970 federal ban on cigarette advertising on television and radio does not prohibit payments to filmmakers for the use of cigarettes in a film.” The rebuttal concludes with the sentiment that smoking in film provides a certain “aesthetic” which is legitimate and at the filmmaker's discretion.[85]

Radio, television and publishing


List of television shows with the most instances of product placement (November 2007 – 2008; according to Nielsen Media Research)

Nielsen called a scene in an episode of CBS' Mike & Molly of Mike eating M&M's in Carl's apartment 2013's best branded and opinion-shifting product integration in a scripted show.[86]

Legal considerations

United States

A TV or film studio does not need permission to display or mention products or service in media form. The Big Bang Theory uses a Cheesecake Factory outlet as a setting. As no compensation is exchanged, "promotional considerations" do not apply.[87]

Much of US broadcast law pertaining to on-air product promotion dates to the payola scandals of 1950s broadcast radio. An investigation launched in November 1959 into allegations that some radio disc jockeys had accepted bribes in return for radio airplay[88] ended with a US$2,500 fine for disc jockey Alan Freed (of WABC and WINS) for violating commercial bribery laws. On September 13, 1960, the U.S. government banned payola in broadcasting. Under 47 U.S.C. § 317 "All matter broadcast by any radio station for which money, service, or other valuable consideration is directly or indirectly paid, or promised to or charged or accepted by, the station so broadcasting, from any person, shall, at the time the same is so broadcast, be announced as paid for or furnished, as the case may be, by such person..." with similar and related provisions reflected in Federal Communications Commission regulations as 47 C.F.R. 73.1212.[89]

These provisions have governed subsequent payola investigations, including a 2005 investigation into Sony BMG and other major record companies.[90]

Often, a broadcaster claimed to have complied by placing an acknowledgement in an inconspicuous place, such as embedded within the credits.[91] In 2005 U.S. Federal Communications Commission commissioner Jonathan Adelstein stated "if broadcasters and cable TV companies insist on further commercializing new and other shows alike, that is their business. But if they do so without disclosing it to the viewing public, that is payola, and that is the FCC’s business."[92]

United Kingdom

The 'PP' icon, introduced by Ofcom to identify programs on television which contain product placement.

In the United Kingdom, placement by commercial broadcasters was forbidden prior to 2011. On February 28, 2011, telecommunications regulator Ofcom legalized placements in certain types of programming. A placement must be "editorially justified" and not place "undue prominence" on the product. Product placements are not allowed for products that cannot legally be advertised on television, including alcohol, baby milk, gambling products, medication or junk food. Placements are not allowed during children's, news, public affairs and religious programs. Additionally, broadcasters must disclose placements on-air by displaying a "PP" icon on-screen during the program for at least three seconds at the beginning, after every commercial break, and at the end. The first legal product placement on British television came during an episode of This Morning, for a Nestlé-produced coffee maker. As with all other advertising, the BBC is barred from using placements on its publicly funded services.[93][94]

Extreme examples

Mac and Me is notorious for its placements. Both Coca-Cola and McDonald's backed the movie financially, leading to placements for them as well as others, such as Skittles and Sears in nearly every scene, including an infamously irrelevant dance number set in a McDonald's restaurant as well as a character who wears a McDonald's uniform throughout nearly the entire film, even when she is not at work.

I, Robot offers placements for Converse, Ovaltine, Audi, FedEx, Dos Equis and JVC among others, all of them introduced within the film's first ten minutes. One moment includes a straightforward advertisement in which Will Smith's character responds to a compliment about his shoes, to which he replies "Converse All-Stars, vintage 2004"[95] (the year of the film's release). Audi created a special car for the film, the Audi RSQ. Surveys conducted in the US showed that the placements boosted the brand's image.[96] The Audi RSQ appears for nine minutes, and other Audis also appear in the film.[97] I, Robot was ranked "the worst film for product placement" on a British site.[98]

Demolition Man makes heavy mention of Taco Bell, which in the film's conceit, is the only remaining restaurant chain.

