Sunday!

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)


Staff Writer
Home Page Twitter 

Jaybird is Birdmojo on Xbox Live and Jaybirdmojo on Playstation's network. He's been playing consoles since the Atari 2600 and it was Zork that taught him how to touch-type. If you've got a song for Wednesday, a commercial for Saturday, a recommendation for Tuesday, an essay for Monday, or, heck, just a handful a questions, fire off an email to AskJaybird-at-gmail.com

Please do be so kind as to share this post.
TwitterFacebookRedditEmailPrintFriendlyMore options

28 thoughts on “Sunday!

  1. I’m sorry I missed the convo about obvious, jarring, product placement. I’ve been watching/re-watching Eureka which got thinking about that exact thing. Like the Cisco Systems logo that would pop up on the monitor at the conclusion of a video conference call, not obvious at all. Or when one of the characters, Deputy Lupo, gets a new cop car and she names the make and model and then, later in the same episode, she has to go fast and turns to her passenger and says, “Zero to sixty in 4.7 seconds!”. But the best is when someone is testing some sort of heat and flame resistant material. The researchers are wearing coveralls with the logo for Degree Antiperspirant and one of the characters actually says, “Keeps you cool under pressure!” The Degree thing got so over-the-top that the in one scene the main character is in the bathroom getting ready for work, reaches into the medicine cabinet which has like two or three things in it, pulls out a Degree Antiperspirant stick in that way they do in commercials so the label is never obscured, places it on the counter, and never uses it. It’s all only sorta forgivable because the show is a comedy anyway. I was thinking you could turn it into a drinking game like “Hey, Bob!”

    Report

    • The label never being obscured thing is irritating. Remember the scene in Iron Man where he asks for an American cheeseburger and they bring him a bag of food from Burger King?

      NOBODY CARRIES BAGS OF FOOD FROM A FAST FOOD PLACE LIKE THAT.

      Argh. They could have had the guy carry the bag the way that humans do and the logo would have been less visible and just have Tony Stark say “oh my God, a Whopper(tm)” or something.

      Instead, you see the tie-in.

      I hate that.

      Report

    • Burn Notice was clearly getting money from a car maker one season. (I can’t recall the make or model).

      The main character had an old Dodge Charger (similar to Supernatural’s old Impala, that he pretty much drove the entire series. Old enough that it wasn’t product placement, beyond “classic cars are classic”.

      Generally the other characters stole cars rather randomly or borrow them randomly, generally rather fitting to the character.

      However around season 4, they brought in a new guy and had one consistent car for everyone but the main character. And not only did they keep this brand new, modern car — every car chase had lingering shots that highlighted the brand on the back end of the car. Multiple times. I think it was literally in the contract that they had to clearly show the back end of the car, logo on display, for at least 45 seconds an episode.

      Report

  2. I thought Happy Gilmore (of all things) did it well by making it so shamelessly obvious, it became a meta joke.

    The use of Mini Coopers in the Wahlberg Italian Job movies is probably the current gold standard of product placement.

    Report

    • The car thing can be done well and it can be done poorly.

      When actors and actresses turn to each other and describe features of the car, that’s downright awful.

      When they just have a really, really sexy car and show it weaving in and out of traffic and stopping on a dime and outrunning a cop car? That’s pretty cool. As stupid as the Transporter movies were, the fact that he was doing these stupid things in a BMW felt… well, he was going to have to be doing this dumb crap in a car and it wasn’t going to be a Saturn. A BMW was as good a choice as you were going to reasonably get.

      Report

  3. Well, being a former employee of Silicon Graphics, the onscreen use of one of our systems in Jurassic Park will always be Number 1 for me. They even showcased a bit of software that we routinely shipped with our systems – the filesystem navigator that Lex uses to try and lock the doors, but is so slow it sort of doesn’t work.

    The thing is, every engineer I knew had that thing turned off because it was too slow.

    Report

    • I have a friend who worked at HP who tells me that she snorted at the Jurassic Park datacenter. Sure, all of the servers in there looked all futuristic but they were the old, crappy servers from the 80’s that had designers who wanted futuristic looking servers.

      The latest and greatest servers that HP was putting out at the time of Jurassic Park’s release were boring metal and black plastic 1u, 2u, and 4u servers.

      There’s also the issue where the movie people want all of the lights on the front of the server blinking and so when I look at the data center, I think “huh, somebody bought a batch of bad power supplies” instead of “INDUSTRY!”

      Report

      • Hah. Sounds like sour grapes to me. (We were, ahem, rivals with HP. She is welcome to snort, and I will respond in kind.)

        But I’m not talking about the datacenter. I’m talking about the machines on Nedry’s and Arnold’s desks. And by the way, in 1993, HP was making workstations, not 1u, 2u and 4u servers. Nobody was making them then. That’s a commodity product, with commodity pricing and profit margins. Nobody wanted that.

        That was before the Internet Changed Everything. Mosaic was released in 1993, same year as JP.

        Report

        • Man, were we still on mainframes back then?

