A brief history of conspicuous product placement.
January 10, 2011 10:31 AM   Subscribe

A brief history of conspicuous product placement.
posted by Combustible Edison Lighthouse (125 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
I sure could go for a Mountain Dew after that.
posted by Burhanistan at 10:38 AM on January 10, 2011


Too bad there weren't any placements for the Franklin Spelling Ace.
posted by hijinx at 10:44 AM on January 10, 2011 [4 favorites]


"Don't believe me? Bing it!"
posted by Rhaomi at 10:46 AM on January 10, 2011 [12 favorites]


I'm not necessarily all that knee-jerk anti-product-placement. If you've got a scene that involves an airport anyway, why not make a few more bucks by getting a real airline to pay for placement? And it's pretty jarring when characters in the real world are suddenly drinking GENERICOLA instead of an actual brand.

That said: Fuck you, Michael Bay.
posted by Tomorrowful at 10:47 AM on January 10, 2011 [3 favorites]


Tomorrowful beat me too it, but am I still allowed to say that while I find overbearing product placement...well, overbearing, a total lack of product placement is equally annoying? I can't tell you how annoying it feels to be totally engrossed in the magic of some film, then hearing my internal "needle dragged across vinyl" sound when I see some character take a sip from a can of "Cola" or spy some art department intern's lame idea of "Rice-like Crispers!" cereal stashed in a cupboard.

That I don't want my movies smothered by Pepsi sponsorship doesn't mean people should NEVER drink Pepsi (or wear Nike, or grab a Dell or Apple laptop, etc.). OK, I'm done.
posted by jalexei at 10:49 AM on January 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


Microsoft is doing a pretty big product placement campaign, since the Windows 7 phone has been featured pretty heavily by a few characters (including the main one) on Bones. Look at how easily you can see your messages! And then reply to them!
posted by skynxnex at 10:50 AM on January 10, 2011


The Terminal was seemingly all product placement. But ... you know ... it's a movie that takes place in an airport. You're going to have a tortured time telling that story without the presence of, say, fast food joints. What are you going to do -- create dozens of fake brands? It'll look like you filmed the movie in parallel dimension.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 10:52 AM on January 10, 2011


There's really no need to fall all over ourselves defending a modest amount of product placement. There's little to no danger that it will fall "too low" any time soon.
posted by DU at 10:54 AM on January 10, 2011 [4 favorites]


My talented, jack-of-all-trades sister gave us this enormous cookbook for Christmas this year. I was like "Oh boy, well, we love to cook, and this looks like a nice cookbook, so thanks, sis." And then she tells me "Yeah, that's in the new XYZ Blockbuster Film that I worked as the assistant set dresser on." And then she went on to explain that no, really, the book I'm holding in my hands will be the exact same book that appears in the film. When shooting wrapped they were just going to throw out all the books and toys used as product placement, so she went through the set and did her Christmas, uh, "shopping".
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 10:54 AM on January 10, 2011 [28 favorites]


Also, recently
posted by briank at 10:55 AM on January 10, 2011


The soap opera, Days of Our Lives is the master as product placement.

You have to love dialogue like:
"what is chex mix?"
"are you kidding? You got try it, it is like a million flavors in your mouth"

or:
"This is wanchai ferry chinese food. I made some for the kids, and they couldn't get enough of it."
posted by Flood at 10:55 AM on January 10, 2011 [2 favorites]


What are you going to do -- create dozens of fake brands? It'll look like you filmed the movie in parallel dimension.

Starring Thom Hancs!
posted by JHarris at 10:55 AM on January 10, 2011 [11 favorites]


Product placement normally passes me by but there's a sequence in The Ghost Writer which was so blatant it actually had me laughing out loud - McGregor takes a flight from the UK to the US, cue shot of plane with ephemeris of the tail logo, on board McGregor asks for a paper by name, when he arrives we get an establishing shot of the airport terminal and a delivery truck pulls into view with the company's logo prominently displayed, then we get the, often used, shot of someone taking a photo, bringing up the camera into full view so we can see the logo on that. I can't believe it wasn't a deliberate ploy to cram them all into 5 mins of the movie.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 10:56 AM on January 10, 2011


I think every Metafilter post on product placement requires at least one of its commenters to post this video of David Lynch weighing in on the issue.
posted by Dia Nomou Nomo Apethanon at 10:58 AM on January 10, 2011 [12 favorites]


And it's pretty jarring when characters in the real world are suddenly drinking GENERICOLA instead of an actual brand.

Yes. It is also very distracting when someone in a movie sits down in a restaurant and orders "a beer." What kind of beer?? No bartender would just hand you something at random.

I'm finding it both a relief and a little disheartening that product placement has been with us since the era of silent film.
posted by something something at 10:58 AM on January 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


They forgot Repo Man...
posted by chavenet at 10:59 AM on January 10, 2011 [3 favorites]


The soap opera, Days of Our Lives is the master as product placement.

I don't think "master" is the correct word there, since "master" doesn't mean "one who utterly sucks and fails at every day forever, draining away all confidence in the human race's ability to succeed."
posted by JHarris at 11:00 AM on January 10, 2011


They forgot Repo Man...

Heh, actually Repo Man did have product placement... find one in every car.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 11:03 AM on January 10, 2011 [3 favorites]


No mention of Sahara (Previously) where the studio actually re-wrote the script at the request of the car company because they didn't want their product shown being stuck in the sand?
posted by octothorpe at 11:03 AM on January 10, 2011


The first time I ever noticed blatant product placement was for 7up in Moonraker. After a while it seemed like the 7up logo was going to get more screen time than Richard Kiel.
posted by Slack-a-gogo at 11:04 AM on January 10, 2011


Yet another thing to love about Repo Man.
posted by Eideteker at 11:06 AM on January 10, 2011


I'm going to agree with Tomorrowful for serious dramas. But I appreciate having fake products in TV shows. I love seeing characters use Finder-Spyder for their web searching needs while drinking a can of 7Un. Actually, a post about the various fake products would be pretty cool.

