Product Placement

What is a Product Placement?


A Product Placement is a form of advertisement, where branded goods or services are placed in a context usually devoid of ads, such as movies, the story line of television shows, or news programs. [1] Product placements can also be found in books, music, websites and video games. With it becoming increasingly difficult to advertise to customers with commercials only, product placements have become a popular alternative for many companies.


Brief history about Product Placements


Product placements have been a part of motion pictures since the beginning in the 1890s Lever Brothers placed the company’s soap brand in some of the early films. During the early to mid 1900s you could find product placements in movies and television programs from car companies, tobacco companies, toothpaste companies etc, the list goes on. Product Placement had been around for decades but most sources will say that product placements didn’t truly surge until the 1980s.[2]

The movie that has been credited the most for the product placement surge of the 1980s was 1982s movie E.T., in which Reese’s Pieces (Hershey) was used to lure the main character E.T. out of hiding.[3] Originally rumored to be offered to M&Ms (Mars Inc), Hershey was able to secure a contract for the product placement (which was free). Hershey also signed a contract in which they agreed to promote E.T. with $1 million in advertising; in return, Hershey could use E.T. in its own ads. This resulted in a rumored 65% increase in sales for Reese’s only 2 weeks after the movies release.[4]

Before the surge in the 1980s, most product placements tended to be do it yourselves, type of deals. There were no real agencies or advertising companies that really were known for dealing with product placements in movies, television etc. Since the surge of the 1980s, there are now hundreds of advertising companies that not only do product placements but, specialize in the field.

As of today, we now see product placements in almost every single form of media available. From television, newspapers, video games, music, books, movies etc. Product placements has become a very important and highly profitable business with no signs of slowing down or disappearing anytime soon.

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*Above on the far left is a video example of one of the oldest product placements recorded. In this video you will see an advertisement for Sunlight soap. In the middle is an example of an advertisement/promotion Hershey did for it's product in E.T. and on the far right is a video clip from the movie E.T. showing an example of how Reese's pieces was used in the movie.


Types of Product Placements Depending on the source, you will read about many different types and styles of product placement. Typically there are three ways in which product placement can occur. 1. It simply happens. 2. It's arranged, and a certain amount of the product serves as compensation. 3. It's arranged, and there is a financial compensation.[5]


1. Realistic product placement – With this type of product placement, it just happens. The product just happens to be part of the set piece etc. They don't set the product up to show its labels etc, it takes a more real life approach where products are just there (not staged) and work with the story.[6]

2. Arranged product placement (Product Incentive) - In this type of product placement the companies arrange the product placement and make and the product company agrees to offer a set amount of the product to the Movie/TV set etc. This can be the case when a company is looking to use a type of product and is looking for a way to save money of their production budgets.[7]

3. Arranged product placement (Financial compensation) - This type of product placement occurs when a product company hears about a particular project they think would be able to promote their product. The product company will try to make a deal with the production company to do some form of advertising of their product. The extent of this product placement will usually depend on the type of media being used and the amount of money being spent. It could be as simple as a character in a movie driving a certain type of car or as complicated as making a product one of the main focal points of the movie.[8]


*Above is some video examples of very obvious arranged product placements. The middle video also shows the movie Wayne's World make fun of the idea of product placement while doing it themselves.

Famous Product Placements


Through the years there have been many product placements that have been left in the minds of it viewers. Some of these product placements were simple add ins while others had story lines that revolved around the product also known as Branded Entertainment. The two following links offer some interesting information and stories behind some of the most famous and successful product placements, including the E.T. story mentioned in the history section.

1. http://www.mentalfloss.com/blogs/archives/13863 - Stories behind 10 famous product placements.
2. http://listverse.com/2008/03/21/top-10-blatant-examples-of-product-placement-in-movies/ - 10 Blatant examples of product placements.

Reality TV and Product Placements


Over the past decade we have seen Reality TV shows become some of the most popular show for people to watch on TV. Companies have noticed this trend and have taken advantage of this situation by implementing their product into the shows itself. Since people tend to not watch commercials as much as they used to, reality shows have offered a form a media to advertise products rather blatantly and in real time. Possibly the biggest and most famous show known for product placements is American Idol. American Idol is literally littered with 100s of product placements/advertisements every show. American Idol has even taken product placement to the next level by actual integrating some of their largest partners into their website. What they have done is actually named sections of their website after the companies their largest sponsors. The following links are some examples of section American Idol has integrated into their site.

http://www.americanidol.com/behind_the_scenes/ - This is behind the scenes presented by Coca Cola.
http://www.americanidol.com/downloads/ - Download you favorite American Idol performance with Itunes.
http://www.americanidol.com/contestants/season_9/ - Contestants info page presented by Ford.