The Island features at least 35 individual products or brands, including cars, bottled water, shoes, credit cards, beer, ice cream, and a web search engine.[99][100] In the movie's DVD Commentary track, director Michael Bay claims he added the advertisements for greater realism.[101]

The 2006 comedy film Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby parodied the large amount of sponsorship in NASCAR. For example, Ricky Bobby thanks baby Jesus for certain products during the dinner blessings, due to contractual obligations. In one race, he drives his car with a giant Fig Newtons sticker on his windshield, which obscures his vision. A scene where Ricky's and Jean Girard's cars go flipping for an excessively long time is interrupted by an Applebee's commercial (referencing NBC's use of commercial breaks during its own coverage).[102]

Josie and the Pussycats contains placements in most of the shots. This appears to be done ironically, as the plot of the film revolves around subliminal messages in advertising. The film's general message can also be construed as an anti-consumerist one. The film neither sought nor received compensation for the placements.

The 2009 Star Trek, in a scene where young James Kirk drives and crashes a Chevrolet Corvette, he operates a Nokia touch-screen smartphone. Before running the car off the cliff while being chased by a hovering motorcycle cop, the distinct Nokia trademark ring tone can be heard. The Finnish phone maker offered Star Trek apps for its phones. The use of contemporary products was ridiculed, as the scene is set in the year 2255.[103]

The 2013 Filipino film My Little Bossings attracted criticism for its extensive use of product placement. Reviewers unanimously panned the film for turning it into "one long commercial", where advertisements for brands endorsed by the characters' actors are frequently interspersed into the film. Zig Marasigan of Rappler described the film's use of product endorsements as "some of the most distasteful examples of local product placement while no effort is made to weave them into the narrative."[104]

Viewer response

In April 2009, fans of the television series Chuck responded to a placement by Subway restaurants with a grassroots effort to save the show from cancellation.[105] The movement gained support from cast and crew, with series star Zachary Levi leading hundreds of fans to a Subway restaurant in Birmingham, United Kingdom.[106][107][108][109][110]


Placement continues to grow despite consumer groups such as Commercial Alert that object to the practice as "an affront to basic honesty". The group requested disclosure of all product-placement arrangements and notification before and during embedded advertisements. It justifies this to allow parents to protect easily influenced children.[111]

In 2005 the Writers Guild of America, a trade union representing authors of television scripts, objected that its members were forced to produce disguised ad copy.[112]

Some scholars argue that product placement may inherently affect the creativity and originality of movies as film producers may re-write scripts in order to incorporate products.[113] Most typically, product placement and merchandise are most successful amongst specific genres of movies which may eventually limit the diversity of films.[113]



As with most marketing tactics, product placement leads to explicit as well as implicit advertising effects. Explicit effects can be observed directly and are usually visible by higher recall scores.[114][115] They are highly connected to the conscious mind.[116] Implicit effects can be observed by a change in behavior – like a higher purchase intention.[114][117][118] They are fully based on the subconscious mind.[114][119] Implicit effects are more relevant for purchase decisions and therefore more valuable than explicit reactions.[114][119]


The product placement has evolved very spontaneously and now the world of product placement revolves around the digital placement via various movies and TV shows. Its proved to be more effective to show product when you are running commercial on TV shows. In order for successful product placement, it is advice-able to have good contacts in the film industry because they influence and dominate the market.[Sauer, A. (2016)]


Recall describes whether people can name a product after seeing it within the content. Research showed that there is a significant relationship between product placement and recall.[120][121][122][123]


Product placement also leads to changes in attitude towards the product or brand.[124][125][126][127]

Purchase intention

A lot of research has shown a higher purchase intention as a result of product placement.[128][129][130][131][132]

Subconscious effects

Product placement affects the audience on a conscious, but also subconscious level. Science showed that there does not even need to be an explicit, conscious effect to activate subconscious effects.[129][133][134][135] For example, product placement can lead to an exclusion of competing brands from the consideration set of the audience – subconsciously.[114][136] It is also hoped to bypass advertising defense reactions of consumers by focusing on the subconscious character of product placement.[115]