On the other hand, the game Shaun White Skateboarding allows you to 'liberate' the city by doing sick kickflips. Strangely enough, the liberation causes the severe government slogan posters to change to ads for Stride gum and Wendy's. Really jarring product placement.
posted by demiurge at 11:06 AM on January 10, 2011 [6 favorites]


I think every Metafilter post on product placement requires at least one of its commenters to post this video of David Lynch weighing in on the issue.

I can't believe it; the man has found a way to get me to forgive him for Dune! I will kill him!
posted by JHarris at 11:07 AM on January 10, 2011 [3 favorites]


I can't tell you how annoying it feels to be totally engrossed in the magic of some film, then hearing my internal "needle dragged across vinyl" sound when I see some character take a sip from a can of "Cola" or spy some art department intern's lame idea of "Rice-like Crispers!" cereal stashed in a cupboard.

555-xxxx phone numbers really do that to me. I can't believe it's that hard to come up with a more plausible number that still can't be real.

Also, email/web addresses. There's a scene in I Love You Man where Jason Segel's character pulls out a business card, and his email address ends in ".web". Even if most people won't notice it, why not register a real domain and redirect to the movie site? Self-referential product placement!
posted by Combustible Edison Lighthouse at 11:07 AM on January 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yes. It is also very distracting when someone in a movie sits down in a restaurant and orders "a beer." What kind of beer?? No bartender would just hand you something at random.

It depends, if they're obviously walking into a traditional pub or similar type bar where they're a regular then they might always drink the same. Similarly many small German bars pretty much serve the village beer. Agreed though that this is distracting when they're walking into an urban American bar where they've never been before.
posted by atrazine at 11:08 AM on January 10, 2011


Yes. It is also very distracting when someone in a movie sits down in a restaurant and orders "a beer." What kind of beer?? No bartender would just hand you something at random.

Fuck that shit. PABST BLUE RIBBON.
posted by Judith Butlerian Jihad at 11:08 AM on January 10, 2011 [14 favorites]


Heh, actually Repo Man did have product placement... find one in every car.

Not to mention the Repo Men were named for beer brands: Bud, Miller, Lite & Oly.

A-and the song "TV Party" lists a whole slate of TV shows.

A-and that the secret organization HAND uses the "Have a Nice Day" smilie as their logo.

A-and then there's that Plate o' Shrimp.
posted by chavenet at 11:09 AM on January 10, 2011


There's really no need to fall all over ourselves defending a modest amount of product placement. There's little to no danger that it will fall "too low" any time soon.

I have a long personal history of misguided concerns and passions. Don't try and slow me down now.
posted by jalexei at 11:09 AM on January 10, 2011 [12 favorites]


Hasn't the Lord/evolution been doing this for way longer than us pitiful humans? I mean check out a peacock's massive feathers or a human woman's high on the chest and oversized for the function breasts if you want to see a conspicuous advertisement for "WOOOOOO FERTILITY!!!!!".
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 11:11 AM on January 10, 2011 [2 favorites]


I don't mind product placement of the "dude drinks a coke, it's obvious it's a coke". I DO mind the "commercial disguised as a television show" bits, like "Hey Bob, what are you drinking there?" "Oh this? Well you know me, I can't pass up the smooth refreshing taste of a Pepsi-brand Pepsi-cola!"

That said, various people have been criticising and defending product placement ever since the invention moving pictures.
posted by muddgirl at 11:13 AM on January 10, 2011


Lynch interview remixed, now with product placement.
posted by chavenet at 11:15 AM on January 10, 2011


What are you going to do -- create dozens of fake brands? It'll look like you filmed the movie in parallel dimension.

That is, for the most part, what they did with the remake of Dawn of the dead.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:17 AM on January 10, 2011


Actually, all product placement is evil. It's the normal usage of everyday objects in a movie that's OK. The fact that it's impossible to tell one from another (sometimes) just means we need a more open process.
posted by DU at 11:17 AM on January 10, 2011 [2 favorites]


I DO mind the "commercial disguised as a television show" bits, like "Hey Bob, what are you drinking there?" "Oh this? Well you know me, I can't pass up the smooth refreshing taste of a Pepsi-brand Pepsi-cola!"

When I listen to old time radio, the ads are so painfully obvious like that. In the middle of Jack Benny they often decide to make some time for Jello! I wonder how novel that seemed to radio viewers of the time. It was just as clunky back then.

I find it interesting that the aural product placement has more of an effect on me than the visual one. I can ignore fast food and cars, but after listening to some old time radio shows, I feel strangely compelled to buy some Lux soap, drink Roma wine and light up a Chesterfield, even though I don't smoke!
posted by Calzephyr at 11:21 AM on January 10, 2011


Is this a good place to complain about the commercials Conan and Andy seem to be doing mid-way through every Conan show? I never watched his old show and the only late night show I've seen in years has been The Daily Show, but is that sort of thing normal? It really makes me want to throw things at the TV.

I started watching the new show because of all the hype surrounding the Leno/Conan thing and I had this feeling that Conan was somehow the guy with integrity but the show just seems to be really cheapened by the commercials.

I'm not sure why it's worse than cutting to a regular commercial, it just is.