These examples show how far product placement is going by actually being able to promote brands and products with website sections that actually have nothing to do with the product itself.

external image AI_300x300.jpg external image americanidol503.jpg

The following is a chart shows some of TV's most popular shows for product placement.

external image nielsen-top-10-programs-product-placement-activity-november-20091.jpg
Future of Product Placement

Custom Product Placements - Some companies have begun to push product placement to an all new extreme. Some companies have actually started to develop products just for particular movies etc, just to advertise their brand. One of the most well known examples of this was the customer made Audi for the Will Smith blockbuster I Robot. In this movie one of the main products in the movie was a futuristic Audi car that was made primarily to be in this movie. This is different then in the past because car companies would have usually just paid money to put their company logo on a futuristic car that the movie company would of had made for their picture. Audi decided to take this one step further and make their own car to portray their company the way they felt it should have been.[9]

external image dsts_1088109878_audi_i_robot.jpg external image robot.jpgexternal image audi_500.jpg


Virtual Product Placements - Over the past few decades as we can see product placements have begun to evolve, entering new forms of media and developing new methods of advertising. With the ever growing popularity of the internet and video games it seems like Product Placements are beginning to take over a new form of entertainment, which is virtual entertainment. Companies have begun to pay video game companies to advertise their products in their games. These advertisements range from in game commercials in Fight Night advertising Burger King, Dynamic Posters advertising movies in Rainbow Six Vegas, and car companies paying to be the main car promoted in a racing game. In 2006 it was reported that Microsoft Corp paid between a rumored $200 - $400 million on a company called Massive, which is known for specializing/putting ads in games.

external image vegas_ad.jpg external image bu_s25_ph01.jpgexternal image mainimage.jpg

Music Advertising - Product Placements have even started to enter our music and our music videos. With companies reportedly offering musicians money to use their products name in their songs etc. The following link has a conversation discussing music companies and product placement, as well as an incident in which McDonald's offered musicians money to promote their products. One of the most notable product placements in music happen over the past year with the song Bad Romance by Lady Gaga in which she had several companies products placed throughout the video. Here are some images of just a few of the products that were placed into the video.[10]

external image Screen-shot-2009-11-27-at-1.01.01-PM.png external image bwin_website_poker_face_lady_gaga_product_placement_608x456_121109.jpgexternal image bad-romance-beats-envy.jpg


Other helpful links about Product Placement


  1. This is a free online book discussing product placement in the mass media market, strategies etc. http://books.google.ca/books?id=M8Zp6g0fbVEC&printsec=frontcover&dq=product+placement&source=bl&ots=_gRj34dNX0&sig=StU8GaoMjIYP8kR6D_QVXCM1zEY&hl=en&ei=vsyGS-TyEJv28Qal9ry3Dw&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=15&ved=0CEwQ6AEwDg#v=onepage&q=&f=false
  2. An academic journal discussing the effectiveness of product placements. http://www.allacademic.com//meta/p_mla_apa_research_citation/1/7/2/8/0/pages172808/p172808-1.php
  3. An article from Forbes discussing the increase in video game advertising http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/13960083/
  4. A variety of statistical charts on product placement in 2009 http://www.marketingcharts.com/television/best-liked-tv-commercials-of-2009-horses-puppies-llamas-star-11598/nielsen-top-10-programs-product-placement-activity-november-20091jpg/











  1. ^ Product placement - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. (n.d.).Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Retrieved March 1, 2010, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Product
  2. ^ Kenneth E. Clow and Donald Baack, (2010) "Intergrated Advertising, Promotion, and Marketing Communications", Fourth Edition, Prentice Hall Upper Saddle River
  3. ^ Kenneth E. Clow and Donald Baack, (2010) "Intergrated Advertising, Promotion, and Marketing Communications", Fourth Edition, Prentice Hall Upper Saddle River
  4. ^ Conradt, S. (n.d.). mental_floss Blog » The Stories Behind 10 Famous Product Placements.mental_floss magazine - Where Knowledge Junkies Get Their Fix. Retrieved February 23, 2010, from http://www.mentalfloss.com/blogs/a
  5. ^ Neer, K. (n.d.). HowStuffWorks "Realistic Product Placement".Howstuffworks "Business & Money". Retrieved February 25, 2010, from http://money.howstuffworks.com/product-placement2.htm
  6. ^ Neer, K. (n.d.). HowStuffWorks "Realistic Product Placement".Howstuffworks "Business & Money". Retrieved February 25, 2010, from http://money.howstuffworks.com/product-placement2.htm
  7. ^ Neer, K. (n.d.). HowStuffWorks "Arranged Product Placement".Howstuffworks "Business & Money". Retrieved February 26, 2010, from http://money.howstuffworks.com/product-placement3.htm
  8. ^ Neer, K. (n.d.). HowStuffWorks "Arranged Product Placement".Howstuffworks "Business & Money". Retrieved February 26, 2010, from http://money.howstuffworks.com/product-placement3.htm
  9. ^ The Making of the Audi RSQ for the Epic Movie Event "I, ROBOT". (n.d.). Welcome to AudiWorld.com - The Audi Enthusiast Website . Retrieved March 1, 2010, from http://www.audiworld.com/news/04/
  10. ^