Negative effects

Under specific circumstances, product placement can lead to no[137][138][139] or even negative effects.[124][138][140][141] This usually happens if the product placement is too obvious, while the audience also feels to be manipulated.[115][138][141]

Placement moderators


The better the product placement fits the surrounding content, the better the implicit effectiveness (like attitude or purchase-intention) will be.[127][142][143][144]

Audio vs visual

After viewing a Seinfeld episode with visual, auditory and audiovisual product placements, a recall task indicated that audiovisual product placements were recalled the best, visual product placements somewhat less and audio placements least. In a recognition test audiovisual was still remembered the best but audio placements were remembered second best and visual placements were remembered third best.[129] As indicated, the type of placement that is most effective seems to vary depending on task, but audiovisual placements seem to be often the most effective.[145] However, audiovisual product placements are not remembered best when there are more than one audiovisual placement at once, making it hard to remember each one.[120] In case the placement is only on the audio level, one should make sure it is very prominent to get any effect at all.[121][138][146]

Character attractiveness

People tended to like brand names that were paired with attractive faces more than those paired with unattractive faces. The more times a brand was paired with an attractive face, the more people liked it.[147]

Product prominence

Product placement perceived to disrupt a movie, especially when repeated, were found in one study to be counterproductive. Moderate repetition of subtle product placements did not increase people’s feelings on distraction.[148]

Products that are integrated within the plot of a movie are better recall, although not if more than one product is shown at a time.[120] In one study placements connected to the story were recognized most often, products used by the main character were remembered less often and products in the background were remembered least often.[132]

Placements were found more effective on a larger screen compared to on a smaller one.[120] Also, products placed in the first half of a movie tend to be remembered better than products in the second half of a movie, which demonstrates the primacy effect.[120]

Level of Involvement

High involvement with the program makes it easier for people to recognize the product placement.[149][150] This can lead to positive effects,[151][152] but might also lead to negative reactions.[153] The same applies for high product category involvement.[154]

Audience demographics

Cultural attributes

Older research cited a difference between different cultural areas. For example, Australians,[155] Austrians.[156] and Germans[157][158] tended to evaluate product placement more critical and show less positive reactions than Americans or people from certain Asian countries such as India.[159][160][161]


Children are usually easier influenced than adults.[162][163][164]


If the product is endorsed by a person, there are stronger priming effects if the audience has the same sex.[165] Women tend to get influenced a little easier,[166][167] but show more negative reactions when the product can be described as ethically questionable (e.g. alcohol).[168]


To measure the success of product placement, one first tracks the parameters of the placement itself, like the ease of identification, screen time, number of exposure(s), or association with a main character. That information is also often used to determine the price of a specific placement. Secondly, the effectiveness is measured using direct (for explicit memory effects) as well as indirect (for implicit memory effects) measurements.

Measurement of the explicit memory

Explicit effects are measured by recall or recognition tests. Subjects are asked to name the products that he or she noticed (free recall).[114][169] This survey can be also aided by giving additional information like a specific product category.[137] At recognition tests, a selection of products is shown to the interviewed person, who then needs to select the ones that he has seen before.[139][145]

Measurement of the implicit memory

Implicit effects are measured in an indirect way by observing a change in behavior.[114][170] This can be done by tracking the consideration set and buying behavior of people,[114][117][118] measuring brain activities[171] or using abstract indirect test settings like the word fragment or word stem completion test.[172] The implicit association test (IAT) is also an applicable measurement tool.[173][174]


A lot of people believe that product placement is ethically questionable, because it manipulates them against their will.[131][175][176][177] However, even if product placement is only perceived unconsciously, it is still evaluated by our mind.[178][179] It cannot make people act against their beliefs. Most people also appreciate the fact, that movies look more realistic with real brands and do not feel disturbed by the placements.[180][181] Additionally, further research argues that product placement is not any different from other marketing tactics when it comes to ethics.[140]

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Sauer, A. (2016). The Evolution of Product Placement: 5 Questions with Legend Brad Brown. Available: Last accessed 5th Dec 2016.

Further reading

External links

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