Christ, I sure could go for a delicious Snappleā„¢.
posted by bondcliff at 11:23 AM on January 10, 2011


Actually, all product placement is evil. It's the normal usage of everyday objects in a movie that's OK. The fact that it's impossible to tell one from another (sometimes) just means we need a more open process.

why? A film needs money to be made. 7up says they'll give $X million. If the soda just happens to be in the background, and you can't tell the placement is deliberate what does it matter? Do you look up movie budgets to see who the backers are routinely?

These are genuine questions. I don't spend a lot of time thinking about advertisers and films unless it takes me out of the experience; I'm curious why someone would care if it's imperceptible. I don't think I've bought a soda or phone or car because it's been in a film. Does it really work?
posted by bluefly at 11:24 AM on January 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think every Metafilter post on product placement requires at least one of its commenters to post this video of David Lynch weighing in on the issue.

INTERVIEWER: There's a story about an outtake from the filming of the, the Wizard of Oz. The director shouted cut in a scene in the barnyard where Dorothy, where uh Judy Garland was singing and then, uh, but they had to stop because the dog who was in heat during the shooting— the dog had found a pile of cow manure in the frame and was apparently trying to, I don't know how to, ah, trying to hump it. How you would, as a film-maker, uh, describe that moment?

LYNCH: Bullshit. Toto. Fucking. Bullshit.
posted by cortex at 11:25 AM on January 10, 2011 [4 favorites]


I love seeing characters use Finder-Spyder for their web searching needs while drinking a can of 7Un. Actually, a post about the various fake products would be pretty cool.

Don't ask me how I know, but iCarly is full of these. Other Nick shows, too.
posted by peep at 11:26 AM on January 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


I DO mind the "commercial disguised as a television show" bits, like "Hey Bob, what are you drinking there?" "Oh this? Well you know me, I can't pass up the smooth refreshing taste of a Pepsi-brand Pepsi-cola!"

But THATS how I talk!
posted by blue_beetle at 11:27 AM on January 10, 2011


Here is my link to The Onion's article entitled I'd Love This Product Even If I Weren't A Stealth Marketer.

The Onion: Your favorite provider of Humor. Now available in low-fat, express and extended-release versions.
posted by griphus at 11:28 AM on January 10, 2011 [3 favorites]


LYNCH: Bullshit. Toto. Fucking. Bullshit.

You need to be called out on MeTa for that one, son.
posted by bondcliff at 11:32 AM on January 10, 2011


Argh. That Pepsi spot from The Thomas Crown Affair still fills me with white hot rage.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 11:34 AM on January 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


There's a radio program played locally here in DC called The Big Broadcast for a couple hours every Sunday night, where they play old time radio programs, including all of the ads. I find those ads interesting and endearing, somehow, and I don't mind them at all. Oddly, I get annoyed when they do it on modern television, like Fringe. I can't really say why I react differently.
posted by crunchland at 11:34 AM on January 10, 2011


Is this a good place to complain about the commercials Conan and Andy seem to be doing mid-way through every Conan show? I never watched his old show and the only late night show I've seen in years has been The Daily Show, but is that sort of thing normal? It really makes me want to throw things at the TV.

As I said before, product placement is as old as television - advertisers love when people like Conan or Leno or (John Stewart's buddy) Steven Colbert "send up" product placement by selling their product on TV.

The very first episode of The Larry Sanders Show deals with in-show commercials so I'm sure that Conan knows exactly what he's doing (raking in the dough).
posted by muddgirl at 11:35 AM on January 10, 2011


Should say it's as old as broadcasts of any kind, although if someone can dig up, like, product placements in old-time operas I'd probably fall in love.
posted by muddgirl at 11:37 AM on January 10, 2011


As for creating fake brands for shows, I would rather like more of that. Everything else about Days of Our Lives makes it clear the characters are living on Earth 38 or some such, why not fill the show with alternabrands too.

Probably factoring into this somewhat is how much I've come to loathe branding. Man, what I wouldn't give to not have my life ruled over by damn corporate logos for everything, everything, my soul not coated with product stamps as if it were a suitcase that had been around the world. For Christ's sake, I'm not going to want to drink 7up any more if I see that logo a few thousand more times, get it out of my face I have other more important things to be sickened by.
posted by JHarris at 11:41 AM on January 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


I can't find any confirmation (my google-fu has failed), but I'm pretty sure Verizon had paid for some product placement in The Wire. Every pay phone the criminals used seemed to have a Verizon logo on it. The total lack of any other telecom company in the series was noticeable, but that didn't keep The Wire from being excellent.

I did find a pretty great Verizon/Wire mashup (NSFW language) "featuring" Senator Clay Davis.
posted by mcmile at 11:44 AM on January 10, 2011


muddgirl: although if someone can dig up, like, product placements in old-time operas I'd probably fall in love.

The Barber of Seville is practically a commercial for the 18th century Spain version of Great Clips. I think you even saved two Reales if you said "Figaro Figaro" when you came in.
posted by Slack-a-gogo at 11:53 AM on January 10, 2011 [2 favorites]


In the Bill Cosby classic Leonard Part 6 there's a scene where the Cos sits down on a couch to have a chat with his daughter...while holding a bottle of Coke. Okay, fine, but...the bottle (which is closer to the camera than they are) is in focus, while Cos and his daughter aren't.
posted by The Card Cheat at 11:58 AM on January 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


I don't think I've bought a soda or phone or car because it's been in a film. Does it really work?

Yup!
posted by chavenet at 11:58 AM on January 10, 2011


Fake products?
Smeat.
posted by Mister Moofoo at 11:58 AM on January 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


That is, for the most part, what they did with the remake of Dawn of the dead.