          This is one of those things that felt like it was around forever even though I distinctly remember having to look up the Declaration of Independence in the encyclopedia when I wanted to check a particular phrasing when I was still in college.

          The future can’t get here quickly enough.

          Report

          • It was mainframes (though they might be networked together in some private network), workstations and PCs in those days, but the PCs weren’t much more than word processing and spreadsheet platforms.

            As an aside, the airline people had it going on in those days, they had networked their mainframe databases to screens in every airline terminal, and to travel agent offices (travel agents!) all over the country. With no internet. I find that very impressive.

            Report

          • The State of Colorado continues to run assorted things, including its unemployment insurance, on a big ol’ IBM mainframe. The state Dept of Labor requested money this year to begin migrating the UI system onto something more contemporary (and replace the COBOL with Java). Haven’t looked to see if the General Assembly approved the project or not.

            Report

  4. What about the times that they did product placement right?

    Rainier Beer placements in Longmire. The man only drinks Rainier, right?, so it’s not a product placement as much as an expression of who the guy is. (“Walt, you want something to drink, a coffee, soda, beer?” “Do you have any Rainier?” “No.” “I’m alright, then.”) And that could work, on that show, with other products as well: Carhartt’s, BFG tires, Tony Lama boots, Ford trucks, and so on. (“Walt, would you like a new Truck? Chevy, Toyota, Dodge?” “No, I’m a Ford man.”)

    Report

      • When I see a local/regional product, I think less ‘product placement’ and more atmosphere building – as well as a love note to the location everything is supposed to be taking place. (Goes doubly for period pieces, like when they had the Jhoon Rhee commercial on the Americans)

        Report

      • I’ve been searching the tubes for a definitive answer and have come up with exactly nothin. My guess is that atleast by season 4, tho, Netflix (who took it over it at that point) was gettin cash from Rainier given that the product (meaning, mostly, the logo) started receiving more camera time in conspicuously awkward ways.

        Dodge was, I think, a pretty early paid-placement (season two, by my guess), and I don’t think they did that one very well at all. Too obvious.

        So I think you’re right: it worked when there wasn’t any money attached to it, which means it wasn’t actually a product endorsement.

        Report

  5. The Ranch has ongoing argument this season between two characters about ford vs chevy. i hope both ford AND chevy are paying them all the money – but the thing about the argument is that I, living in Colorado, have heard these same arguments between various people who grew up here (or at least went to high school here), many times. with similar jokes. so it doesn’t feel AT ALL like ads, even when they buy each other hats for xmas with the logos of the companies. because of COURSE they would do that. surprised my friends haven’t done it to each other…

    Report

    • The tightrope is always the whole “how do people talk in real life?” thing.

      In real life, the pro-Ford guy will say something like “Chevy sucks. Their engines seize up!”

      And Chevy, in no way, will ever allow someone to say that in a television show. “Can’t we just have two guys sing the relative merits of their own choices without denigrating the choices of the other?”, the ad guy asks (as he clicks his pen over his checkbook).

      “Sure, we can do that!”, the writer says, cheerfully.

      Report

      • (Er, this is maribou! not jaybird!!! whoops) Oh no. Oh no oh no. It’s all about the real life denigrating.

        So maybe they aren’t getting paid.

        But if the advertisers were SMART, they’d be getting paid.

        Maybe Toyota is paying them. ;)

        Report

        • “My Ford pisses on your Chevy.”

          “I’d rather push a Chevy than drive a Ford. I’d be going faster.”

          {{Camera pans to black, 4WD, 2017 Toyota Tundra with heated seats, 6-speaker stereo, moonroof, a slight lift, and chrome bumpers…}}

          Report

      • Jay,
        And in REAL advertising, you’ll get someone saying “Cleveland sucks man” in the “worst tourism video ever” — which everyone watches, and remembers something about Cleveland. [Granted, this is why you Pay The PR Team, Idiots]

        (Oh, but for reals, don’t go to East Cleveland — there’s a story behind that line).

        Some people are actually talented at this advertising bit. Jokes stick in your head a lot more than just straight advertising.

        Report

  6. And interestingly, since I apparently find this topic … uhh, interesting … Hershey didn’t pay Spielberg any upfront money for the Reese’s Pieces placement, only agreeing to pay on the back end with advertising to promote it. From Snopes:

    Hershey did not pay to have Reese’s Pieces used in E.T., but it did agree to do a tie-in between the movie and the candy after the film was released. A deal was inked wherein Hershey Foods agreed to promote E.T. with $1 million of advertising; in return, Hershey could use E.T. in its own ads.

    Pretty clever, actually.

    Report

  7. Nyaaah. You don’t know what’s product placement, and what’s really not.
    Sometimes it’s just “how can we not get sued???”
    (That was the latest PeeWee movie, talking about candy. Rootbeer barrels are public domain, but Charleston Chews are neither going to pay PeeWee, nor likely to sue them).

    Pittsburgh got a decent joke in the latest season of Arrested Development. That’s placement. (What’s the product? Pittsburgh, of course).

    Report

Comments are closed.