Last week, Mike Dwyer talked about the commercials he enjoyed and how they’re on the way out… which resulted in a tangent in the comments about product placement and how both Chuck and Community got extra seasons because of Subway’s product placement in the show.
Personally, I found the scenes where Big Mike gave a speech about how much he loved his Subway sandwich before, during, and after eating it to be jarring and they took me out of the show temporarily. Big Mike was charming, however, and so I laughed from time to time… but the product placement struck me as being ham-handed, even accounting for the fact that they were being so deliberately over the top with them to make them a little more palatable.
But that got me thinking:
What about the times that they did product placement right?
The most perfect example is, of course, E.T.’s use of Reece’s Pieces (if only because m&ms had an opportunity to be the candy in the movie and they turned it down) but, more recently, there are a few more that are notable for being not only transparent (they don’t feel like commercials, for example) but for making you say “Huh. I should get me one of those next time I have an opportunity to do so.”
The biggest recent one is probably White Castle in “Harold and Kumar go to White Castle”. See? It didn’t even feel like product placement. Of *COURSE* a couple of stoners would want to get some sliders. Heck, I could go for some sliders right now.
Going back to the 70’s, I’m pretty sure that Dirty Harry was responsible for a spike in the sales of .44 Magnum handguns (“the most powerful handgun in the world”).
All of those failed to feel inauthentic (as far as I can tell, anyway) because it made sense that Elliott would have a bag of candy, it made sense that Harold and Kumar would want to go to White Castle, it made sense that Dirty Harry would use a .44 Magnum. Well, that last one didn’t really make sense. I mean, it’s not a particularly sensible weapon for a police officer. BUT. The point is that it didn’t feel like an ad that was crowbarred into a scene. It felt *ORGANIC*.
Hey, just thought of another one: My Big Fat Greek Wedding. Did that feel like a Windex commercial to you?
Anyway, I’m hoping that, in the future, we’re going to have a post-commercial world with product placement that works. Rather than yet another scene where people get into a car and then spend 30 seconds talking about how much headroom there is in the car and wow, does it get good gas mileage (hey, it gets 39 highway, 34 city!), and wow it’s even got a rear-view camera! Hey, don’t eat Doritos in my car!
So… what are you reading and/or watching?
(Featured Image is “Edison’s Telephonoscope” by George du Maurier from Punch Almanack for 1879)