True, true. But Dawn of the Dead was paying Sarah Polley's salary, not Tom Hanks'. ;-)
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 12:00 PM on January 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


Can we have our money now?
posted by nushustu at 12:03 PM on January 10, 2011


and Rhaomi, that "bing it!" ad on Hawaii 5-0 is hilarious. She types in the first two letters of the name of the artist and it's the only result that shows up. I just tried the same thing. Not a chance.
posted by nushustu at 12:09 PM on January 10, 2011


I'm pretty sure Verizon had paid for some product placement in The Wire. Every pay phone the criminals used seemed to have a Verizon logo on it.

Wouldn't a simpler explanation be that Baltimore was served by Verizon? I mean, you wouldn't expect to see a BellSouth or GTE payphone in a Verizon service area, would you?
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 12:13 PM on January 10, 2011


demiurge: " On the other hand, the game Shaun White Skateboarding allows you to 'liberate' the city by doing sick kickflips. Strangely enough, the liberation causes the severe government slogan posters to change to ads for Stride gum and Wendy's. Really jarring product placement."

Honestly, it's such brilliant awfulness. Check out the first few minutes of this Quick Look, where one of the guys can't hardly fathom the idea of fighting against corporate overlords with other corporate overlords.
posted by graventy at 12:14 PM on January 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


I DO mind the "commercial disguised as a television show" bits, like "Hey Bob, what are you drinking there?" "Oh this? Well you know me, I can't pass up the smooth refreshing taste of a Pepsi-brand Pepsi-cola!"

But THATS how I talk!


It is how I talk, too. I've passed through irony and gone out the other side.
posted by winna at 12:15 PM on January 10, 2011


There were also some Bushmills mentions in The Wire.
posted by Burhanistan at 12:21 PM on January 10, 2011


Actually, all product placement is evil. It's the normal usage of everyday objects in a movie that's OK. The fact that it's impossible to tell one from another (sometimes) just means we need a more open process.

A-frakin'-men.

This is exactly the same sort of legal twister-roo that undermines an actual market. It's the same thing that happened with Payola.

Promotion has value. Even underhanded promotion (e.g., the big bad drives a Ford) has value. Obviously, people are happy to pay money to ensure that they are the ones promoted.

But if you can twist the law to say that you *have* to pay to use a work or brand (and the distinction here is between copyright and trademark law, but this is an example of eliding the difference) then the big guys (who pay the guys who write the laws) are in the catbird seat. They can decide if something 'dilutes' their brand, or conversely pay to have it promoted. That keeps out the little guys, be they small brands or small producers, because the thicket of releases you have to get to release a film worry-free is astounding.

See the impressive, yet approachable, Bound By Law for more information.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 12:21 PM on January 10, 2011 [5 favorites]


And, let's not forget about the massive Lake Trout takeout industry underwriting of The Wire.
posted by Burhanistan at 12:22 PM on January 10, 2011 [3 favorites]


I really enjoyed the Pepsi product placement in Back to the Future, because it looks so quaint and dated now. It's almost ironic.
posted by blue_beetle at 12:29 PM on January 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


And, let's not forget about the massive Lake Trout takeout industry underwriting of The Wire.

I'm inspired by the success of Cafe Hon's trademark on Hon enough to try to get a trademark on Lake Trout.

I'll let you know how that works out, Hun.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 12:44 PM on January 10, 2011


Yes. It is also very distracting when someone in a movie sits down in a restaurant and orders "a beer." What kind of beer?? No bartender would just hand you something at random.

As a former bartender, I can guarantee that occasionally people will walk up and order "a beer." If the bartender is feeling charitable they'll growl something like "What kind of beer, jackass?" If not, you get whatever random swill I feel like giving you, and I charge you double. Because you're a jackass.
posted by axiom at 12:46 PM on January 10, 2011


If not, you get whatever random swill I feel like giving you, and I charge you double. Because you're a jackass.

Let me guess why you're a former bartender...
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 12:49 PM on January 10, 2011 [3 favorites]


Speaking of Lake Trout, enjoy this clip of Snoop and Anthony Bourdain having a heart-to-heart over some fine Lake Trout.
posted by Burhanistan at 12:51 PM on January 10, 2011 [4 favorites]


There were also some Bushmills mentions in The Wire.

That's a Protestant whiskey. Don't you have Jameson's?
posted by LionIndex at 12:51 PM on January 10, 2011 [4 favorites]


30 Rock has pretty much accepted that product placement is a fact of life these days, but is so overt about it that it almost undermines the message.

I'd like to think that those Days of our Lives actors were just being subversive, too, but I'm not sure their acting is good enough.
posted by Betelgeuse at 12:54 PM on January 10, 2011 [3 favorites]


As I said before, product placement is as old as television - advertisers love when people like Conan or Leno or (John Stewart's buddy) Steven Colbert "send up" product placement by selling their product on TV.

While I do loathe how branding saturates our culture, there is an upside. That is, advertisers end up subsidizing cool things, for what can't possibly help them all that much. I mean, Coke commercials, yeah, what possible purpose do those serve? Is there a damn person in the entire world now who doesn't know about Coke? Sure you can point out studies showing how it helps sales, or "positions" the "product" better with some "demographic," but I still really have trouble believing that they're getting their money's worth out of the exchange.

In other words, I kind of see it as a way for money to travel from rich, stupid things to needy, awesome things. Certainly it also travels to a lot of needy stupid things too, but a little greatness makes up for a lot of crap.
posted by JHarris at 1:01 PM on January 10, 2011


Television makes me puke so I don't watch it, I won't have it in my home, it makes me berserk to visit people who center their whole life around it. And I'm already berserk anyways, this just shoves me further over the edge.

I become angered when I pay to go see -- or rent -- a movie that has product placement in it. My take on it is that if I am to watch advertisements, I should be paid, I ought not pay someone for the 'honor' of being able to see their dreck.

I would never, ever wear clothing that has the name of some horses-ass brand on it, either -- I still cannot get my head around that, people paying extra to be able to advertise for some outfit. If they wanted me to wear that clothing, they would have to offer to pay me to do so, same as I'd have to be offered money to walk around wearing a chicken outfit to sell chicken somewhere, or any other humiliating, degrading, walk-of-shame sort of gig.

If I were in charge, the executions would begin at dawn...
posted by dancestoblue at 1:08 PM on January 10, 2011 [2 favorites]


I would never drive a car with the name of the car company on it! I would never use a vacuum cleaner with the name of the manufacturer on it!
posted by muddgirl at 1:15 PM on January 10, 2011 [4 favorites]


From the Oldie but Goodie Dept. : Area Man Constantly Mentioning He Doesn't Own A Television
posted by crunchland at 1:17 PM on January 10, 2011 [5 favorites]


Anecdata: whenever I visit the Port Huron, Michigan Chicken In The Rough (which is attached to an awesome old bar), my dad always sits down and orders "a draft" and happily drinks whatever he's given (the choices are not terribly varied or appetizing).
posted by The Card Cheat at 1:20 PM on January 10, 2011


Yes. It is also very distracting when someone in a movie sits down in a restaurant and orders "a beer." What kind of beer?? No bartender would just hand you something at random.

As a former bartender, I can guarantee that occasionally people will walk up and order "a beer."


I was a sound man at a club that had about 85 brands of beer in bottles/cans. We had one bartender who would keep a six-pack of generic beer at-the-ready for these people. He was blindingly fast, and absolutely reveled at the opportunity to slap a can of Beer down in front of anyone who asked for it. Once he'd popped the top, that was it -- you asked for it, you got it. Pay up.
posted by Devils Rancher at 1:27 PM on January 10, 2011 [4 favorites]


UK: The only time I have seen people ask for 'a beer' it was underagers shocked to be in a bar and actually asked for a choice rather than ID. It's a true school boy error.
posted by biffa at 1:28 PM on January 10, 2011


Devils Rancher: Was it the kind that repeats on you?
posted by biffa at 1:30 PM on January 10, 2011


Oops, my memory isn't what it used to be -- forgot I'd posted that. I can assure you my wife is even more sick of me telling the same anecdotes over and over again. Sorry.
posted by Devils Rancher at 1:46 PM on January 10, 2011


And yet people will regularly order a martini without specifying what they mean, which is likely to get them some horrid vodka concoction that tastes faintly of pickle juice.
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:48 PM on January 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


No one has mentioned Return of the Killer Tomatoes yet? The entire first half of the movie is creepily filled with generic everything. Then the scene I linked comes along, and for about ten minutes the movie is basically a commercial. Finally as they're trying to ride off and rescue the girl, but being delayed by the necessity of discussing the superiority of the brand whatever ATV's they'll be riding, they get fed up, ask the director if they can just do the movie now. Cut to the director decked out with bling, georgeous women hanging off him, lighting a cigar with a $100 bill, he assures them they have plenty of money and the rest of the movie is filmed with no product placement at all.
posted by sotonohito at 1:50 PM on January 10, 2011 [2 favorites]


I was watching some top-10 thing on Centric this weekend, and a Fantasia Barrino video came on. Well, it said it was a Fantasia video, I mean it was song-length and had her singing, but if I was uninformed of its videoness I'd have been certain it was a Ford commercial. Well, then start putting pieces together: a music video is essentially an advertisement for an album or performer, and the broadcasting of the music advertisements laden with product placement is funded by the advertisement that appear during the commercial break.

For all the complaining about DOOL, it's called a "soap opera" because it was originally so behest to its advertiser that the genre puts the advertiser's product first, the form of entertainment second. I was watching some old videotapes from the 80s and pretty much every commercial break started with, "The Garfield Christmas Special is brought to you by WHEAT THINS, and BOUNTY PAPER TOWELS, and COCA-COLA", and then proceeded to fill the commercial break with commercials for Wheat Things, Bounty, and Coke. We're just not immune to product placement yet, 'cuz once we get to that point it'll stop...or we just won't notice enough to care.
posted by AzraelBrown at 1:55 PM on January 10, 2011


ET wanted M&M's but the lawyers made him eat Reese's Pieces, instead.
posted by notyou at 2:06 PM on January 10, 2011


And yet people will regularly order a martini without specifying what they mean, which is likely to get them some horrid vodka concoction that tastes faintly of pickle juice.

Vodka shaken with ice is not a martini.

And even a well drink martini is a good thing.

This is because gin is wonderful.
posted by hippybear at 2:07 PM on January 10, 2011 [2 favorites]


Hippybear, you speak many wise words.
posted by Astro Zombie at 2:51 PM on January 10, 2011


Josie and the Pussycats is saturated with logos and products and reportedly none of it was paid product placement.

I recommend it. It's not an amazing film, but I was pleasantly surprised by it.
posted by ODiV at 2:54 PM on January 10, 2011


When I listen to old time radio, the ads are so painfully obvious like that. In the middle of Jack Benny they often decide to make some time for Jello! I wonder how novel that seemed to radio viewers of the time. It was just as clunky back then.

At the time, the sponsors owned the show and bought time from the network. That's why it was "The Jell-O Program starring Jack Benny".

I'm surprised they didn't insist the supporting characters be named Strawberry, Raspberry, Cherry, Orange, Lemon and Lime.

The Benny show pretty much saved Jell-O as a brand. It went from being a slow seller to being so popular General Foods switched Benny's sponsorship away from Jell-O to avoid wartime shortages.
posted by Gridlock Joe at 3:05 PM on January 10, 2011


I don't watch a huge amount of American TV, but I've always been surprised at how subtle some of the blatent plugs are. The Sopranos comes to mind, where the drink labels always face the camera, but no-one says "Ah, that can of Coke is so refreshing!" The worst I've seen (up to season 5) is when they get AJ a new car and it feels like a 30second long Nissan advert.

The one that bugs me is Burn Notice (which feels like a guilty pleasure I should be ashamed of) where they seem to have whored themselves out to Hyundai. Pretty cars, and I like the look of them, but then they go off and waffle about how powerful the car is and how it's perfect for outrunning SUVs full of homicidal sumo ninjas, and it suddenly feels like Hyundai is trying to shoehorn a Top Gear special into an average action show.

Advertisers remind me of the Pratchett classic, Moving Pictures. Someone realises that a brief shot of a product makes people think "Ooo... product". Then your CMOT Dibbler turns up and makes you stare at the product for half an hour...
posted by sodium lights the horizon at 3:22 PM on January 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


Well, I could go for a Big Kahuna burger right about now...
posted by TwoToneRow at 3:33 PM on January 10, 2011


Not a Royale with cheese?
posted by crunchland at 3:43 PM on January 10, 2011


Combustible Edison Lighthouse writes "555-xxxx phone numbers really do that to me. I can't believe it's that hard to come up with a more plausible number that still can't be real."

It's pretty hard. Even 555-XXXX numbers aren't universally unused; it's just that they don't connect to residential customers. This is actually a hard problem. You'd have to guarantee no-one has or is going to have a particular number in the US or Canada for decades. And every number you reserve makes it useless for hundreds of different area codes. Reserve out a 1000 numbers you make 10-100 thousand numbers useless. And you had to try and find numbers that aren't assigned to any customer of dozens of different authorities. And you'd still probably recognize lots of these numbers over the years.

Burhanistan writes "There were also some Bushmills mentions in The Wire."

Alcohol placement was pretty heavy in the Wire.
posted by Mitheral at 3:51 PM on January 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


Even 555-XXXX numbers aren't universally unused...

In fact, only 555-0100 through 555-0199 are now specifically reserved for fictional use; the other numbers have been released for actual assignment.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 4:08 PM on January 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


Weird that he'd pick HORSE FEATHERS as an example of product placement in a Marx Brothers movie when LOVE HAPPY is the more famous one.

(Oh it is so a Marx Brothers movie. If fucking ROOM SERVICE counts, LOVE HAPPY counts.)
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 4:26 PM on January 10, 2011


muddgirl: "I would never drive a car with the name of the car company on it! I would never use a vacuum cleaner with the name of the manufacturer on it!"

Believe me, if I could get the name/insignia off the vehicle without leaving holes and/or damaged paint, I'd do it in a heartbeat. The vacuum cleaner -- well, it's in the closet most of the time, I guess I could chisel the brand off of it if it were in my dang living room.
posted by dancestoblue at 4:32 PM on January 10, 2011


hippybear already covered it but I feel strongly enough about it that I'll go ahead and repeat that if you order "a martini" and get something with vodka in it then the bartender is in the wrong not you.

You will, though, have to carry the responsibility for failing to order "a Sapphire martini, dirty, two olives."
posted by Babblesort at 4:58 PM on January 10, 2011


You know what I hate more than product placement and fictional products combined? It's when sitcoms think they can get away with obscuring a well-known brand name product by putting some tape over the label so it looks like that bag of Tostitos is a bag of Toslilcs. We can tell, jerks! Ugh. Why not just put the damn chips in a fucking bowl, ferchrissakes?
posted by Sys Rq at 5:07 PM on January 10, 2011


I was watching some old videotapes from the 80s and pretty much every commercial break started with, "The Garfield Christmas Special is brought to you by WHEAT THINS, and BOUNTY PAPER TOWELS, and COCA-COLA",

I never saw those, so it took years before I discovered why Sesame St was bought to you by the letter A and the number 7.
posted by WhackyparseThis at 5:13 PM on January 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


I never saw those, so it took years before I discovered why Sesame St was bought to you by the letter A and the number 7.

Huh? Everything on PBS is "brought to you by" half a dozen things.
posted by Sys Rq at 5:20 PM on January 10, 2011


If nobody upthread mentioned this and I missed it, the "Beer" in Repo Man WAS kind of a product placement. They didn't design the can with the Century Gothic lettering and the blue stripe, the parent company of Ralphs stores did it when it introduced a line of bargain/generic/'plain label' products in their stores. Here are some comparable Cola cans. It was generic Beer, but it was THE generic beer available at Ralphs, not Vons, Safeway, Albertsons, Hughes, Boys, Lucky, AlphaBeta or any of the smaller grocery outfits in Southern California at the time. And there was, written in small type on the blue stripe, the words "quality guaranteed", so if your Generic Beer was truly awful you could take it back... but only to Ralphs. I believe this was well before Ralphs became part of the Kroger uberchain, but it may still have appeared in other cities at other specific stores. The producers were likely uncompensated for using it, but most SoCalifornians saw it and knew it was "Ralphs Generic".
posted by oneswellfoop at 5:20 PM on January 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


(Though I suppose if you were on another continental shelf...)
posted by Sys Rq at 5:21 PM on January 10, 2011


Believe me, if I could get the name/insignia off the vehicle without leaving holes and/or damaged paint, I'd do it in a heartbeat.

And if I could cut the logo off my shirt without baring my titties, I'd do it in a heartbeat.

It's OK for us to admit that we're not entirely consistent in our moral standards. We're human.
posted by muddgirl at 5:26 PM on January 10, 2011


Kinda obtuse.
posted by Burhanistan at 5:28 PM on January 10, 2011


The "beer" in Repo Man, as well as all the other generic, white/blue label products used to actually be available in the Ralph's grocery store chain. Same exact labels. They even had "cigarettes" in that packaging. I know this because I sometimes ran with the wrong crowd in high school and that's what they'd try to buy because it was ridiculously cheap. I remember a pack of generic cigarettes was under a dollar or something, and when it went over a dollar these same kids bitched a lot about it.

But, yeah. Same exact light blue/dark blue on white logos for everything. Toilet paper, generic soap, generic cereal and so on. It was pretty weird looking.

They also used the same blue/white labeled goods in a new Twilight Zone episode that I remember seeing when I was a kid.


On a similar theme,one of the places I worked (and my ex worked at) ended up moving into and sharing a space in what I believe was a very old studio soundstage building in Culver City, a neighborhood that had been repurposed for general industrial use as well as a lot of different media/design firms.

One of the many film prop related products that the main company in that building did was make fake products and packaging for TV, film and advertising shoots. They had about a dozen industrial shelving units fully stocked with all manner of products with fake labels replacing or covering up the original labels. Cans, boxes and six packs of soda or beer. Fake boxes of Tetrapak soup. Fake boxes of cereal. Fake bottles of water. Fake bottles of wine. Many of the fake products still had original product in them for realism and weight so that it would react appropriately when handled by talent during a shoot. Even boxes of tissues and other sundries, or things like fake newspapers filled with utterly ridiculous nonsense articles or even fake money.

And as I've mentioned before about film props, they were all rather laughably crude but "good enough for film", but some were more detailed with the original labels carefully removed, and the new labels affixed as professionally and as cleanly as possible. But generally it was just a inkjet or laserjet printout quickly glued to an existing container.

Something you won't see on the movie or TV screen, though, is that many of these fake labels contained ridiculous in-jokes, or even marginally offensive plays on words and products, or just ridiculous nonsense. From a distance they'd look like professionally designed packaging, which is what they were, but when you got up close enough to actually read the labels it would be something surreal and strange like (and I don't remember what, exactly, so I'm making this up) "Giant Cock Beer" with a picture of a rooster on the label. (Actually, I don't think any of them were that obvious, but you get the idea.)

That place was weird, especially the fake products aisles. It was like stumbling into some bizarre parallel universe where nothing was ever what it seemed at first glance, like accidentally falling into Wile E Coyote's ACME product warehouse or something. Just without the giant sling shots or rocket powered roller skates, but I'd imagine you could find some of those in the building, too.

Anyway, most of the fake products were designed in such a way they wouldn't stand out so they'd just pass as "normal" products. You see them all the time in movies and TV shows and commercials, but unless you're intentionally and carefully looking you likely don't even notice them. We generally only notice the "fakes" when they're up close and personal, in your face or otherwise jarring.

But if you look carefully, you'll start seeing them everywhere. In nearly any film, TV show or commercial that has a "real life" vignette staged. They're fairly carefully designed to just blend into the noise and color of so much branding that surrounds us daily. I have 15-odd brands and logos right in front of me at my desk without even turning my head, and I'm not even counting what's on my computer screen or the row of twenty-odd favicons in my Firefox toolbar.

We've become more and more used to the idea of having brightly colored and intensively labels on pretty much everything we buy. Look around your home and start counting. They're everywhere. It's just part of the background noise of our consumer culture. I'm deeply aware of marketing and branding, and even I'm not immune. I judge products by their labels, and I'm less likely to buy laundry soap if it came in a plain brown box that just said "detergent" on it as I am when comparing it some label with florescent pigments and flashy, contoured text on it.

And that jarring sensation you may experience when spotting an obviously fake red can of "Cola" without the "Coca Cola" branding on it is a symptom of this malaise, and a worrisome one at that. This false language and plumage is really not useful to us as consumers and exists entirely to serve the profit margins of the company in question.

And if you look even more carefully when you see one of those fake products on screen, pay attention to the printing or label on the container or package. You might be able to see that it's just a sticker someone printed out on a common inkjet printer and pasted over an existing label with a UHUTM glue stick.
posted by loquacious at 5:38 PM on January 10, 2011 [11 favorites]


We've become more and more used to the idea of having brightly colored and intensively designed labels on pretty much everything we buy.
posted by loquacious at 5:41 PM on January 10, 2011


AMC has been playing the Back to the Future trilogy over and over recently. Watch the second movie and count the blatant product placements. There are, to say the least, a lot of them. Warning: Do NOT make this a drinking game, or you will die of alcohol poisoning before the fifteen minute mark.
posted by Sys Rq at 5:46 PM on January 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


I don't think people necessarily get that soap operas are actually specifically designed to be vehicles for product placement. A large number of the really big ones: The Young and the Restless, Guiding Light, As The World Turns and a host of telenovelas were all actually produced by Procter and Gamble. It isn't so much that the writers sold out as it is that the advertisers realized that most people wouldn't actually watch an entire afternoon's worth of commercials without some other excuse for doing so.
posted by valkyryn at 5:54 PM on January 10, 2011


Interesting that they picked the Power Glove as the product placed in The Wizard, since it seemed more like the entire movie was a big fat ad for Nintendo products.
posted by ymgve at 5:59 PM on January 10, 2011 [2 favorites]


I had the same feeling, ymgve. I'd be curious to see a cut of The Wizard consisting only of those portions of the film that do not in any way feature Nintendo-related content. I suspect it would be a lot shorter, though it's been a long time since I (breathlessly, OMG, Super Mario 3!) watched it so maybe I'm forgetting too much of the roadtrip/runaway/where's-my-kids drama.
posted by cortex at 6:11 PM on January 10, 2011


Before I watched the video I had to check how many times Repo Man got mentioned in the thread. Metafilter, I AM NOT DISAPPOINT!
posted by immlass at 6:14 PM on January 10, 2011


Uh, sorry for this derail, but George Clooney was in Return of the Killer Tomatoes?
posted by jeremias at 6:14 PM on January 10, 2011


I forgot all about Jimget!
posted by evilcolonel at 6:16 PM on January 10, 2011


George Clooney was in Return of the Killer Tomatoes?

It was a real fall from grace after Facts of Life, I know.
posted by cortex at 6:20 PM on January 10, 2011


As an aside, here in Norway it seems like almost everyone orders "a beer" when going to a bar/pub, which basically gets us whatever popular beer that's on tap.
posted by ymgve at 6:22 PM on January 10, 2011


Don't believe me? Bing it.

Worst thing about this was finding out that there is, apparently, a Hawaii Five-O remake out there.
posted by TheShadowKnows at 7:08 PM on January 10, 2011


I don't think people necessarily get that soap operas are actually specifically designed to be vehicles for product placement.

It's no accident that the word soap appears in the name soap opera.
posted by Babblesort at 7:13 PM on January 10, 2011


Did someone mention David Lynch I got here as soon as I could.
posted by shakespeherian at 8:05 PM on January 10, 2011 [2 favorites]


Uh, sorry for this derail, but George Clooney was in Return of the Killer Tomatoes?

Ha ha ha ha ha.

My dad used to rent studio space from Four Square Pictures, the production company behind the Killer Tomato pictures. He actually worked on sound for the 4th one (ooh, prestige!), and as an 8-year-old kid it was pretty cool for me to get to see the big foam tomato puppets and meet John Astin (The Addams Family was on Nick at Nite at the time). I don't think I ever saw any actual shooting, but I got to go to the premier-- which is, I guarantee you, the only time that film has been in a theater-- and the director, John De Bello, knew my name because I'd be wandering around the company break room while I was supposed to be doing my homework, and such. I remember they had an inordinate amount of Magic Eye posters upstairs.

Anyway so I tried for a bit to find this video, but I'm not sure what show it was on, but anyway so there was an interview on the teevee with George Clooney after he'd really become George Clooney, like all dashing and whatever, and the interviewer asked him who the worst director was that he ever worked with and George says, no hesitation, 'John De Bello.' And then I swear to god the very next day I saw John De Bello's cherry-red Porshe driving through Bonita, CA. He probably appreciated the mention.
posted by shakespeherian at 8:15 PM on January 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


Worst thing about this was finding out that there is, apparently, a Hawaii Five-O remake out there.

No, the worst thing about it is when you learn that they're wasting Daniel Dae Kim and Grace Park on it.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:17 PM on January 10, 2011


The Joneses, an interesting take on marketing in general, with products seamlessly integrated. Also, Demi Moore and David Duchovny with some chemistry! (SLYT)
posted by buzzkillington at 8:18 PM on January 10, 2011


Wow. I could be wrong, but I based on that preview, I'm pretty sure The Joneses is the business model for boingboing.net.
posted by crunchland at 8:22 PM on January 10, 2011 [2 favorites]


The Daily Show was there a decade ago.
posted by haricotvert at 8:25 PM on January 10, 2011


I've just favourited crunchland's comment and it's changed my life. I think you should favourite it too, even though you don't actually know who I am.

By the way, here's the book I just wrote...
posted by sodium lights the horizon at 2:36 AM on January 11, 2011


Speaking of things related to David Lynch, everything I know about the Killer Tomatoes films I learned from Agent York.
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 2:48 AM on January 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Sys Rq: Huh? Everything on PBS is "brought to you by" half a dozen things.
That's true now, but it wasn't always true.

As a child in the 1970s, I wasn't allowed to watch commercial TV. So I shared WhackyparseThis' confusion. The "brought to you by the letter A and the number 7" joke went over my head because the "brought to you by" trope was not familiar to me.

But I was a kid; I was accustomed to not understanding things.
posted by Western Infidels at 6:00 AM on January 11, 2011


The "brought to you by the letter A and the number 7" joke went over my head because the "brought to you by" trope was not familiar to me.

That was a joke? Good lord, everything I thought I knew is wrong.
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 6:28 AM on January 11, 2011


As a former bartender, I can guarantee that occasionally people will walk up and order "a beer." If the bartender is feeling charitable they'll growl something like "What kind of beer, jackass?" If not, you get whatever random swill I feel like giving you, and I charge you double. Because you're a jackass.
posted by axiom at 2:46 PM on January 10 [+] [!]
At the bar I used to work at, ordering "a beer" would get you a draft pint of Schaefer (we didn't carry drafts of Miller/Bud/Pabst etc).

Jackassery was reserved for anyone who'd come in and order a fancy-ass mixed drink. Let's say you walk up to the bar and order a "flirtini"... odds are the bartender would cock his head at you like a confused puppy, say "whisky sour?" and pour you a whisky sour before you could tell him that's not the same thing as a flirtini.
posted by jtron at 8:54 AM on January 11, 2011


Jackassery was reserved for anyone who'd come in and order a fancy-ass mixed drink. Let's say you walk up to the bar and order a "flirtini"... odds are the bartender would cock his head at you like a confused puppy, say "whisky sour?" and pour you a whisky sour before you could tell him that's not the same thing as a flirtini.

Wow, that is an incredibly dick move. I bet if they refused to pay for what is obviously not what they ordered, you'd think they were out of line.
posted by kafziel at 10:42 AM on January 11, 2011


Nah, they usually got the point and ordered something not stupid after that, and the first drink poured would usually end up with a regular or the door guy (me).
posted by jtron at 7:42 PM on January 11, 2011


« Older The Onion AV on the hip hop revolutions that weren...  |  Need a quick and dirty explana... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments